Social Capital Profits Are More Than Cash

Sustainability is not just a buzz-word for small business. Sustainable businesses focus on a triple bottom line of profitably in social, equity, and environmental capital in addition to monetary profits. Creating social capital is easy for those on a main street, in a business district or commercial center by getting involved in a large street fair or summer event.

Small businesses have always had to think about other ways to make a profit than just cutting expenses or raising prices. Because their resources are low to begin with, nothing can be wasted, especially relationships, known as social capital.

Residential neighbors are the building blocks of social capital for small business. By getting involved in neighborhood events, owners improve their social capital. Having far less than a million dollars for marketing expenses, small business owners rely on “word of mouth” connections to promote their business.

Here are a few tested methods to participate that will connect people to volunteers, neighbors, partners and stakeholders:


  1. Join the planning committee. A planning committee meeting is a great time to meet new faces, catch up on neighborhood news and share a meal, always a good way to start a relationship. In the 6-8 months preceding a fair, committee members get to know one another well. You’ll learn about birthdays and pets, hobbies and relations, services or products you each may have that the other needs. A business may gain recognition by being involved early all the way through to event day. This is the heart of building social capital.
  2. Offer to be the contact location on the street. It makes life a lot easier if there is one physical location on the street where people can pick up and drop off information, posters or other marketing materials. As long as your business is open most of the day, it’s a great way to meet everyone involved in the Fair.
  3. Volunteer on the day of the fair and work with others making your event, fun, safe and inviting by being a greeter, safety crew member, traffic manager or assist with fun activities that raise money.
  4. Participate in shared advertising promotions and help design or oversee placement in local media resources. The more involved you are, the more people you will meet creating opportunities to network with neighbors.
  5. Invite your customers to the Fair and offer them special items, available only on event day. Give out memorabilia or discount coupons that invite people to come back within the next month.
  6. Sponsor a volunteer, VIP or entertainer refreshments. Set up a tent to provide shade, chairs and a cooler with drinks. Add a banner, flyers or business cards and put a fishbowl out to collect comments and contact information.

Participating in a Street Fair brings neighbors, both residential and business, together maximize social capital.



Read the comprehensive event planning guidebook by seasoned neighborhood business consultant, Bridget Bayer. Street Fairs for Community and Profit: How To Plan, Organize and Stage a Sensational Street Fair While Building Community is a nuts-and-bolts book that will especially help new groups in planning—and actually executing—a street fair. For experienced organizers, it will help them PROFIT from their event.

About Bridget Bayer

Bridget Bayer is an author and community organizer working to create vibrant main street business districts that support local economies. Bridget believes shared activities are a catalyst for positive change. Her professional work fosters community involvement by creating shared events that enhance communication, develop shared interests and support existing and start-up non-profit organizations. At home, Bridget focuses on innovative ecological practices, hates waste and dependably finds ways to eliminate it. After 25 years in the restaurant industry, she still loves to cook especially with locally sourced veggies including those homegrown from her garden. Bridget, the first mate on Ama Natura, lives on a floating home on the Columbia River in Portland with Peter Wilcox, instigator of the Inside Passage Decarbonization Project, and the lovely Luna, her favorite cat.