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OMA&D Community Spotlight – Laura Clise

Laura Clise shopping in front of a small businssSpend Like it Matters

Meet Laura Clise, founder and CEO of Intentionalist, a site that makes intentional shopping and supporting small businesses much easier. Born in Seoul and adopted into a family that has been in Seattle for generations, Laura has been around small business owners her entire life. Her grandma, whose formal education was terminated after the 8th grade, opened up a small appliance repair business with her grandfather. Their small business was transformational for both of them, and for generations to follow.

Years before she founded Intentionalist, Clise had already been thinking about her spending and how it can impact development of communities and neighborhoods. After the political and social eruptions that followed the 2016 elections, Clise decided to create Intentionalist, to show people that they had power in their own hands to help facilitate change.

Many minority-owned and historically disadvantaged businesses face issues of access to capital and financial resources, many times born out of systemic issues. Clise points out that it’s often harder for immigrant and refugee owned businesses. She states, “[they lack] accessibility when it comes to navigating systems and processes like regulatory policy and otherwise”. This disparity of access to small business resources was amplified as small and microbusinesses were faced with even fewer options and less support during the lockdowns of early 2020 that carried on into 2021. According to research conducted by management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, minority-owned businesses are some of the most creative and flexible yet are still in high financial risk. They state, “of all vulnerable small businesses, minority-owned ones may be most at risk. Many were in financially precarious positions even before COVID-19 lockdowns, and minority-owned small businesses often are in industries more susceptible to disruption.”

Intentional spending becomes all the more important in these spaces. Clise points out the lasting impacts of intentional spending on immigrant and refugee owned businesses. She explains the generational impact of intentional spending, “It’s the hopes and dreams that they have for their kids in terms of access to opportunity above and beyond what they had”. When consumers support small businesses, they are supporting not just the business owners, but an entire family, which in some cases can mean supporting their access to necessary things like education.

One answer to spending intentionally, according to Clise is, “shifting from transactional to intentional spending culture is part of the solution.” That is the point behind her website Intentionalist. Consumers do not have to go out looking for minority-owned businesses to support, she has done that work already. Through shoppers will find many minority-owned businesses in their neighborhoods, cities, and beyond. Intentional spenders can be specific in what they’re looking for, whether they want to shop specifically from an Asian-owned business, Black-owned business, or an LGBTQ+ owned business, Intentionalist has tools to sort by business type.

As the nation continues to come out of the COVID pandemic, and as neighborhoods have seen local small business shutter doors, one after the other, it is especially important now more than ever to support local small and minority owned businesses. Healthy neighborhoods and communities are built around healthy small businesses – which is why spending intentionally matters most.