• June 2014

At Think Local First DC, the Focus Is Sustainable Business, Sustainable Community

At Think Local First DC, the goal is “to transform DC’s economy by strengthening the voice of the local business community and implementing programs that increase the sustainability of their business practices,” explains Executive Director Stacey Price, who aims to facilitate sustainable economic development through:

  • Education: We educate consumers, businesses, and policymakers about the benefits of supporting DC’s local, independent businesses through the “Think Local First” marketing campaign.
  • Nurturing: We connect entrepreneurs to each other through networking events, workshops, and cooperative purchasing groups to strengthen and grow the local business community.
  • Advocacy: We advocate for public policies that support the growth of DC’s local businesses and lead to a more local, fair, and sustainable economy.

We recently talked to Price about the organization she has been running for the last four years, and the impact that Think Local First DC is making on the local economy. (The photo above is from a video taken during the organization’s annual “DO GOOD WEEK.”)

Be Inkandescent: Tell us about your organization. What is your mission?

Stacey Price: Think Local First DC supports the local movement in DC. With advocacy, marketing, and education we hope to grow the local economy by strengthening the independent business sector. To make this happen, we work with entrepreneurs, partner organizations, and local government to make DC an easier place to do successful business. Currently we give increased service to our over 350 members running locally owned businesses across all sectors and wards.

Be Inkandescent: When and why did you get involved with the organization? Tell us a little about your background. (Price is pictured far right in the photo below.)

Stacey Price: I got involved in TLF four years ago after feeling disconnected with my newly established community (six months after moving here in 2009). In my previous community as a independent business owner, I helped run our Main Street program for six years where we created a Farmer’s Market and a Summer Concert Series.

My background is a mix of communications, education, small business ownership, and economic development. I come from a long line of entrepreneurs and believe that (local) business is the backbone of any community. Although I first came to TLF as a potential board member, I ended up finding a professional channel that wove together all of my previous experience and skills while giving me a channel for my passion.

I also for the first time found my “tribe.” Three months after finding what is now the Founding Advisory Board of TLF, I quit my job and jumped in, at first as a consultant, and then took over as executive director in September 2011.

Be Inkandescent: How has the organization changed over the years?

Stacey Price: We started out as a program under an economic development organization (LEDC) that focused on a “buy local” campaign across a couple of wards. Now we support businesses city-wide with a variety of different services and campaigns, such as “Eat Local,” “DO GOOD,” and “Shop Local.”

Over the years we have become a go-to place for connecting entrepreneurs to service, education, and mentorship. I believe we are great at creating space for conversation (like at our “DO GOOD WEEK” panels) and connections for growth (whether that be B2C or B2B). Our organization believes that teaching by example strengthens our businesses, so programming like our “LOCALS UNPLUGGED” has become more popular and impactful for attendees.

Be Inkandescent: Who is your target audience?

Stacey Price: Existing and aspiring local indie business owners and consumers. At the end of the day, we grow the economy by connecting consumers to strong local business. We grow those local businesses by working with partners and policymakers to make this an easier place to do business. Some could say that our target audience is anyone who plays a role in the city’s ecosystem.

Be Inkandescent: Can you give us an example of some of the people you have helped?

Stacey Price: Our most tangible program is StartUp Kitchen, an eight-week rapid incubator that links an emerging food entrepreneur with a mentor team and an existing restaurant space. Our first program incubated DC DOSA, which has now graduated and can be found in two local Whole Foods.

We also partner with organizations to help fund local business expansion—such as Kiva Zip, which enables anyone to make direct loans to entrepreneurs in Kenya and the United States, and “Clovest,“https://clovest.com which helps businesses raise capital from their communities. Last year we helped to fund over $25,000 in zero-interest loans, including the NURISH Food + Cafe project.

Be Inkandescent: What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Stacey Price: Each year I am most proud of our ability to teach by example. We just came off of our DO GOOD WEEK where we brought in three out-of-town speakers and had more than 30 local business owners sharing with 150 others. By creating the space for connection and sharing lessons learned, we not only teach our members but we inspire them to keep going, move forward, and to think outside the box on how they run their local business.

Be Inkandescent: What are your goals for 2014?

Stacey Price: 2014 is a year of cleaning house for TLF. We have grown at a rapid pace over the last three years and have decided as an organization to streamline and to really strengthen our programs in place. As entrepreneurs who so clearly see a million needs for local business that all support our mission, it is hard. But to grow and diversify our members and services, we need to make sure that our foundation is strong.

Be Inkandescent: What is your budget, and how do you raise funds?

Stacey Price: Considering the depth of our programming, we operate on a somewhat small budget of $150K. Currently the majority of our funding is entrepreneurial as most of our programming is self-contained through revenue, sponsorship, and in-kind services. For example, last year we clocked more than 3,000 professional volunteer hours equaling $150,000 of human capital hours that are not shown on paper.

Be Inkandescent: With the economy improving, is it easier to raise money? Or is it still a struggle?

Stacey Price: Let me answer this question in 2015 as we will be shifting to a more traditional fundraising plan. Right now we keep growing our budget because our programs are stronger, we are more visible, and people see the impact of the work that we do. I am hopeful that this strong organizational foundation (and perhaps the assistance of a development person) will help us raise money from foundations and community grants.

Be Inkandescent: If our readers could learn just one thing about your organization, what would you want them to know?

Stacey Price: That community is an ecosystem in which we all play a part. Without the support of consumers, independent business cannot survive. Without independent business, communities cannot survive. Think Local First DC strives daily to be at this epicenter of this ecosystem to help strengthen relationships and infrastructure to make collective impact.

About Stacey Price

As executive director of Think Local First DC, Stacey Price has more than 12 years of experience working with independent business in the roles as business owner, community developer, and consultant.

Currently in Washington, DC, she works closely with hundreds of independent businesses as well as acts as a consultant for a variety of established and new retail establishments and restaurants.

Price has successfully launched campaigns and events for small businesses, universities, consumer brands, and nonprofits. She been honored for an award-winning blogger campaign that created millions of online media impressions and outstanding buzz for a hospitality based client. Complementing her multifaceted marketing skills, Price is also an entrepreneur who previously owned a brick-and-mortar business and taught public relations and journalism courses at Virginia Tech and Radford universities.

Contact Price at stacey@thinklocalfirstdc.com.

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