January 10, 2018

‘Local’ focus creates entrepreneurial opportunity

It is easy for a consumer to justify buying at a big box or chain store simply on price, although there is overwhelming information that a local business contributes more to its community than an out-of-town (county, state or country) business.  Do entrepreneurs have right to use the same excuse?

Buying local has an indirect cascade effect of paying taxes and wages that contribute to the ability of my local government to pay its bills, create new potential customers for my products or services and make up all the parts of my community that are not business and not government: charities, civic groups, social associations, etc.  Business and government may be the cake, but it is a lot better with the icing of everything else.

As an advocate for small businesses, particularly within Colorado, I feel like every small business is part of my team.  I try to support them and I expect, to some degree, that they will support me.

Now I don’t expect someone to support me who doesn’t know I exist.  And, I don’t expect someone to support me when doing so is so completely difficult that it will take an unjustifiable amount of time and effort.  Any other excuse will disappoint me.  It will not surprise me.

Entrepreneurs are genetically coded to ‘do it yourself’.  If they have to look to someone else for approval, they wouldn’t be entrepreneurs.  If they have to spend any money, they will implement the ‘a penny saved is a penny earned’ mantra of Ben Franklin.

This often causes an entrepreneur to miss the big picture.  Working alone may appear more heroic and get more press, but working with others actually increases efficiency, reduces time to market and improves the probability of success.

Intentionally, willfully, consistently buying from local businesses is a challenge.  Few businesses do a good job of indicating that they are local.  Setting aside those that make the “local” claim while buying from non-local businesses or claiming to be local when using only a small fraction of local components, products and services, there is no big “L” tattooed on a person’s forehead or identity card that calls out this important factor.

The intent to discern who is local is further challenged by creative business structures that are locally owned and operated even though the business is a franchise or otherwise associated with a large company.

I don’t see being local as a mandate that everyone must buy my products or services instead of those from a non-local.  I still have to compete on quality and price.  But, if everything else is equal (or close enough), I want a preference.  By choice. Not by law or regulation.

We all need to do a better job of examining the true price of any product or service that we buy and understanding that cheaper is not an excuse to not understand the additional benefits of buying local.  We need to look at our purchasing through the lens of our community.  Temporarily consider yourself head accountant for your community and count the monetary and non-monetary benefits that you realize when buying local.  Ask yourself the question every time you drive down the road, borrow a library book, enjoy coffee during a meetup or see the score for the local high school team: who and how was this paid for?  The answer may require a detective to ferret it out, but the mystery will typically be solved by a local business.

Buying locally is the smart choice when a choice is presented.  If there is no local option, maybe this is an opportunity for an entrepreneur?

Karl Dakin is principal with Dakin Capital Services LLC. Reach him at kdakin@dakincapital.com.

It is easy for a consumer to justify buying at a big box or chain store simply on price, although there is overwhelming information that a local business contributes more to its community than an out-of-town (county, state or country) business.  Do entrepreneurs have right to use the same excuse?

Buying local has an indirect cascade effect of paying taxes and wages that contribute to the ability of my local government to pay its bills, create new potential customers for my products or services and make up all the parts of my community that are not…

Related Content