THE JOY OF BEING AN UNCLE:
An Interview With Steve Weinberg
Steve is one of the Circle’s 35 Aunts and Uncles who provide low-interest loans to existing business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs, as well as counsel for those seeking to start businesses. These goals are what drew Steve to become an Uncle. “It’s not just about the money,” Steve relayed over the phone on a late summer day. “We’re supporting people as an Aunt or an Uncle, not as a banker. Business is also about relationships.”
Steve’s foray into the sustainability movement began with The Natural Step ideology (founded in Sweden in 1989) when he was still living in New York. Years later, he moved to Philadelphia, hoping to continue his sustainability work and to find and build community. It was not long before he was introduced to Judy Wicks, visionary behind The Circle of Aunts and Uncles. In a consumer market dominated by large chain corporations that boast lower prices, convenience and jobs, though not necessarily well paying jobs, what is the incentive for consumers to shop locally? Not only do chain stores ultimately extract money from the local sector, but a dollar spent at a locally-owned business yields economic benefits two to four times greater in terms of local income, jobs, wealth, and tax revenue than the same dollar spent in a nationally or globally owned business.
But just as important, Steve maintains, is the joyous, collaborative spirit that arises when a community comes to together to support its local enterprises. “Judy is a fun and inspiring person and brings so much joy to everything,” Steve enthused. “We care about justice, culture, beauty, and meeting people from all walks of life.” The Circle’s larger aim, he reports, is to create a robust, resilient local economy in a city with the highest poverty rate among the top ten largest cities in the U.S. “We hope to inspire other people and communities to jump in and run with this model.”
– Natalie Peart (Natalie Peart is a freelance writing exploring new economic ideas. She lives in Brooklyn, New York)