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Cash Mob Infiltrates Local Businesses, Recruits Secret Members

Clandestine grassroots movement helps small businesses in Tampa

She doesn’t smoke a fat smelly cigar, wear a $5,000 suit or surround herself with “the boys” packing lethal protection, but she will make your business an offer you can’t - or really wouldn’t want to - refuse. 

To Tate & Tilly, a local Tampa business invaded by her associates, Kim Kenney is the ultimate Mob Boss.

The Secret Tampa Cash Mob, a grassroots movement to infuse the local economy and help small business, is the brainchild of Kenney, a Carrollwood entrepreneur.

Less than three months old, the Cash Mob has grown from three to 600 members. And like the mob of old, you have to know someone on the inside to get invited to join a secret Facebook group.

Patch sat down to with Kenney to find out what exactly a Cash Mob is and how she came up with the idea.

Patch: How did you come up with the concept of starting a movement?

Kenney: I actually saw a story about a group in Ohio. They had a very small five-and-dime, and everyone was going to the large hardware store. One day, someone came up with the idea that they would all go to the five-and-dime and spend a few dollars and support the business that had been inside of their community for years. I thought, what a great idea to support local business by purchasing something. A cup of coffee and an iPad later, I came up with Secret Tampa Cash Mob.

Patch:  What exactly is Secret Tampa Cash Mob?

Kenney: Secret Tampa Cash Mob is a grassroots group started on Facebook. It’s a group of individuals that want to help support local business once a month by spending $10 or more inside of a store that they (the group) choose. We do this every month for the most part. It’s the end of the month, always on a Saturday. You have to ask to be invited or know someone inside of the Mob. It is secret, so you can’t just find it on Facebook.

Patch:  Why $10?

Kenney: Ten dollars is good price point for most people.

Patch: Is this a woman-only group?

Kenney: No, it’s a mixture. We have men, women and children participating.

Patch: Do the members identify themselves to the selected shop?

Kenney: Yes, when they purchase items, they tell them that they are part of the Secret Tampa Cash Mob.

Patch: How is a shop selected?

Kenney: On our Facebook page, members get vote on every month which place they want to go to. People get to nominate a business and then I do research.  I make sure that there are things that are ten dollars, that that person or their staff is not a member inside the Cash Mob. A business cannot be inside of the Cash Mob if they want to be considered.

Patch: What are the criteria?

Kenney:  The business must have a Tampa address, be a store or restaurant that can communicate with the masses, and have something that most everyone would be interested in. 

Patch: What has been the reaction of the business owners?

Kenney: The first one was Tate & Tilly. She was very shocked. She actually increased her Saturday sales by 160 percent. We look for businesses that might be off the beaten path or that people might pass all the time and not even know that it exists.

Members post pictures of what they bought. That’s really great because it actually shows what you can purchase inside of that store and it’s not coming from an advertising background, but a personal standpoint.

Patch: How does the Cash Mob work? Do you meet a specific time?

Kenney: No, our Cash Mob is from open until the close of the business that Saturday. It works for members who have things to do on the weekend and it doesn’t overwhelm the business owner or the staff. Our members just announce that they’re part of the Cash Mob when they make their purchase.

Patch: Why is it a secret? Shouldn’t the business have time to prepare?

Kenney: It’s a secret to the shop owner for two reasons. One, the element of surprise, and two, not to have them buy more inventory or employ more staff. If it’s a horrible weekend – a lot of things are going on or the weather is not cooperating – I don’t want a business owner to take on more liabilities than what’s going to be sold.

Patch: Is there a benefit to being a Cash Mob member?

Kenney: People get to meet people, go outside of their community and go to different areas of Tampa that they may never go to. We pull north Tampa people into Carrollwood and New Tampa people to Westchase, etc. We’re trying to show that we are all a community. Yes, we can shop and support where we live, but as a group, we can also go to different places and explore and see what is outside our specific community.

Patch: Are there any other benefits beside monetary to being mobbed?

Kenney: To build brand awareness, the business is not paying for marketing. They are getting mobbed by people interested in what they sell. If they give good customer service and have great products, they are always going to have clients for life.

Napa Flair was mobbed the day after the Patch interview on Saturday. A post on the Napa Flair Facebook  page read, “Our single best day EVER! So many thanks Secret Tampa Cash Mob, and of course, our lovely Mob Boss!”

To join Secret Tampa Cash Mob, visit www.secrettampacashmob.com, or find Kenney on Facebook and message her with a request to join.

Camille C. Spencer April 03, 2012 at 02:38 PM
@kevin: looks like the mob is doing a great job of helping out small businesses!
Lisa L. Demmi April 03, 2012 at 02:52 PM
This is such a great boon to local businesses. Not only does it help the business the day of but it helps them with awareness in moving forward! Love what Kim is doing!
Dawn Hudson April 03, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Kim's got-what-it takes to be a leader and there is no 'red tape' to hold her back.
Sherri Lonon April 03, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Such a cool idea. Thanks for sharing it, Kim!
Kim Kenney April 03, 2012 at 07:20 PM
First, I need to thank all the mobsters. Without you, this would be just an idea with zero follow through! Second, I need to thank Kevin Newsome of Newsome Studio Photography, Inc. for the amazing photos he captured!!! Lastly, I just left Napa Flair and their sales were increased for an average Saturday by 300% with more mobsters still straggling in.... I cannot thank you mobsters enough for helping locally owned small businesses thrive and not just survive!

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