Somali-English Brochures Highlight Opportunities in Minneapolis

September 2021

Even during a pandemic, the West Bank Business Association in Minneapolis made sure that their business owners had the information they needed to make informed decisions around energy, transportation, and recycling and composting.

To learn more, we connected with KJ Starr, Interim Executive Director of the West Bank Business Association in Minneapolis.

CERTs: Tell us about the project.

KS: This grant allowed us to design a brochure in English and Somali to help our businesses become aware of rebates for energy efficiency, options for green transportation, ways to become pedestrian and bike friendly, and grants for recycling and composting. In addition to mailing out 200 brochures to all of our local businesses, we also were able to meet with business owners individually regarding transitioning to lightrail vouchers from parking vouchers, making more bike and pedestrian storefronts, regarding recycling and composting, as well as rebates for energy efficient upgrades.

This project mattered in enabling us to make a brochure that we can continue to use in our work helping businesses convert to a greener economy.

KJ Starr, Interim Executive Director, West Bank Business Association in Minneapolis

CERTs: How did the pandemic affect this effort?

KS: This project was definitely complicated by Covid-19 so it is hard to say what the difficulties would be in “normal” times. Businesses are not terribly eager to switch to greener technologies especially if they think it will require any additional time and money, etc., so it is sometimes best to fit the conversation in the context of one of their other needs.

For example, if a business is looking to buy new equipment, bring up the rebates. If the business is engaging about marketing assistance, to bring up the opportunity to market to pedestrians and bicyclists. If the business is concerned about parking (a huge concern in our neighborhood), to work with them as an advocate on parking, but also encourage them to incentivize their customers to take advantage of the many different alternatives to cars that are available in the neighborhood. 

One thing that did surprisingly happen during Covid is that many businesses decided to do remodels, redo their storefront, and relook at marketing. So, Covid provided an opportunity to help businesses take into consideration environmentally friendly adjustments to their model.

CERTs: Tell us about the outreach efforts.

KS: Every business received a brochure in the mail (due to Covid we mailed all the brochures). We continue to follow up with businesses as we work with them in person on other topics. Some of this work is best done invisibly. For example, environmental concerns might not incentivize a business to advertise to bicyclists but the fact that there are nice rides around and lots of bicyclists in the neighborhood might spur them to try to reach that market. It was wonderful to be able to provide a brochure in Somali and have that on hand as we engage with businesses in the future.

Outreach is essential to reaching our tiny businesses. In this time of Covid where we have not been able to do the same amount of in-person outreach we normally do, I am very happy to have this English and Somali language brochure to help with our work.

KJ Starr, Interim Executive Director, West Bank Business Association in Minneapolis

Clean Energy Focus: Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Transportation Modes

Metro CERT Seed Grant: $5,000

Total Project Cost: $40,750

Other Funds: Minneapolis Foundation grant, funding provided by city and county

Project Team: Jamie Schumacher, Abdurrahman Mahmud, Jordana Palmer, KJ Starr with West Bank Business Association

People Involved and Reached: 226

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