Today’s talk with Stacey Price of Think Local First DC is part of our ongoing series featuring local people and local businesses. TLFDC is an interconnected community of locally-owned businesses who drive sustainable economic development in the Washington metro area. They are a member of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), which helps Think Local First organizations get established.
Check out the TLFDC website for great Localist profiles of your favorite independent business owners, and special deals and events from some of your favorite businesses. Borderstan is a member of TLFDC.
It’s always surprising to see someone you know in a city of more than 600,000 residents, but for Stacey Price, knowing your local business owners is just part of the community appeal.
Price, the new executive director for Think Local First DC, thinks like a small business owner because she has been one. Her first entrepreneurial endeavor was a gift shop in Radford, Virginia, called Encore Artful Gifts. Today she oversees the relationships and development of the Think Local movement, which provides a community for more than 200 local businesses.
Borderstan: You previously led your own PR agency, which represented many independent businesses–are you still a small business owner as well?
Price: It’s in a bit of a transition. [Being part of Think Local First] is like an extended service to people I was already serving. I actually met the folks at Think Local through my clients who were independent businesses. I was worried about conflict of interest, but… it’s all in support of local businesses.
Borderstan: What led you to Think Local First DC?
Price: I owned a gift and clothing store for six years, so I get [small business]. I take the small business owner under my arm. Even the best, the people who have been around for a long time, they want advice, and it’s not even about making money.
For example, we’re holding a workshop about how to have promotions on a shoestring. And you don’t need money — a lot of times it’s about partnerships. A lot of businesses don’t do that and they don’t have the time, money, resources and effort to promote themselves.
Borderstan: How many businesses are part of Think Local First?
Price: We are around 200 businesses, but we don’t like to think of it as just the people who are part of our membership. We think that any independent business is part of our network. We support all local businesses.
Borderstan: So, what are some of the benefits of joining Think Local First?
Price: When you become a member, you get increased visibility. Our membership fee is very low — it starts at $100. And we’re building relationships with businesses based on their needs. For example, Skynear is one of our members and they said, “We see value in your Facebook fans and Twitter fans and some of those things” — if that’s what they need, we can be flexible [with what membership means].
It occurred to me recently that I’m doing exactly what I wanted to do. In 2002, I was working for an economic development organization and I was trying to build communities in Virginia. And I thought at that time that I wanted to start a non-profit that did nothing but promote local business.
I was finding these gems of businesses that had something amazing — a sandwich, or coffee or a product — but their signage was bad, or their façade was bad, or they needed promotional help, and so I thought about how I could start a non-profit that would support them. They had the product, the space, but often forgot the most important part — promotion.
Fast-forward to now and I get to do that almost on a daily basis.
Borderstan: What is success for Think Local First?
Price: We love when we see people we know, but we also love when our events bring in people we don’t know. It means we’ve introduced them to something new. It’s about helping the businesses, but also helping the consumers understand why they should support the business. But it’s more than just promotion that we offer businesses. Our programming works to create “better,” more socially conscientious businesses. In fact, we are holding a Social Venture Institute in May 2012.
Borderstan: What can we see next from Think Local First?
Price: It’s the holiday season and we’re having the Shop Local Day on November 26. We have an entire kit that educates consumers on why they should shop local, especially around the holiday season. I’ve been meeting with Etsy and we’re seeing what we can do to make a local showing. Maybe a “Made in DC” event or perhaps a pop up shop or something. And we just kicked of “Listen Local First,” a partnership between local musicians and local businesses.
Borderstan: What are your favorite spots in the neighborhood?
Price: On U Street… Lettie Gooch: Great shoes, handbags, clothing and an owner that is TLF board member? Yes, please! Bar Pilar: Love that even with popularity and growth this spot feels like a neighborhood bar.
In Logan Circle… Cork Wine Shop: Amazing cheese and wine selection. Stoney’s: Nothing says comfort food like its grilled cheese. On sour dough.
In Dupont… Pizza Paradiso: Hands down favorite bar staff in the city. Amazing pizza, great changing beer list and a bustling neighborhood atmosphere. Yola: Locally sourced yogurt with Counter Culture coffee, great music and a staff that makes me smile.