Sept. 29, 2021 by David Silverberg
Mimi Lamb remembers the moment the idea came to her.
“There was a young lady who was looking for a service person in one of the Democratic chat groups,” she recalls. The woman was seeking a reliable handyperson whom she could allow into her home who was also a Democrat.
But in an overwhelmingly conservative area where many businesses are vocally and conspicuously defying COVID precautions and opposing vaccinations, her quest wasn’t just a political statement; she was also looking for someone who could be trusted to keep her safe by following anti-COVID guidelines and practices.
“I said, ‘That’s it!’” Lamb related. Inspiration had struck. On Facebook Lamb started a poll of people who were similarly looking for Democratic vendors. She learned that people were especially seeking dependable physicians, healthcare providers and beauty salons where customers could be assured of friendly service, sympathetic views and hygienic practices.
So a week and a half ago, on Sunday, Sept. 19, Lamb launched the Facebook group Democrat Owned Businesses of Southwest Florida. A private group, as of this writing it has 59 members and 30 who have applied to join.
A political journey
Beverly Lamb, known to her five grandchildren and the rest of the world as Mimi, has followed a political journey taken by many people who feel the need to find a new political home. “It’s been a journey of discovery of what works, what matters to me,” she said of her exploration of the political spectrum.
Originally from Pennsylvania, she started her political life as a Republican. However, she voted for Bill Clinton in 1992.
But voting for Clinton didn’t make her a Democrat and she disagreed with aspects of the Clinton presidency. “It’s like you don’t get enough of what you want for Christmas,” she says of her initial apostasy and then disillusionment.
She became an independent.
At the same time her political journey was accompanied by a physical move from Pennsylvania to Florida, initially to Orlando and then Miami. Her son-in-law was in the military and so she followed him and one of her two daughters on their different assignments, moving steadily southward before arriving in Fort Myers in 2004.
She switched her party affiliation to Democratic in 2014. But then, in 2016, “Trump lit a fire under me,” she says. She became not just a Democrat but a committed activist.
“I just got really involved as a Democrat,” she related to The Paradise Progressive. During the 2020 election campaign, “We were seeing all these Trump signs and flags but no one was marching on the other side. People were too afraid.”
Teaming up with another local activist whom she met online, she began organizing people to hold pro-Democratic signs and wave flags on Fort Myers street corners.
“We started marching and got other people to march,” she said. Initially they attracted around 15 people but with each event that grew until they were joined by 40 or 50 people.
“The first time, we faced a lot of threats and had to get police protection,” she says. Angry opponents told her: “We know who you are and know where you live.”
But she persisted.
After the election, she initially became involved in Facebook when she wanted to post pictures of her grandchildren. But as she explored the platform she became aware of people seeking assistance.
“Every other week I’d see someone asking for help,” she related. “They’d need a handyman or someone to put down sod but they’d say, ‘I don’t know who to ask for.’”
Political affiliations could usually be determined for big corporations and companies. But that wasn’t the case with small businesses, independent contractors and local service providers.
What was more, she became aware of a Republican Facebook group called Boycott Democrat Businesses. As of this writing it has only 37 members and its location is unclear. It sees Democratic businesses as enemies and was created the day Joe Biden was declared the election winner, Nov. 7, 2020.
A self-employed independent contractor who specializes in marketing educational software, Lamb is still professionally active and works remotely. Her new Facebook project is more than a hobby but less than a full-time occupation.
She reached out to a group supporting Democratic businesses operating in the Orlando area for ideas but has not yet heard back.
She emphasizes that the local Democrat Owned Businesses Facebook group is not against anyone.
“This should be a positive environment where we can support each other, not stress each other out,” she states in the “About” section.
“This is a place for Democrats to find local businesses led and operated by Democrats. Acceptable posts: Businesses promoting their products or services, Customers searching for referrals, general public recommending a Democratic- owned business.”
It warns that negative posts will be removed: no business bashing, political ranting or political posturing is allowed.
At this time the group does not list any businesses—and that’s deliberate.
“I recognize there is some risk in sharing info about Dem-led businesses,” it states. “We live in a very ‘red’ area of the state. That is likely why there has not been a group like this for our area until now. And that is why this page is private. We will make every reasonable effort to protect Dem-led businesses here and admins caution you not to share that information publicly.”
It continues: “I recommend you invite any Dem-led businesses you patronize to join our group so they can make that decision [to go public] for themselves, and ask their permission first before sharing them with the group.”
Right now, Lamb is scrupulously vetting applicants who want to join the group. Anyone wishing to join must fill out a questionnaire and be approved. It takes time. “Please be patient with admin activities while I get this up and running, as I work a full-time job and may not always be able to respond immediately,” she states.
Writing from a personal perspective, Lamb writes on the page: “I am a businesswoman myself; I’ve owned or operated several companies in the past, and I always strove to serve everyone with the same grace and dignity. I expect any Dem-led business who joins our group will want to do the same.”
Right now, Lamb is cautiously finding her way forward, experimenting with what works and what does not and adapting the group to the needs of Southwest Florida.
“I would really like for this to be a very positive and safe place,” she told The Paradise Progressive. “If it becomes uncomfortable, I won’t do it.”
Liberty lives in light
© 2021 by David Silverberg