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5 tips to grow with your community

It is important to take your customers on the journey with you. The more they see what you’re doing, the more they’ll engage with your business and your product. This leads to bigger profits, and in turn more ability to support the communities you want to.

Sam Keck, founder and general manager of Commonfolk Coffee Company

Commonfolk Coffee Company is an organisation that has the local community firmly entrenched in its business DNA. The company’s founder, Sam Keck, believes that you get back tenfold what you sow; and has the evidence to prove it.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and this is just as applicable to your small business. Now, more than ever business have found that they need to support the community that supports them – or they find their community, and business, shrinking! To cement a successful and ongoing place in the local business landscape, businesses need to engage and build a community around their enterprise. 

Meet Sam Keck, founder and general manager of Commonfolk Coffee Company, an organisation that has the local community firmly entrenched in its business DNA. Sam shared, “It is important to take your customers on the journey with you. The more they see what you’re doing, the more they’ll engage with your business and your product. This leads to bigger profits, and in turn more ability to support the communities you want to.” 

We caught up with Sam to run through why giving back makes good business sense, and some ways to get things started: 

1. Who is your [actual] community

Think about the people you engage with in your business, but then try and identify the people that actually shape your business, that contribute to its wellbeing and sense of community. Is it just your customers, staff, suppliers? Or are there other groups that directly or indirectly impact your business (or vice versa). Explore this community, and the potential ways to broaden it. 

There are so many ways to invest in your business but sometimes the best investment can be in the community that has the ability to invest in you!

2. Understand your impact

Pausing for reflection can deliver valuable insights. Ask yourself – and your staff and customers – some key questions. The answers might surprise you. 

How does your business interact with its community? Is it a force for good / bad or is it indifferent? What do those within your community stand to lose or gain in their interactions with your brand? Consider your location – what has your business gained because of where it operates? Does civic responsibility play a role in your business? 

Consider your business brand identity. What values does your business stand for? How do these influence your role in the community?

3. Support the vulnerable

Talk to those in the know about where the greatest needs are. Most businesses don’t need to start their own initiative but finding something relevant to your business is important  A starting point can be to figure out who [if anyone] is typically exploited within your industry, who is making a difference and how you can potentially help. 

It might be a real estate agency advocating for youth homelessness, a local hardware store supporting a men’s shed or a law firm offering pro bono support for domestic violence victims. Find your vulnerable community and get around them. There are so many amazing charities and not-for-profits operating on the Mornington Peninsula who would all desperately love to get their hands on your money, your time, or both! 

Start by partnering with something that already exists and offer support in whatever way you can.

4. Go into the community

Engage with your local community on their terms. Find out where your community meets, eats, plays, and networks and go and join in. Meet them on their turf. Learn more about them. 

Find out what communities your staff are engaged in and support them. Donate products or services to local schools, sporting clubs and community programs. If feasible consider sponsoring local events or teams. It’s incredible the amount of goodwill you generate by becoming an active member of your community. 

Take it further;  donate something that encourages the recipient of the donation to engage with your business and products. Bring them into your community.

5. Grow with your community

Communities and their needs change. Find ways to reassess your place within the changing conditions, and tailor your contributions to suit. Just because something worked previously doesn’t mean it will work again. Review your approach at least annually and make sure that you are still making a difference. Keep in regular contact with those that you are supporting and share the impact your support is having with your staff customers and suppliers. 

Don’t forget that at some point it maybe you and your business that needs to be supported rather than the other way around.


Meet our Local Expert: Sam Keck of Commonfolk Coffee Company, Mornington

black and white headshot of Sam looking at the camera and smiling. there is a line drawing of a koala and flowers in the background
Commonfolk operate to four values of quality, pioneering, integrity and community. The first two are part and parcel with what we do. Quality is simple – we search the world for the best coffee, import it, roast it and sell it to anyone after delicious coffee. Pioneering means we stay at the coalface of the coffee industry, always aware of new methods, new equipment, new trends that will keep our business relevant and interesting. The other two are about giving back. Commonfolk established an initiative called The Cup That Counts that contributes 20c from every coffee they have ever sold [plus other fundraising] to support coffee farmers [Zukuka Bora], local unskilled hospitality workers [Home Ground] and more.

Content reviewed and updated November 2023

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