Door to door, mat to mat. Photo by Lydia Chávez

UpStart is a column covering the business side of Mission Local. 

I gave local businesses a break from my relentless sales campaign last week so the staff and I could concentrate on blanketing the Mission with 5,000 calling cards. We decided on some door-to-door outreach because lately we’ve all been meeting people who should know about us – they are interested in the Mission and what is happening here – but don’t. Yet.

Our gang of six, which included a few freelancers, divvied up the territory, picked up the box of flyers and headed out Tuesday morning. As I walked my plat of the Mission, my mind wandered: Isn’t this a job for a minimum wage worker? But would they dump the flyers in a bin? And, after too many stairs in the famously flat Mission, I began to wonder,  will I?

And then I began to notice the cards from Carlos, Landscaper, expert in trimming trees. He seemed to be one pace ahead of me, dropping them on the same steps, placing them carefully, name side up. I was not alone. After a few more blocks, I began to feel Carlos’s pain. And admire his persistence. I picked up his card.

Five hours, and four miles later, I returned to the office. Others had logged more miles, but we had covered only about 40 percent of the Mission. We were going to need another box of flyers. In the meantime, it was back to my Salesforce reminders and follow-ups. But first, I called Carlos. How had the door-to-door campaigns worked for him?

He got, he said, two or three calls a month from dropping off his cards. This month, one of those calls was mine. Our yard needed cleaning, the trees needed pruning and an apple tree had to be replanted. Carlos came immediately, assessed the situation and gave me an estimate. After some bargaining—my husband would fetch the topsoil, Carlos would do the skilled labor like pruning the Monterrey Pine—we agreed on a price and he returned later with a helper. After seven hours of work, the yard was in tiptop shape.

Meanwhile, several people at meetings this week mentioned our flyers; one reader, who’d been unaware of us earlier, got in touch and wants to come in and meet. We haven’t yet made as much money from the cards as Carlos has, but I’m inspired by his example. For his part, Carlos made his own follow-up call on Sunday. He wanted to be sure that we watered the replanted apple tree. “When I come back in a year,” he said. “I want to see it all full and green.”

That’s the kind of optimism I need in sales. I wonder whether Carlos would like to buy an ML business membership. . .

Next up: A billboard campaign in February and March.

(Looking for someone to do home repairs? Register on Mission Local and join the group, Service Recommendations, for a list of vendors tried by ML staff or readers. Already a member? Just log in here and go to the group. That’s just one of the ways that ML can meet your needs.)

Earlier UpStarts

#1 Sales

#2 Feeling the Love (or Not)

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Founder/Executive Editor. I’ve been a Mission resident since 1998 and a professor emeritus at Berkeley’s J-school since 2019 when I retired. I got my start in newspapers at the Albuquerque Tribune in the city where I was born and raised. Like many local news outlets, The Tribune no longer exists. I left daily newspapers after working at The New York Times for the business, foreign and city desks. Lucky for all of us, it is still there.

As an old friend once pointed out, local has long been in my bones. My Master’s Project at Columbia, later published in New York Magazine, was on New York City’s experiment in community boards.

Right now I'm trying to figure out how you make that long-held interest in local news sustainable. The answer continues to elude me.

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