In 2009, retail consultant Cinda Baxter wrote a blog post referring to an article that she'd read about local economies.
The writer of the article, Rieva Lesonsky at bizwomen.com, talked about her shopping habits and wondered the following: "With more and more small businesses on the edge of survival, I've been thinking about which three stores I would most hate to see go out of business, and how I can support them with my dollars."
Baxter took that one paragraph and got the idea to build a grassroots campaign asking consumers to frequent three local brick-and-mortar businesses they don't want to see disappear and to spend a total of $50 a month between those three businesses.
And so the 3/50 Project was born.
Today, thousands of businesses around the country have signed on to the effort and the project has advanced to the point that, yes, there's an app for it. Say you're heading to Charlotte for a weekend - you can apply the "shop local" principals there, too, by looking at everything from locally owned restaurants to clothing retailers.
The 3/50 Project makes the point that supporting local businesses supports the local economy.
"If half the employed population spend $50 each month in locally owned independent businesses, it would generate more than $42.6 billion," the project's website says. "For every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. If you spend that in a national chain, only $43 stays here. Spend it online and nothing comes home."
The 3/50 Project offers resources for local businesses, such as informational placards they can place there.
Tom King, manager of Charleston Department Store, said he heard of the project shortly after it was launched.