Shop local this holiday season! Local First Arizona is the perfect place to start.

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PHOENIX (Local First Arizona) – Supporting Arizona’s local businesses is more than merely encouraging people to shop locally. Local First Arizona is there for local business owners on every step of their journey, in some cases before a business even makes its first sale.

“Local First Arizona believes that locally owned businesses are the backbone of our economy and require a level playing field to succeed,” the organization’s website explains.

That’s the mission of Local First Arizona – to level the playing field and give Arizona businesses a chance to thrive. It’s crucial work grounded in building and fostering communities and giving Arizonans a sense of place and hometown pride in the many things that make us unique.

Local First Arizona's Fall Fest is certified local, which means the businesses are locally...
Local First Arizona's Fall Fest is certified local, which means the businesses are locally owned and independent.(Local First Arizona)

Successful small businesses = successful communities

In 2003, Kimber Lanning, who owns Stinkweeds Records on Central Avenue and Camelback Road, decided it was time to develop strategies to connect locals with locally owned businesses.

“She saw the hurdles and loopholes that small business owners had to jump through,” explained Local First Arizona spokesperson Lynita Johnson. “Larger corporations were getting subsidies to come into town and getting tax breaks. And those same opportunities weren’t available to small businesses.”

“She knew the impact that small businesses had on the success of a community and creating a sense of place for residents,” Johnson continued.

Lanning teamed up with two friends and fellow local business owners - Cindy Dach of Changing Hands Bookstore and Michael Monti of Monti’s La Casa Vieja. Arizona Chain Reaction was born, growing into Local First Arizona a few years later. “It’s a community and economic development organization, championing small business and creating opportunities for Arizonans to thrive,” Johnson said.

All of Arizona’s local businesses are important

Local First Arizona is about Arizona as a whole. It’s a statewide organization that’s a 501(c)(3) qualified charitable organization. It runs on donations and grants, and its reach stretches far beyond the greater Phoenix area to every corner of the state.

“We’ve worked in Camp Verde, Superior, Kingman, Tucson, Santa Cruz County, San Manuel – it’s the full spectrum,” Johnson said. “We offer a variety of programs from entrepreneur development and support to programs that build capacity and support communities and municipalities across the state.”

Local First Arizona has training and educational opportunities ranging from virtual webinars and information sessions to six-month business accelerators. The organization can help Arizona entrepreneurs secure licenses, create a business plan, and find funding “to get their dreams up and running.” And Local First Arizona wants local business owners to work together and support each other.

“We facilitate connections between members,” Johnson said. “We alleviate barriers to getting started for entrepreneurs as they scale. So, really, our services run from training and education all the way through technical assistance and business support in navigating acute needs and challenges.”

Diversity, equity, and inclusion

Local First Arizona is open to all Arizona-based business owners, but it also has some special focuses.

“We have programming created by and for marginalized communities,” Johnson said.

“We realized how many systemic challenges were in place,” she said. “We needed to do more than just create the awareness of buying local, but also acknowledge the historic setbacks that marginalized communities have faced and help them access resources to surmount those challenges and thrive.”

Among the programs that are available:

  • We Rise – A free six-month business accelerator for Black business owners.
  • Fuerza Local – A free six-month business accelerator for Spanish-preferred business owners, as well as a free seven-month training program for established Hispanic business owners.
  • Rural Business Academy – A free six-week business accelerator for rural business owners.
Graduates of Local First Arizona's 2022 We Rise Cohort
Graduates of Local First Arizona's 2022 We Rise Cohort(Local First Arizona)

Fall Fest 2022: Think local. Buy local. Be local.

Everything Local First Arizona has achieved with local businesses is on display at the Arizona Fall Fest on the first Saturday of every November. It’s a free community event featuring more than 200 vendors. It’s certified local, which means the businesses are locally owned and independent. They are not owned by a corporation or traded on the stock market. The people behind these businesses are your neighbors and friends.

16th Annual Arizona Fall Fest

Saturday, Nov. 5, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. @ Margaret T. Hance Park (67 W. Culver St., Phoenix)

“Anyone is welcome,” Johnson said. “It’s free. You can bring your whole family. You can meet up with your friends. It’s right in the heart of the city – Margaret T. Hance Park. It’s just a really nice way to see and support the community that we all live in and love and help build that sense of community and camaraderie. It’s an opportunity to get together and celebrate and have a good time.”

In addition to the plethora of local vendors (hello, holiday shopping!), there will be a variety of food trucks, games for kids, live music, and representation from the sports teams in town.

Think local. Buy local. Be local.
Think local. Buy local. Be local.(Local First Arizona)

Become part of the local movement!

If you can’t make it out to Fall Fest, there are other ways to support Local First Arizona and independent Arizona businesses.

“We’re always looking for volunteers,” Johnson said. “Of course, we’ll also happily accept donations to help us offer more programming for these businesses.”

Ways to support Arizona’s small businessesBecome a LocalistBusiness education

And then there’s one of the easiest things you can do. Shop local. If you’re not sure where to start or what Arizona businesses have to offer, visit Shop Local First online.

Shop Local First
The Shop Local First online boutique has unique gifts from more than 300 Arizona sellers.(Local First Arizona)

“From Prickly Pears to Ponderosas, Shop Local First has unique gifts and curated goods from the top-notch small businesses that make you proud to call Arizona home while supporting local, independent businesses.”

If you’re worried about where your money goes when you buy something on Shop Local First, don’t. The sellers receive 100% of their sales. Your money stays in Arizona.

One of the most important things Local First Arizona wants you to know is that shopping local doesn’t support just Arizona business owners. It supports your community.

“By sourcing more products and services locally, we are investing our dollars to create self-reliant local communities that offer opportunity and prosperity for all,” the organization says on its website.

When Arizona businesses succeed, so do Arizona communities. But we all have to do our part to make it happen. Local First Arizona is the support system that brings everyone together.

Saturday, Nov. 5, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at Margaret T. Hance Park in Downtown Phoenix
Saturday, Nov. 5, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at Margaret T. Hance Park in Downtown Phoenix(Local First Arizona)