Our interview this week is with one of our favorite Utah non-profits, Local First Utah. Local First has a lot of exciting new things happening including a newly-launched website, a revamped model to benefit member businesses and their new Indie Business Academy which is why we sat down with Executive Director Kristen Lavelett this week so we could learn more!
UMLF: So for those who don't know, what is Local First Utah?
Kristen: We are Utah’s leading independent business alliance, which really means that as a non-profit organization, we exist to strengthen relationships between small business and their communities. Rather than seeing independent businesses working alone, in silos, focusing on competing against other businesses, Local First Utah works to find ways that indies can collaborate and cooperate with each other. It’s the old adage of “a rising tide floats all boats.”
We also work to educate the public about the benefits of buying from locally-owned businesses. A lot of these benefits are pretty intrinsic. Locals keep more money on our economy, locals help define sense of place in our communities -- they are reflective of the towns and cities where they grow. I could get into all the details, but sometimes it’s just easier to sum it up by saying “locals do it better!”
We work closely with local government as well. Both with elected and appointed officials, we work to help governing agencies understand how their policies impact local business, or what kinds of support small businesses need from the city and state governments.
UMLF: How do you think the Utah Microloan Fund and Local First Utah work together?
Kristen: You know, I kind of consider us to be part of an extended support network for indie businesses. Both of our organizations focus on different needs that small businesses have. The UMLF helps with funding, we help with marketing. But, you and I both know, that boiling our work down to simplest terms leaves out a lot of relational elements of what we do. UMLF and Local First Utah, aren’t just part of a support network for small businesses, we’re more like the extended family of the family-run business.
And, not very many people know this, but Local First Utah owes a lot to UMLF … we had a little office here for years, which UMLF provided to us for free, so coming back to the office today for this chat with you brings up a lot of memories.
UMLF: What’s new with Local First Utah? We know you have a bunch of exciting new developments happening!
Kristen: Lots! So much actually that it’s hard to know where to start. Probably the biggest change this year, is that we’ve launched -- for the first time ever -- a membership platform for business that want to make the most of their partnership with Local First Utah.
We’re actually one of the oldest independent business alliances in the country. Being established in 2006, our founders were really ahead of the curve in creating this organization. And we when we were founded, we committed to providing our resources to independent businesses for free. This generosity is really one of our core values as an organization, as long as a business meets our very simple criteria of being locally owned, and independently operated, they can partner with us. But, over the years, and working as one of the only statewide independent business alliances in the country, delivering our services for free has really made it difficult to ensure that we’re serving Utah’s independent businesses as well we want to.
So, this year, we’ve transitioned to being a membership organization. That’s not quite as stuffy as it might seem. We’re not abandoning any of the businesses that have been free partners with us over the year. We’ve just created more concrete connections with those businesses that want to join as members.
We’ve also created an educational series call the Indie Business Academy. We host classes once a quarter, but what’s unique about the Indie Business Academy, is that all the classes over the course of the year are connected by a theme. This year’s theme is “Managing Your Online Brand Identity.” So, we’re kicking things off with a class called “Your First Front Door: Website Customer Experience.” Our other classes cover social media, and handling online reviews, among other subjects.
There are a lot of incredible small business educational opportunities in our community. In fact, UMLF hosts some really great classes! So, the goal of these classes, falling in line with Local First Utah’s mission is to make them very collaborative.
We’re hosting all of the classes at Church & State, a locally owned business incubator, and the curriculum we’ve developed allows for a really hands on learning environment. Not only do we have experts in their various fields leading the classes, but they are set up to create opportunities from small business owner to learn from one another. The classes are open to members and non-members alike, but members will receive personalized, implementable recommendations from our experts.
Like I said, there’s a lot of new things at Local First Utah. There’s more I could mention but it’s probably best for people who are interested to check out our website, which is, as a matter of fact, also new.
UMLF: How can UMLF clients benefit from becoming a member of Local First Utah?
Kristen: For starters, because of our relationship between UMLF and Local First Utah, we’re offering UMLF clients a 20% discount on their membership. And there are lots of different benefits, depending on at which level of membership a business may join, but basics are features on our social media -- we have an audience of about 20,000 followers -- a prominent listing in our online directory, the ability to list events on our community calendar, discounts on our classes and mixers, and webinars and other training and marketing materials that will be available to members only.
Apart from those benefits that are really designed to amplify individual businesses, being a part of Local First Utah has a lot of other, broader benefits. Business that are part of independent business alliances experience greater customer loyalty, they have nearly double the sales revenue of locals that are not part of a group like Local First Utah. They exist in more collaborative environments were there is more purchasing between locals, and the benefit from increased media coverage and a greater awareness and support from city officials.
To sign up for a membership please email Kristen@localfirst.org for more information!
To stay connected with Local First Utah visit:
Alert, alert Valentines Day is in T-Minus 10 days! In case you forgot or are racking your brain for ideas for the biggest date night of the year, we have compiled a list of different experiences and gift ideas starring our clients! Whether you are going out with bae or are Galentine-ing it up, this list is a must read.
Before the big day comes:
For the guys who are looking to spiff up we have some great options around the state. With three locations and years of experience, Jed’s Barbershop is open 7 days a week for all of your grooming needs in SLC. A pool table, air hockey, TVs and video games are all at your fingertips at Mancave Barbershop as you get your cuts, trims and straight razor shaves, visit them in Layton. A modern barbershop with traditional techniques Riverside Barbershop is a go-to for looking fresh for your SO.
For the ladies in need of a glow up: Located in Roy, EnvyMe Salon and Spa is here to provide you with your all your hair needs, nails, tattoos, microblading, waxing, eyelashes, and much, much more. For our Park City ladies look no further than PuraVida Lifestyle Salon & Spa, the only Aveda spot in PC! Here in the valley we recommend Beauty Trendz, a one stop shop that offers hair care services for women, and barbering services for men in addition to nail care & pedicures, massage, facials, waxing, skin care treatments, microblading and even permanent cosmetics.
Now that we’re ready for Valentines Day, read on for all of our recommendations on how to celebrate!
Budget and taste bud friendly:
Loaded mexi fries? Al pastor, slow-cooked pork with pineapple on a rotating spit? Street tacos and churros? You betcha! Yoyi's Mexican Grill offers a fast-casual menu of Mexican favorites and has beer and wine available too. Tony Burgers is great for when you are craving just a dang good burger and fries. Are you a couple of adventurous eaters? We have some recommendations! Doner Kebab of West Jordan offers a unique style of delicious flavors from across the sands and sea with their authentic Azerbaijani cuisine of kebabs, wraps, salads and more. Located in St. George, Flavor of Seoul is the first authentic Korean restaurant in Southern Utah. Owner Sung Taylor deeply appreciates sharing her cuisine with her guests and you can tell by the quality and love she puts in her dishes. Perfect for sharing an experience with a friend or significant other! Big Sai's Hawaiian BBQ in Layton is known for their big flavor but also for their generous servings, win win!
Wanting something sweet? Anytime we hear of an authentic and secret recipe that has been inherited from generation to generation, our interests are piqued! Because what’s more romantic than French crepes at Monsieur Crepes? If you haven't tried a red bean pastry from Moon Bakery, have you truly lived? This authentic Korean bakery is a must for when you are craving something on the sweet side.
Food truck it up:
Want to skip a formal thing and mix it up? Why not track down a food truck? Jemly's in Provo serves up tasty and authentic Haitian food. Shylo's Mobile Cafe has arguably the best-tasting Beef on Weck this writer has ever had along with a rotating cast of best selling sandwiches. Happy Camper Deli, although another sandwich truck, is truly a horse of another color with their Thanksgiving Leftovers and Grilled Cheese Pizza sandwiches.
A little more:
Meditrina is a casual eclectic small plate and wine bar restaurant that provides fusion tapas in a fun atmosphere. If you want to beat the Valentines Day rush, join Meditrina and Enrico from Adami for their Prosecco Dinner on Thursday, February 7, 2019, 6:30pm-8pm. Four full, creative takes on Italian classics accompanied by Four incredible Proseccos--including a special order! More details here.
Laziz Kitchen reimagines the Lebanese culinary tradition – honoring traditional recipes, and offering new takes on old favorites. Some of our favorite dishes include the Kafta Burger as well as their sampler platter with Muhammara, Baba Ghannouj and their classic hummus.
If you are a couple that is interested in doing something off the beaten path read on!
Bringing about the virtual reality and augmented reality future Virtualities is one of the very first VR/AR arcades and the very first virtual reality cinema in the US. Located at the Gateway, they have games that range from fun and cutesy to downright scary, perfect for the adventurous couple. *Use code VALENTINE for 50% a session for two people. In St. George there is no better place for classes to expand your creative horizons together than A Passion for Painting and Sewing. They offer classes in painting, sewing and even piano! Along that same creative vein, B Golden Jewelry School offers jewelry making classes in the Salt Lake area. Into music? Cruise for records together at Diabolical Records or even go for a show at their space downtown.
Looking for something a little more chill? Why not lunch and a cup of great coffee at Hugo Coffee in Park City? Hugo is their own small-batch roastery and are experts on the art of the bean.
Are you a couple trying to master the art of zen? A massage and facial from Mountainside Spa in Cottonwood Heights is the ticket! In West Jordan, Cottage Retreat and Day Spa can also take care of all your relaxation needs.
You know where to spiff up. You have many options on where to eat and for fun activities after. You know the perfect gift you can give. What are you waiting for? Start planning the most epic Valentines Day yet! ❤️
It's February and that means every Utahn is doing their best snow dance to ensure there is plentiful powder for the skiing and snowboarding season! So far this year we have been blessed with some great days on the mountain which means people are not only getting their fitness on but that they are working up an appetite all day on the slopes! That is why we chose Liftie Bites as our February Small Business of the Month! Liftie Bites is a new, family-owned, small business located in Holladay, Utah. Having spent the past two years product testing, designing packaging and fine-tuning their business plan, Liftie Bites launched in December 2018 and is currently being sold around the Wasatch Front.
Just 150 calories and 5 grams of protein, Liftie Bites are a fruit and nut based energy bite packed with flavor. Sea salt caramel, dark chocolate and alpine yogurt are drizzled over the top or you can have them plain.
Liftie Bites was born out of founder Chris Templin's desire to create an energy bar for his active life that was better tasting, healthier and a more manageable size than most power bars on the market today. To find out more about Liftie Bites and why Chris decided to take on a Black Diamond level challenge of starting his own business, keep reading!
UMLF: Tell us about yourself Chris. What’s your background?
Chris: I am a 25-year employee of the Little Cottonwood Canyon, and I am raising my family in the shadow of the Wasatch mountains. I moved here in 1991 from Ohio, worked various lodging jobs until finding my way to the mid-mountain restaurant, Alpenglow for a few years. I then took a job at Alta Central in 1998, which is where I am currently employed. I married my Alta sweetheart, a former Kickstand and Alta Photo employee and have two children who are growing up loving first chairs on powder days.
UMLF: What made you want to start Liftie Bites? What inspired you?
Chris: Finding affordable, healthy snacks has always been important to me and I want to pass this along to my friends, family and community. I could never find a bar that was healthy and affordable that I could eat in a few bites while on the lift, so I made my own. These bars have become a huge hit with my friends, family and colleagues and I'm ready to take it to the next level and make them more widely available.
UMLF: Every business has its highs and lows. Tell us about a challenge you faced as a small business owner and how you overcame it?
Chris: There are so many! Finding commercial kitchen space, finding funding for a small start-up, learning on the fly about food packaging, regulations and requirements, building a website, and planning out cash flow. To overcome these, we really reached out to our networks (and our friends networks!) We met with a few small business owners, even if they weren't doing exactly the same things we were, it was really helpful to hear their issues and challenges. They all gave us things to think about. Our friend is a fantastic graphic designer, so we topped into her expertise. We also went to some of the local events hosted by the Chamber and other organizations that focused on local food businesses. The key is to look around, use your contacts and resources. Everyone was very willing to give advice and talk to us!
Funding in particular was one of the greatest challenges. When the UMFL was mentioned by our banker it was a no brainer to at least check in. And what do ya know we were approved! We really had to just rely on gut instincts that the product taste would speak for itself but funding the product packaging was a huge hurdle. Minimum orders for our foil wraps and point of purchase boxes were in the thousands. So needless to say we really just had to have confidence that our product WILL sell to cover our startup costs. If you’re starting a business, just remember you’re starting up something that nobody has ever even heard of. You have to get out of your comfort zone and tell the world about what you have. You have to be your own cheerleader. And just when you think you can sit down and relax, you’re back at it again. I get excited when new order comes in!
UMLF: Where can customers find your products?
Chris: Liftie Bites are sold at Alta Ski Area, Snowbird’s Cliff Sports and soon to be Brighton Ski Resort. Our online store is www.liftiebites.com We have free delivery along the Wasatch front and are always looking for more wholesale accounts. Feel free to contact us at email@example.com.
UMLF: What are some of your favorite runs in Utah?
Chris: Ski runs? Any run really at Alta. I particularly like storm skiing. I mean who doesn't! Summer runs? We like to get out on our favorite Wasatch front hikes. The classics like Red and White Pine Lakes in LCC. In BCC Lake Blanche and Desolation Lake.
UMLF: How do you believe the Utah Microloan Fund has helped you and your business?
The staff at UMLF have been incredibly supportive and helpful. It’s a great resource for small businesses in Utah and we couldn’t have launched without both the funding and the support we received from them.
To stay in touch with Liftie Bites: