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Mob mentality 

Colorado Springs is about to get mobbed.

Dave Fleming, co-owner and CFO of Market Treasury, a local advertising company, says he saw a story about cash mobs on CNN a couple weeks back and got the idea to start one here.

"We talk to a lot of struggling businesses," he says, "and we wanted to do what we could to help them out."

Since originating in Cleveland last November, cash mobs have popped up all over the place. More than 100 networks have been set up in U.S. cities — the Springs version will be Colorado's seventh — and others have shown up in areas as far-flung as Sweden and South Korea.

The appeal is pretty simple: Through Twitter and Facebook, locals connect with small businesses and with other people who want to support small businesses. Mob organizers set a time and date, pick a business in their community, and alert their followers who, with $20 each in hand, descend on the business for about an hour of community-conscious shopping.

The Colorado Springs Cash Mob, found on social media, will debut March 24. While Fleming is in the business of promotion and advertising, he says the Springs mobs will be completely separate. "We just wanted to use our platform to elevate the awareness," he says.

Emma Smaldino, business network coordinator with Be Local Northern Colorado, has organized two mobs in the Fort Collins area. Each attracted about 30 to 40 people, she says.

One week before a mobbing, she sends a Tweet and Facebook update with a meeting place; when everyone arrives, she leads a trip to the chosen business. Participants don't know where they're headed, but they can be sure the place will be small and locally owned. (The business owners themselves are alerted well ahead of time to prepare for the rush.)

"We bring music, and try to make it fun," she says. "And then we go to a local brewery or pub for a celebratory drink."

The last mob was at a bookstore, she says, and was lucrative: The business brought in $650 in one hour. During that same time the week prior, it made $153.

"Sometimes it can feel like your little contribution is just that, little," Smaldino says. "But if you see 30 other people making their little contribution, it feels like something bigger. It makes you feel like a part of the community."

Renee Blanchard has organized cash mobs in Loveland. Her first event in February, also at a bookstore, attracted a modest 15 people, but she says she's "gearing up to do another one." She came to the idea through a national newspaper story, and started doing some research. "It seemed so simple to me to get it started," she says.

There are no specific rules in founding a mob, Fleming points out. Though the national cashmobs.wordpress.com site offers suggested rules and advice, organizers don't go through any headquarters, or certifying organization. The process is almost as simple as the concept itself.

"It takes an hour out of your month to go out and spend 20 bucks at a local place, and say that you have 50 or 100 people who do that," Fleming says. "That's a $1,000, $2,000 deal that they wouldn't otherwise have."

chet@csindy.com

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