Technology/design veteran Randy Ellis watched his once bustling community of Woodlawn, IL, struggle during the national recession. Small businesses – the lifeblood of the local economy – were closing their doors, unable to compete with larger operations.
“It’s not easy to see things deteriorate little by little. One day you look around and you see the parks haven’t been kept up or the roads are falling apart or safety isn’t what it used to be, and it hits you like a hammer,” Ellis said.
That figurative jolt – seeing the decaying effect of money leaving Main Street – inspired Ellis and Karleton Thomas to found LocalLux, an ultra-local online marketplace where shoppers can discover close-to-home goods and satisfy a growing desire for locally-sourced and independently-owned.
“I’m a fashion guy, and I love clothes,” said Thomas. “The boutique gives me the uniqueness, customer service, and honest expertise about what looks good that I am looking for. A lot of people are looking for that experience where the people they buy from are invested in providing the best quality and experience possible.”
Though focused right now on fashion in the Chicago market, LocalLux sees the opportunity for expansion into other segments and cities. It is fortifying that vision by participating in the 2014 class of Straight Shot, Omaha’s e-commerce and software-as-a-service startup (SaaS) accelerator. Ellis and Thomas said the opportunity to learn from Straight Shot mentors – as well as the fellow entrepreneurs comprising this year’s class – was an unparalleled opportunity at a critical stage of the company’s development.
“I just want to absorb everything, mentors, advisors, feedback, everything,” Ellis said. “We’re here for a reason, we didn’t just get lucky, but the more we can take home with us, the faster it’s going to get our company to the next level. I’m going to walk in and be the biggest sponge possible.”
Not only does LocalLux connect customers with local artisans, boutiques and businesses, it helps participating owners develop tools to better market themselves and compete with national and online retailers. The ultimate result, the founders hope, will be stronger local economies. (A retail study conducted in Chicago found that $68 of every $100 spent at a local business stays in the local economy compared to $43 after shopping a national chain.)
“The majority of businesses in this country are small businesses, and the money that’s spent in a community stays there,” Ellis said.
Want to learn more about LocalLux? Visit their website: www.localluxapp.com.