By Roxanne Bowers
The BALLE Conference, hosted by Local First Arizona, took place June 10-12 in Downtown Phoenix and featured several speakers from across the U.S. Speakers included CEOs of local non-profit organizations, authors, local business owners and more. Panelists discussed the benefits, such as economic growth and development, of shopping with local businesses.
A common topic between the speakers at the BALLE Conference was their choice of local farmers to provide the ingredients they grow in order for the entrepreneurs to create new, organic products. Examples of these business owners include Chris Nemeth of Forgotten Harvest and Hopeful Harvest. Chris’s organization donates fresh food to other local businesses in need. This donated food is often left over from other businesses or is grown on the organization’s organic farm. Chris started the business to prevent wasting fresh food that could be used to support the local community.
Panelists and local business owners at the conference shared the opinion that a personal connection with local farmers and other business owners is a valuable part of owning a successful, sustainable business. Jess McClary, founder of McClary Bros. Drinking Vinegars, started her company from scratch, buying and selling products at local farmers’ markets. “That’s arguably the one thing that I’m most stubborn about – buying local. I want to shake the hand that picks the fruit.” Jess’s product is now sold in over 100 stores around the country.
Niambi Cacchioli from New Jersey, founder of Bloomsbury Square and 942 Summit, is another entrepreneur who discussed the importance of using eco-friendly, all-natural ingredients in her products. Not only does she use sustainable ingredients, but the shared creative space she owns, 942 Summit, is made from reclaimed wood. Niambi also has her own farmers’ market in New Jersey and when asked how she attracts people to her businesses said, “I need to demonstrate that I want people in my store.” She suggested offering people free samples from her store to try organic and healthy products.
The BALLE Conference introduced many talented entrepreneurs and demonstrated that entrepreneurs need to be more than just innovative and hard-working. We have entered a time that has developed a need for new local businesses to care about providing sustainable products and services. Consumers have a demand for products that are organic, healthy, and sustainable. That’s why it is so important for local business owners to demonstrate a love for their environment and community through their lifestyle and business.