Laura Clise is passionate about community and social justice and it shows when she talks about intentional spending. Laura is founder and CEO of Intentionalist, an online guide to intentional spending that supports brick and mortar small businesses and marginalized local communities. When discussing these businesses, words like belonging, connection, community, and inclusion often come up because these are the things she has grappled with at different points throughout her life and places a great deal of value on. She explained, "I think about some of the challenges that I have navigated as an adoptee, as a woman growing up in a biracial, bicultural family, as a gay lesbian, and as someone who spent a lot of time working in predominantly male led industries." She shared that as a teenager, "I really struggled to fit in. I didn't have very many friends. I ate lunch by myself. I was athletic and so I had teammates but I didn't have friends. And it was incredibly lonely."
Laura's experiences growing up are why she sees small businesses as the heart of our communities and that while we tend to think about the statistics regarding small businesses as a driver in our economy and vehicle for economic stability and mobility, what people sometimes overlook "are the ways that small businesses really are the physical spaces where we connect with one another, where we celebrate, where we can find belonging, and safe spaces."
Belonging is where Laura starts because when she moved back to Seattle in 2015 after almost 19 years away, she was "struck by the tension between rapid growth and transformation and underlying questions about who still had a physical place in our city and who still felt a sense of belonging." Recognizing that this wasn't unique to Seattle, she began to think of ways we could "solve for connection and belonging through community and movement toward shared prosperity and a more equitable, inclusive economy." Supporting main street brick and mortar small businesses, especially those owned by people with "underrepresented and underestimated backgrounds," kept coming up as a solution to many of the issues Seattle was facing.
Laura believes that intentional spending to support those small businesses is a powerful tool that gives us agency to create social impact. "I know when I support a Black woman owned business or an Indigenous woman owned business, that is a small way to put my thumb on the scales of economic justice." It's also about "closing the gap between our good intentions and our ability to easily take action." When we spend this way, "it isn't just beneficial to the small businesses that are on the receiving end of our purchases, but that our communities and our cities are better for having diverse, vibrant small businesses as a part of our social, economic, and cultural fabric."
When it comes to creating social impact, Laura suggests we move away from "all or nothing" thinking. She explains, "Either I'm only purchasing through Amazon or I'm never and we don't give ourselves room to be a little bit less binary." We can start by doing something "as simple as deciding to make a regular or even periodic practice of being intentional about where we eat, drink, and shop." She reminds us that choosing to intentionally support local businesses is an investment in our own happiness and self-care through the connections we make while taking care of our communities. Small businesses are Laura's happy place and she appreciates "the ways that small business owners take care of and give back to our communities. I truly take inspiration from their leadership and example."
Here are some ways you can start your own intentional spending practice:
Visit the Intentionalist website for an easy to use, searchable database of diverse owned brick and mortar small businesses throughout the Pacific Northwest. You can also learn about the inspiring people behind those businesses and see curated guides, as well as incentives paid for by their partners so that any deal or discount that you might receive through Intentionalist isn't impacting their bottom line.
Get the Black Black Friday prepaid card, which you can use exclusively at more than 100 Black owned businesses throughout the greater Seattle area. Supporting Black businesses will also get you a 20% discount, which is underwritten by BECU.
Consider giving the Intentionalist card as a gift that can be used at over 150 diverse businesses in WA or online at the Intentionalist store.