Empowering local businesses
When I started Local First Arizona (LFA), I wanted to be a voice for independent business owners like myself who were struggling to compete because we didn’t have a level playing field.
I’m also a small business owner, and in that capacity I was watching way too many bright, young people leave Arizona. I really wanted to explore that, and I had a hunch that local businesses played a key role. At the time, there was this sort of burgeoning underground culture. I thought that if we could just connect to all of that, people would in turn feel more rooted here the way I do and maybe that would lead them to stay.
Today we have the largest business coalition in the country. We are trying to move the needle on really important issues for our state and working to create new economic models that are more inclusive and resilient so that all of Arizona can thrive.
We’re a little bit different because we are a nonprofit, so the hurdles with LFA all revolve around funding. One-third of the budget is earned revenue because I couldn’t get funders to really understand what we were doing. I would advise other nonprofits to develop entrepreneurial programs that can help pay your bills in case the funders aren’t there for you.
I am unwilling to give up on getting people to pay attention, come on board and really get behind some of these programs that are new and innovative and changing our state. I have a vision of putting all of these pieces together that deal with inequality in a lot of really creative ways.