USC Trojan Shop Local Initiative
Certainly, since the murder of George Floyd in 2020, and the pandemic years through recent months, the focus upon opportunities to close racial economic wealth gaps has heightened throughout Los Angeles County. Substantial federal and state investments emerged as crucial elements to provide equitable resourcing for diverse businesses that were severely impacted, yet, loans and grants are not substitutes for revenues. The USC Trojan Shop Local (TSL) initiative provides an innovative revenue pathway for diverse businesses within the USC communities in Los Angeles County, with opportunities to substantiate long-termed economic ecosystem partnerships. USC Trojan Shop Local is an initiative with a specific focus on small diverse community businesses. Launched in May 2021, the USC Trojan Shop Local directory showcases over 80 neighborhood diverse businesses and has provided direct revenue streams of nearly $200,000.00 in this fiscal year. USC Trojan Shop Local provides direct connection to the Trojan Family — students, alumni, staff and faculty — to promote awareness and increase patronage, while also providing best practice information to support businesses growth and scalability utilizing the economic footprint and knowledge base of the 22 USC Schools. A capstone event for TSL businesses was an annual event (March 2023), the "USC ASCCESS Summit," which included focus on operational best practices in sustainability for small businesses. A panel featuring Los Angeles County thought leaders, faculty, and the USC Office of Sustainability provided guidance regarding the importance of incorporating new sustainability practices, trends and local resource information, as well as one-on-one sustainability counseling. A distinguishing success factor of the Trojan Shop Local initiative is due to the partnership and collaboration between two university offices that have reached over existing decentralized silos to meet community needs and address 21st century challenges: the USC Office of Business Diversity and Economic Opportunity and the USC Office of Sustainability.
USC Trojan Shop Local was initially conceived as a response requested by USC Black students to assist community businesses during the pandemic. While USC had historically provided technical assistance programming to small businesses in the community, there was not a resource that actively connected diverse business opportunities to USC. In January 2021, USC Civic Engagement and Economic Partnerships, a division of USC University Relations, created a new department with support of the USC President's Office: the Office of Business Diversity and Economic Opportunity to address that void with a targeted focus on supplier diversity and community engagement. The Office of Business Diversity and Economic Opportunity met with the USC Black Student Assembly representatives to build the collaborative concept that is now Trojan Shop Local (TSL), with student representatives serving on its governance board in its first year. Trojan Shop Local now has its own program specialist and communications assistant to develop outreach and programming, and to engage and track USC contracting. Trojan Shop Local businesses comprise a spectrum of diverse businesses such as restaurants/catering, retail, and professional services from primarily Black, Latino, Asian and Women-owned business which surround the University Park and Health Sciences campuses.
Key to TSL strategies is to provide participating businesses with information regarding sustainability practices to enhance their competitiveness within prevailing and upcoming contracting opportunities. As a leading sustainability advocacy and practicing institution, with a core initiative "Assignment Earth" (led by the USC Office of Sustainability: https://sustainability.usc.edu/assignment-earth/USC), standards for sustainable contracting also apply for TSL businesses. Through monthly newsletters and events, TSL businesses have been informed of USC sustainability goals and practices, and many have been able to incorporate these ideals which have resulted in favorable contract consideration and awards. Such practices include informed operational guidance regarding single-use plastic waste bans, sustainable product packaging, water use/reduction, and sustainable/farm-to-table/organic ingredient sourcing.
The goals for the Trojan Shop Local initiative are: 1) increase Trojan Family awareness and patronage for diverse businesses that surround the USC communities; 2) increase equity within USC contracting opportunities for participating TSL businesses; 3) create meaningful direct economic benefit for diverse businesses surrounding USC campuses; 4) add value to USC civic engagement community support programming; 5) align impact and results with key campus initiatives and challenges; 6) contribute to community well-being.
Trojan Shop Local is an on-going initiative. The primary duties of the program specialist are to engage TSL assets to promote TSL businesses, and to engage with campus stakeholders to include TSL businesses in department programming considerations when applicable. Key TSL assets include:
- Trojan Shop Local directory (Website): https://businessdiversity.usc.edu/support-local/
- Trojan Shop Local Social Media (Instagram): https://www.instagram.com/trojanshoplocal/?hl=en
- A newsletter is sent to TSL businesses on a monthly basis;
- An annual event for community diverse businesses was held on March 9th, 2023, with over 250 businesses in attendance, to include a Sustainability Workshop and Resource Guide: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-CNyJ1WOtPr-0VzIGUPzQ2_OrCE7Qn7q/view?usp=share_link
TSL is an ongoing initiative.
FY 2022: TSL concept and strategies co-designed with student groups and initiated; Internal department stakeholders coalition created; Program Specialist hired; Logo and marketing collateral created; Marketing and communication strategy implemented--internal and external; Identification of Trojan Shop Local businesses via local council district input, and student/neighborhood polling; Website directory created; Zoom meetings and on-site visits with business owners to introduce program and gain participation.
FY 2023 Communication assistant hired; Social media created and managed daily, highlighting TSL business or holiday promotions; Internal meetings with departments for TSL contracting (ongoing) (over 30); Ongoing meetings with regional diverse chambers of commerce as a member; Participation in key community events for TSL business inclusion (over 15); Monthly Newsletter highlighting tips, events and TSL businesses; Ongoing on-site meetings with TSL business owners; ASCCESS Summit event with Sustainability workshop and resource guidance; Sustainability one-one TSL counseling by the Office of Sustainability.
Through the assigned budget from the division of Civic Engagement and Economic Partnerships, financing for Trojan Shop Local is from the department budget of the Office of Business Diversity and Economic Opportunity (BDEO). Recurring budget line items include personnel salaries, marketing collateral, annual conference expenses, and department contracting funding assistance, which are considered as internal budgeting items. Communications marketing is managed through social media which is not a charged line item for the BDEO department at this time.
Key Results for Trojan Shop Local FY23:
- Increased racial equity and diversity awareness for over 80 TSL businesses; 75 on waiting list;
- Increased direct benefit contracting for TSL businesses with sustainability practices-contracts awarded total over $200,000 FY23;
- Created TSL Sustainability Resource Guidelines, presented at annual ASCCESS Summit;
- Provided one-one sustainability counseling to over 20 TSL businesses;
- Featured TSL businesses at USC city-wide "Climate Access Summit" in Spring;
- Garnered over 1500 Social media followers 2022-2023 (one year).
The primary lesson is that with regard to economic equity, racial diversity and operational sustainability practices should be aligned. With the establishment of the USC Trojan Shop Local initiative, we made the decision up front to incorporate the intersection of diverse business equity and operational sustainability practices as being fundamental to our strategies to support small diverse businesses in our surrounding communities. Our belief is that diverse businesses strive for competitive excellence, and can do so when best informed regarding best practices such as regarding sustainability, and, can utilize sustainability practices as both marketing and contracting advantages. Thus, our strategic planning to support this initiative integrated internal collaborations between the Office of Business Diversity and Economic Opportunity and the Office of Sustainability, as well as our Procurement departments and campus stakeholders. With key internal partnerships secured, we are able to provide an effective advocacy model that our regional diverse business chambers of commerce are confident will result in beneficial inclusion. Additionally, through their relationships with USC, our TSL businesses serve as community role models and also provide important partnership input to us regarding considerations for improving community engagement and outreach so that our ecosystems thrive. We look forward to expanding our TSL model in the coming year to additional new diverse businesses, and to increasing our direct and indirect community impact with regard to revenue equity, and sustainability practices in diverse communities. We believe our model of highly focused marketing support, best practice guidance, and equitable direct revenue generation opportunity can serve as an example to other anchor institutions.