Golden Tickets, a Block Party, and LLF's mad love for all things local
There’s been a resurgence of talk about “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” lately, between last year’s 50th anniversary of the Roald Dahl classic tale and a recent little media reunion tour by members the 1971 film’s cast. And it appears the good folks at Lowcountry Local First (LLF) have dipped their toes into this chocolate river of nostalgia with a Wonka-esque campaign for Lowcountry commerce.
The local biz advocacy outfit’s Golden Ticket Contest is wrapped around (see what I did just there?) the holiday season-coinciding Buy Local Month. The clever strategy to encourage shopping locally from November 15 to December 15 invites residents and visitors to purchase Charleston-based SweetTeeth Chocolate’s Sea is for Caramel chocolate bars for their chance to score a Golden Ticket. Yes, just like Charlie! Three Golden Tickets are on the loose, each with a different super-prize pack. (See sidebar for details.) “We’ll also be doing sort of a Willy Wonka-themed thing in the (downtown) holiday parade this year,” reveals Jordan Amaker, Director of Marketing and Communications for LLF.
So, what eccentric genius is behind such mouthwatering marketing? Founded in 2007, LLF’s primary goal is to create jobs and grow the local economy by empowering local makers, growers, and businesses of all kinds and educating the public about the benefits of supporting local commerce. It is Charleston’s only non-profit advocate for local, independent businesses. Nearly 600 members strong today, the group boasts extensive partnerships with economic development and community betterment institutions, and implements programs to build and bolster an active network for entrepreneurs and farmers.
Local Works Co-working Facility and Dirt Works Incubator Farm are two such LLF initiatives. Both are aimed at providing new and early-stage entrepreneurs with resources to grow and prosper, including professional workspace and infrastructure, mentorship, technical assistance, and business development events.
Located in Charleston since 2014, Local Works owns 3,000 smartly-appointed square feet of space for full-timers or part-timers, including 26 desks, conference and meeting rooms, private phone/teleconference booths, a kitchen and community table and, of course, all the necessities like wi-fi, printers, and fresh local coffee. The affordable, open-sector format not only permits efficient workspace for both start-ups and established businesses, but also encourages collaboration and partnerships. Just as with membership in LLF, Local Works offers various levels of participation and pricing.
Dirt Works, established in 2012 on rural Johns Island, offers ten acres for six new farmers and training for 25 apprentices annually. The Dirt Works “Growing New Farmers” three-phase program includes a six-month training and apprenticeship, three-year application-based operation on an incubator farm, and personal assistance in securing land upon graduation. Dirt Works also provides ongoing workshops and forums for existing farmers, as well as consumer education and outreach to promote “eating local.”
LLF has an illustrious list of local member companies, not just those tied to the food industry. Entrepreneurial product businesses might include a local pet supplier, an auto glass replacement service, or even a local-based security company. And local service providers could be marketing/PR firms, printers, law firms, accountants, and healthcare service outfits. LLF maintains an extensive business member directory where area residents and visitors can search for local sources by business name, category, location, or even specific key words.
It feels good to back our own neighbors, but there are some real quantifiable benefits to keeping dollars local. One such compelling statistic? When a consumer spends $100 with a locally owned, independent business, $45 is reinvested back into the local economy versus only $14 if spent with a national chain business.
But the numbers also show that supporting small businesses doesn’t have to mean going cold turkey on bigger retailers or national names. LLF contends that if all residents committed just 10% of their shopping budgets to local merchants, the effort could generate about $140 million in total new economic activity, $50 million in new wages, and more than 1,000 new jobs in the tri-county area. Of course, the hope is that more than a 10% average per capita spend is achieved for local businesses, but the idea that it is not all-or-nothing may appeal to a wider population. After all, states LLF Executive Director Jamee Haley, “We are not trying to be all things to all people; we are trying to represent a group of businesses that we feel are greatly under-represented.”
All of this got us to wondering: would Wonka’s Chocolate Factory be considered a small business today? Well, LLF’s criteria for member businesses are those they consider to meet the definition of a local-independent business: privately-held, 50% or more local resident ownership, independent decision-making and expense-paying, and based locally with no corporate headquarters outside the state. By those standards, it seems Wonka (or, later, Charlie and Grandpa Joe) would fall well within the guidelines, and lovers of the Wonka Bar (or, later, the Everlasting Gobstopper) could feel good about keepin’ it local.
For more information on Lowcountry Local First, Local Works, Dirt Works, and the other amazing things in which LLF has their local-loving hands, visit lowcountrylocalfirst.org.
TOP 10 REASONS TO SUPPORT LOCALLY OWNED BUSINESSES (From the Institute of Local Self-Reliance, www.islr.org, via lowcountrylocalfirst.org)
1) Local Character and Prosperity
In an increasingly homogenized world, communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character have an economic advantage.
2) Community Well-Being
Locally owned businesses build strong communities by sustaining vibrant town centers, linking neighbors in a web of economic and social relationships, and contributing to local causes.
3) Local Decision-Making
Local ownership ensures that important decisions are made locally by people who live in the community and who will feel the impacts of those decisions.
4) Keeping Dollars in the Local Economy
Compared to chain stores, locally owned businesses recycle a much larger share of their revenue back into the local economy, enriching the whole community.
5) Job and Wages
Locally owned businesses create more jobs locally and, in some sectors, provide better wages and benefits than chains do.
Entrepreneurship fuels America’s economic innovation and prosperity, and serves as a key means for families to move out of low-wage jobs and into the middle class.
7) Public Benefits and Costs
Local stores in town centers require comparatively little infrastructure and make more efficient use of public services relative to big box stores and strip shopping malls.
8) Environmental Sustainability
Local stores help to sustain vibrant, compact, walkable town centers - which in turn are essential to reducing sprawl, automobile use, habitat loss, and air and water pollution.
A marketplace of tens of thousands of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term.
10) Product Diversity
A multitude of small businesses - each selecting products based not on a national sales plan, but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers - guarantees a much broader range of product choices.
Lowcountry Local First’s “Buy Local Block Party” takes place on Saturday, November 21 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1630 Meeting Street Road, location of the Local Works co-working space. This is a one-of-a-kind social event that highlights locally owned independent businesses with live music, local artists, indie retailers, film and of course LOCAL food, beverages, and a beer garden. Dozens of vendors featuring local makers, artists, and craftspeople will be present as well, as this unique and festive event aims to spread awareness of the importance of buying local during the holidays, as part of Lowcountry Local First’s 9th annual Buy Local month. Kick-off the holiday season and help support the Lowcountry! Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 day-of, and can be purchased at http://lowcountrylocalfirst.org/events/buy-local-block-party.
Buy Local Month’s Golden Ticket Contest – the delicious details
Golden Tickets, each with a different prize pack, are hidden inside three Sea is for Caramel chocolate bars from locally owned SweetTeeth Chocolate. From November 15 through December 15 (or until all tickets are located), purchase one of these bars from the retailers listed below for your chance to win!
Golden Ticket #1: For the Home Ticket
$500 shopping spree to GDC Home
Queen/full Ansonborough mattress set from Charleston Mattress Company
Three-foot reclaimed wooden bench from Landrum Tables
Henckels forged 7-piece knife block set from Coastal Cupboard
Golden Ticket #2: King Street Staycation & Shopping Spree Ticket
Two night stay at Francis Marion Hotel
$500 shopping spree to MOSA Boutique
$500 shopping spree at Wonder Works Toy Store
Dinner for two at Swamp Fox Restaurant
Lunch for two at Verde on King Street
Breakfast for two at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit
Golden Ticket #3: East Bay Staycation & Shopping Spree Ticket
Two night stay at The Vendue
$500 shopping spree to Croghan’s Jewel Box
$250 shopping spree to M. Dumas & Sons
Dinner for two at Minero Restaurant
Lunch for two at Ted’s Butcherblock
Breakfast for two at Hominy Grill
Accent on Wine
Black Bird Market
Bull Street Gourmet
Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit
Caviar & Bananas (George St. and Market St.)
Charleston Art Brokers
Chick’s Fry House
Croghan’s Jewel Box
Fast & French
Francis Marion Hotel
Kudu Coffee & Craft Beer
M. Dumas & Sons
Shoes on King
Stella Nova West Ashley & Mount Pleasant
Two Boroughs Larder
Verde on King St.
Wonder Works (West Ashley location)
Yo Bo Cantina Fresca