It started out as an idea to take the negative being played out in the media and to channel it into something positive.
Since its inception Open for Service has reached 20 states and doesn’t look like it will ever stop.
The concept is simple – for $10, businesses can sign up to receive a window sticker that announces they are open to anyone. Patrons will not be denied service based on any religious or personal difference – period.
Josh Driver of Indianapolis says he came up with the idea after witnessing all of the dialogue on social media and other outlets about religious freedom and discrimination. It wasn’t a direct response to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but rather the conversation generated from it.
“I’ve just seen a growing trend of more and more people that when the media posts something about the bakery that turns away the lesbian couple or the business that won’t give birth control or whatever that may be,” said Driver. “In my mind that’s free advertising for them.”
Instead of drawing attention to those businesses that do discriminate or have in the past, Driver wanted to see a list of those businesses that would not discriminate in any way. As an openly gay man, Driver wanted to know upfront where he could take his business without fear or hassle. The idea included a kind of “Angie’s List” for inclusion, but without the membership fee. Not only would businesses receive a window sticker, but they would also appear on a database accessible to anyone looking for that kind of information.
Open for Service was born. And the birth was quick.
Once his idea was affirmed as good by a friend, Driver had a website and Facebook page up with in a day. In less than a week with just local Indianapolis media coverage and Facebook shares, over 300 business in 13 states had signed up to receive a sticker and their place in the database. Today, the list stretches over 20 states and counting.
Driver had no idea Open for Service would have this type of public response.
“I am still playing catch up from everything that is happening,” says Driver.
The printer for the sticker handles the shipping; orders are essentially placed directly with them. The actually cost of the sticker is $3.50. The remaining $6.50 goes to SCORE, a national non-profit organization that provides free mentorship and counseling for small business start-ups.“I wanted to be able to get some type of awareness and make this a philanthropic entity,” says Driver. “I’m a serial philanthropist myself. I try to do a big fundraiser for a non-profit each year. So I thought a good idea would be to do something on a national level.”
Driver says he chose SCORE for several reasons. He did not want the donations to be political or religious in any way. His hope, instead, is that the mentoring will include discussions that will produce more inclusive and open-minded businesses. SCORE has a diversity clause in their contract with small business owners.
“I do think these bills are targeted toward the LGBTQ community,” says Driver. “But the way they are worded, they could affect anybody.”
As for the future, Driver is working on finding sponsors to take Open for Service to the next level as an official national organization and movement. He has put a lot of his own personal money into the project and isn’t taking any of the proceeds from the sticker sales. He is also working with developers to create that searchable business directory.
“I tried to build one myself, but I broke it,” laughed Driver. “So I took that as a sign to leave it to the professionals.”
Still he knows that the business directory is one of the most important parts of the movement.
“People have been asking for it,” says Driver, “And, in general, [people] have been asking for it for a long time. Well if this business is discriminating, I want to know where these other businesses are that won’t.”
Orders for the stickers and reservations for a spot in the directory can be placed here on the Open for Service website.