Sheepless Nation! States of Independents Tour

Author: 
Scott Ballum

We're hitting the road! Sheepless founder Scott Ballum is driving from California to Maine—and back—to discover innovative and unique small businesses wherever they may be, and documenting the trip in video as we go [WATCH], please check it out and follow along!

Why are we doing this?

There's a movement afoot, people are more and more interested in learning about where their food is coming from, and their money is going to. They want to know what's gone into the products they buy, and what they can give back to their communities. Sheepless.org is a place where we bring these stories together, where we find the people at the heart of this movement - the people who run the local independent businesses at the forefront of this evolution. We've written stories about organic restaurants and bike shops and water conservationists in Southern California, we've produced videos about bookstores and urban landscapers and fair-trade coffee distributors in Brooklyn, New York, we've heard from businesses in Oregon and Maryland and Arizona and Florida. Now we want to put a face to these stories, so we're hitting the road on a cross-country roadtrip we're calling Sheepless Nation! States of Independents. We're visiting Texas and Kentucky, Maine and Michigan, looking for innovative, forward-thinking, community-minded small business owners everywhere. Follow along with us at Sheepless.org, let us know about people we can't miss, and get a taste of what it's like to be an entrepreneur in this country right now.

At one point, I was focused on the dangers of mass-culture, the illusion of choice brought on by big-box stores and global fashion companies, but it just felt like beating my head against a wall. Not only was it negative and depressing, I knew there was no way I was ever going to stop these industries alone, and telling others not to shop at these major corporations wasn't helpful unless I offered them a viable alternative. I completed a project to meet the people who made everything I bought for one year, to see if it was possible, called the Consumer Reconnection Project, and started to learn the value of local economies and independent businesses.

So that's where I find myself today. Sheepless.org is a place where we explore ways to engage more deeply with our communities, to find ways to make a living, and make life more livable. It's also a celebration of people and businesses who do in fact, offer us better choices than the big box stores do. And people who find ways to help others make their homes more energy efficient, or use less water, people who work with schools and farms, people who serve healthy foods and promote outdoor lifestyles and bicycling and public transportation. Learning about these businesses changes the way we think about work, about shopping, and about our communities.

We were founded in Brooklyn, NY, where we found a multitude of innovative small businesses to write about. Then I moved to San Diego, CA, and despite massive cultural differences, I discovered a growing interest in local sustainability and many small business owners leading the way. We started receiving submissions from Baltimore, MD and Portand, OR and San Francisco and Los Angeles, CA. Without a doubt, there are people all over this country, either quietly maintaining the businesses that have been in their families for generations, or taking the plunge, leaving (or losing) corporate jobs and believing in their passions and drive to start something new.

We want to put local businesses on the national front page. We want to champion them, help them to grow and connect with their communities, we want folks in Texas to learn from businesses in Michigan and businesses in Boston to light a spark in Seattle.

So, we're going out to find them. We're hitting the road in San Diego, heading East through Arizona and Texas and Kentucky up to New England before turning back through the MidWest to Oregon and Northern California.

Special Thanks

We are very grateful for the help and support of Jennifer Rockne and Jeff Milchen, Co-Founders of the American Independent Business Alliance (amiba.net).

Support Sheepless Nation!

We're raising funds on Kickstarter.com to complete the journey! Please help if you can and share with your friends and neighbors.


Sheepless Nation! Map & Progress


View Sheepless Tour 2010 in a larger map

LEG 1: Coast To Coast
Our tentative schedule:

7/25 Phoenix/Tempe/Mesa AZ
7/27 Dallas/Austin TX
7/29 Memphis TN
7/30 Louisville KY
8/1 Richmond VA
8/3 New York/Brooklyn NY
8/9 Baltimore MD
8/12 Washington DC
8/20 Plymouth MA
8/24 Portland ME
8/26 Burlington VT

LEG 2: The Return
As yet unscheduled, and looking for suggestions:

Buffalo NY
Pitsburgh PA
Ann Arbor MI
Springfield IL
Minneapolis MN
Boulder/Denver CO
Salt Lake City UT
Portland OR
San Fransisco CA
Los Angeles CA

Suggest a Stop

Know someone along the way we need to visit? Let us know!