Winning customers by stretching the rules

For those Syracuseans not in the know, Funk 'N' Waffles is a great little spot on the SU hill. It has a menu of interesting waffle creations (including chicken & waffles, pulled pork waffles, and a new favorite for some of my friends: a stuffing waffle with turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce), good coffee, and free wifi.

They are good citizens, opting for local eggs, Dinosaur BarBQue sauces, and other local options when possible.

The only complaint I've ever thought of is that they close at 4:30 on Mondays, which is kind of early.

So, as co-chair of the 40 Below Civic Engagement Task Force, I approached the venue about staying open a little later to host a social networking event, which started at 5:30. I arrived a little before 5, and was pleased to see they had something of a walk-in crowd, which meant they weren't bored in that hour between when they typically close and when we were to start.

Then we brought in 16 people – very few of whom had been there before. And almost to a person, they were so impressed with the venue that they said they would not only return, but bring other new people.

If eight of those people do return with two new people each, and then half of those new people do the same, that's a lot of new customers, thanks to being willing to keep the lights on and paying two employees for four extra hours.

That's a minimal investment for a lot of new customers – and let's not forget that so much of small business marketing is helping the non-profits in your area.

Awesome job, Funk 'N' Waffles.

Get engaged!

Well, civically. You don't have to be in the under 40 set to join the 40 Below Civic Engagement Task Force in a social networking event tonight at 5:30 p.m. at World Martini Bar, 134 E Genesee Street, in Hanover Square (map).

Check out the Facebook event page. There's no need to RSVP. Just show up, bring people, meet people, you get the idea. No fee for the event, just whatever you opt to purchase.

Involvement Fair 4 heads downtown May 27


40 Below Civic Engagement Task Force Brings Fourth Involvement Fair Downtown
Event to bring together non-profit organizations and volunteers across Central New York

Syracuse, NY — The 40 Below Civic Engagement Task Force is pleased to announce the fourth Central New York Involvement Fair, Thursday, May 27 from 4 until 7:30 p.m. at SUNY Oswego Metro Center, 2 Clinton Square, Syracuse. The fair will be followed by a networking event hosted by Syracuse First at Al's Wine & Whiskey, 321 S. Clinton St., Syracuse..

The Involvement Fair is a place for local volunteers to find non-profits to become involved with. Picture a job fair, but instead of company recruiters sitting behind tables collecting resumes from nervous students, the tables are staffed by passionate non-profit volunteers or employees, and the people walking around are local residents looking to engage in their communities.

The first three involvement fairs, held at Drivers Village, Le Moyne College and Pensabene's, have been hugely successful for area agencies and organizations, and bringing the event downtown will only mean easier access for more area residents.

There is a nominal table charge for non-profits (RSVP required), and the event is free to attend for anyone looking for volunteer opportunities (no RSVP needed).

The networking event at Al's, hosted by local non-profit organization Syracuse First, will feature food and drink specials for Involvement Fair vendors and attendees with name badges. The event is free to attend.

Local media outlets, non-profit organizations and anyone wishing to attend are invited to contact Civic Engagement Task Force co-chairs Kelly Bayne and Josh Shear at the information below. The task force website is

Kelly Bayne:
Josh Shear:

It’s about engagement

Listen to the words of this song; try to get by the violence in the video. I've gone with this video rather than a live recording because it's official and I know the way this label works with artists, and I trust this video is the artist's vision. What I hear in Michael Franti's "Rock the Nation" is taking responsibility for moving things forward in a positive direction. I advocate non-violence.

I was elected Monday night to co-chair of the Civic Engagement Task Force, a piece of 40 Below I've been involved with since it re-launched in October of 2007. It's a two-year volunteer role, and it's a challenge I look forward to.

These are the primary things the task force does.

The Involvement Fair. At least once a year – sometimes twice – the task force hosts an involvement fair. If you're familiar with the concept of a job fair – candidates with resumes walking around talking to a bunch of companies who have paid for tables and sent their HR teams out – this will look familiar. Except the people at the tables are outreach officers or volunteers of local non-profits, and the people walking around aren't bringing resumes, they're looking for a way to connect with the community.

Connecting people to board opportunities. The task force works with volunteer organizations who are looking for board members to find people in the community who fit their needs.

Introducing people to each other and to organizations in the area. We meet monthly in various locations, and frequently have a speaker introducing an organization she or he is involved in. It's a great way to get to know who's out there.

Here's my challenge to you. Where do you see a need in the city? What push do you need to get involved? How can we help you? Get in touch in comments.