Small Business Profile: Lauren Danuser, Owner of Local Nomad - Phoenix
Hi Lauren! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in St. Louis and moved to San Francisco right out of college where I lived out my city dwelling dreams for all of my 20’s. My favorite thing to do on a weekend is stroll through a farmer’s market or down a charming street full of local shops and coffee houses. My husband and I took an “extended honeymoon” and backpacked through Europe for 2.5 months and ever since I’ve had a never-ending travel bug. Mexico City is next on our list! Broad City and Netflix documentaries are my after work shows of choice.
What led you to begin Local Nomad?
I had a “someday” dream of opening a boutique for most of my life. Finding unique products that none of my friends had heard of has always oddly been a passion of mine and since I was a teenager. I would totally geek out in any boutique, flea market, etc I happened upon (I mean this hasn’t really stopped…). Dedicating my life to owning a shop was truly driven by this lifelong hobby of finding and collecting all sorts of hidden treasures and feeling compelled to share them with others. There are so many talented makers out in the world and it’s overwhelming to the average person to scour the internet for unique, handmade goods so it’s my job to do the research and curate a collection of the best items I can find.
Tell us more about the origins of the brand’s name
Honestly I thought about this for so long and it came to me in the shower one day when I was formulating the brand concept. The shower is an incubator for all of my ideas, ha! Local Nomad is an oxymoron but the more I thought about it, it made sense - most everything in the shop is "locally made" somewhere around the world. It wasn’t until my husband and I decided to pick up our lives and move to Phoenix from San Francisco that I honed in on the story of the brand. Being an avid traveler and not being a native to Phoenix, carrying mostly local Phoenix made goods didn’t feel authentic so I decided to bring in handmade goods from all over the world – playing on my love for travel and bringing a different perspective on the “shop local” movement. We do carry work by local Phoenix makers but the idea was to have customers feel a sense of discovery when they walked in the doors and hopefully connect with an item based on the place it was made. Upon moving to Phoenix I didn’t realize so many people (especially young people) who live here are transplants, so I’ll often have customers say “oh, Jacobsen Salt! I’m from Portland!” and instantly connect with the product.
How do you source the items and brands that you have in the store? Do you look for certain designs, sustainably made products, etc?
I get this question a lot - I find my products all over the place! I travel a lot and whenever I visit a new city I make a point to go to the local boutiques to see brands they’re carrying. I usually pick up a few things for myself to support my fellow shop owners and simultaneously discover new locally made goods from each place I visit. Trade shows can be helpful and I attend them here and there but I’ve learned that the good ole internet is my best friend if I’m looking for more “undiscovered” brands. Instagram is an especially good resource for brands and I’ve been known to go into a pretty deep black hole and find some amazing treasures!
Do you have a team? What steps did you take to build it?
I do! I’ve had a small team since the beginning, just two gals and myself. I hired my first employee a month before we opened and she helped me with inventory and product photography for the website before the craziness ensued. Now each employee has different responsibilities and I try to play off of each one’s strengths. I try to delegate as much as possible and think of a list of tasks before each day so time spent at the shop is as productive as possible.
How do you connect with your customers and community?
Central Phoenix, where the shop is located, is so wonderful in that the community really rallies behind locally owned businesses. I'm in the shop most days and connecting with people in the space is the most fun part of my job. We participate in an event called PHX Flea a couple times a year which is essentially a makers mart and there we get to meet so many people from all over the vast Phoenix area! So far we've done a couple of events in the shop - a macramé wall hanging class and a clean beauty workshop - and we want to continue to host more of these. Events are great because people in the community can come together in our space and learn something new or simply get to know each other.
What are some brands/designers that you are excited about that we should know of?
Oh, there are so many! I am currently obsessed with Minna, an ethically made textile company based out of the Hudson Valley in New York. Sara, the owner, designs the most beautiful kitchen towels, table runners and throws and she works with artisans in Guatemala who weave the textiles. I'm also in love with an independent women's clothing label Rise & Ramble. They’re based in North Carolina and use natural and foraged dyes to color their textiles. Each garment is touched by Andrea, the designer, and each piece truly feels like a work of art. Lastly, Meyelo is a company that employs women artisans in Kenya through fair trade practices to make simple, beautifully designed brass jewelry and leather goods.
Why do you think it’s important to shop small and support local makers?
I read something recently that stated millennials are spending more money than any other generation on experiences. While everyone is shopping online more than ever these days, I think are still craving authentic, inspirational, sensorial experiences that take them away from their screens. Small businesses have a way of providing an experience unlike any chain store – especially when it comes to connecting with customers. Entrepreneurs are dreamers and risk takers and most I know are not in it for the money. When you’re motivated by your passion instead of dollar signs you can truly create something beautiful, and how awesome it is to support someone who is following their dream?
What is your favorite thing about your workspace?
Well my workspace is most often my shop, so I love it for obvious reasons! Since I share my workspace with my customers, I try to keep it calm, casual and relaxed. I play a lot of downtempo music and light incense or palo santo each morning to create a sense of peacefulness as someone walks through the door. Many customers breathe a sigh of relief when they walk in as if they’re immediately transported into a much needed state of zen. I also recently got a puppy so I’m trying to train her to be my shop dog!
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
For me the idea of opening a shop has always been based on the premise that I truly believe surrounding oneself with beautiful things can create joy in one’s life. I find complete satisfaction in having a customer choose a handmade coffee mug and telling me that they can’t wait to sip their latte in it each morning. If coffee is part of your morning ritual – however you make it – it’s a sensorial experience and I believe it should be celebrated. If I can find objects with which people connect, and those objects bring joy to one’s life and support other entrepreneurs along the way, that’s my idea of success.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you faced when starting Local Nomad?
A major setback was construction on the shop. I chose a space that is part of a newly renovated shopping plaza and was down to the studs, so we ended up having to put a lot more money than we thought into the build out. The shop looks gorgeous and I’m 100% happy about the location, but there are little things here and there I would have changed had I known how much it would cost in the end. We also opened a few months late, so I had some clothing inventory that I didn’t end up needing but working with such small designers you can’t exactly cancel orders. We got through it all in the end but I sold more on sale than I would have liked in the first few months!
Your shop is still in its first year! What are some of your favorite moments thus far?
I still look back to our grand opening party and it was surreal meeting so many people in the community that night. I was 5 months into moving to Phoenix and hardly knew anyone at the time so seeing this community pop up in my shop lead to an indescribable feeling of comfort. My dad ran to Ace hardware about 5 times that day, my brothers were on bartending duty and my husband’s restaurant catered tacos. It was one of those “this is really happening” moments that I’ll never forget. A funny thing that happens often is people I’ve “met” through Instagram pop into the shop all the time and it’s always hilarious connecting in real life!
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
I mean, where would we all end up by NOT supporting each other!? I’ve never been a competitive person by nature but at times I’ve felt threatened by the success of others and in turn, felt insecure. However, I got over this thinking in my late 20’s and adopted an “I don’t give a damn what other people think of me” attitude that really propelled me into feeling confident enough to start this business. I truly see no value in comparing myself to others – it always ends up being a negative reaction created 100% in my own mind. I realized early on that in order to have a creative career you cannot be concerned with how others view you or your work. You have to be confident in what you’re putting out into the world and just go with it, or else you’ll feel inauthentic. I’m really fortunate to have a lot of inspiring, strong and courageous female friends who have played a huge role in shaping who I am today. We all encourage each other, support each others dreams, and just truly love each other for who we are – and how special is that? My hope is that every woman experiences friendships like that in their lifetime.
What creative women do you find inspiring?
One of my best friends Leah Kirpalani is a fashion merchandiser turned holistic health coach turned clean beauty expert. She quit her corporate retail job to help women overcome chronic illness through diet and lifestyle changes and launched a wellness website Good Life. Leah’s always been a beauty junkie and battling a chronic illness herself for most of her 20’s, she started trying every natural beauty product on the market. She recently decided to evolve her business to create a brick & mortar clean beauty shop in San Diego (Shop Good, coming soon)! She started her online wellness / clean beauty shop a year before I started my business and it was so inspiring seeing my friend do a 180 in her career to create a successful creative brand with an amazing purpose. She gave me the confidence to know that I could create my dream, too.
Was there any particular person who helped shape your career in formative way?
During my last two years in San Francisco I managed a boutique and the owner, Kristina De Pizzol was incredibly helpful in showing me the ropes. At the time I worked for her she had two shops in San Francisco (now 4!) and she has such a “can do” attitude about life. She took me on buying trips, taught me visual merchandising and truly showed me how to create something out of nothing. She is a creator at heart and seeing her work her magic in her shops while also being a mom of two gave me the confidence to believe I could, and the validation that I wanted to pursue my dream.
What have you learned from owning your shop that you think can apply to any creative endeavor?
I’ve learned to not overthink things and to not force creativity when I’m not feeling it. 20% of my job is spent being creative – whether is taking photos, doing visual merchandising, assorting product when I’m placing orders – or directing my employees to do some of these things. 80% of my job is spent doing emails, finances, talking with customers, etc. On a day when I have a long list of non-creative things to do (like clear out my inbox) I typically can’t get myself into a creative mood so I have to prioritize and carve out time to get those things accomplished. Like most, my personal creative endeavor is still a business, so I’ve learned that success is always a balancing act.
What are you looking forward to in the coming months?
I’m really looking forward to hosting more events at the shop that bring the community together. We are did a “Summer Soirée” in July and had a few local vendors pop-up, and a macramé workshop in August! I’m also trying to grow our online business and slowly but surely learning about Facebook advertising, SEO, etc…
What tools or resources have been most helpful for you in creating your business?
Instagram has been a huge part of our business and it’s also what takes up more time than I ever imagined! We use an app called Planoly to plan out our Instagrams which makes the process more organized and thoughtful. Mailchimp makes sending emails seriously easy. After doing what felt like weeks of research, I landed on Shopify for our website/POS and have been so happy with the system. Skillshare has amazing online classes from industry experts for all things creative / small business oriented. You can learn SEO basics, Facebook advertising, how to take amazing product photos and a plethora of other helpful things. There are so many amazing companies out there building products for the modern small business – you just have to do your research and find what’s best for you.
How do you manage a work/life balance?
Work/life balance has always been a huge priority to me. I’ve never been a workaholic and frankly because of that, I was at times scared I didn’t have what it takes to start a business. I understand my stress threshold and know what I need to do in order to calm my nervous system – take a yoga class, do breathing exercises, or go on a short run to let out excess energy. I always try to work as efficiently as possible and delegate to my employees as much as I can. Finding great employees who could do things better than me – i.e. visual merchandising, graphic design and photography – has been essential in sustaining a healthy work/life balance.
What are some of your favorite places in Phoenix?
Oooh I have so many! Lux, a coffee shop down the street from my shop is kind of like the neighborhood meeting place - you’re always bound to see a familiar face. Phoenix Public Market is my go-to on Saturday morning for their farmer’s market. It’s a café/restaurant that is such a great community gathering spot. Camelback Flowershop for flowers + gifts and Phoenix General for independent labels. One of my favorite things to do as a local in Phoenix is grab drinks or do a staycation at one of the many beautiful resorts. Camelback Inn is my favorite place to take out of town guests. It’s a beautiful Spanish colonial style resort that’s been around since 1929. Getting a spa treatment and doing a staycation at the Andaz Resort in Scottsdale is my favorite way to “get away from it all” when I can’t get away from the shop for more than a day. The spa feels very modern yet organic and the entire resort is so thoughtfully designed.
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