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The Hustle

Name: Ester Venouziou (LocalShops1)

When Ester Venouziou launched LocalShops1 in 2008, she had one mission: Promoting and supporting locally owned businesses. LocalShops1 began as a Facebook group with listings of local shops based on friend's suggestions but it quickly turned into a grassroots organization. Venouziou's decision to concentrate full-time on LocalShops1's growth took shape after she was laid off from the St. Petersburg/Tampa Bay Times in 2011. Today LocalShops1 has 350 members. Venouziou offers a variety of services to businesses, artists, and non-profits at various levels and networking events on a monthly basis. A board member of the Gulfport Chamber of Commerce, Venouziou is also the editor of Live Local! Magazine.

Years in St. Pete

15.5

Hustle (job)

President and Owner of LocalShops1

What do you do?  

LocalShops1 is Tampa Bay’s source for all things local. Our membership-based organization, launched in 2008, provides advocacy, support and education to locally owned, independent businesses throughout the region. My job is to keep all the "pieces" together, connect people (businesses with other businesses, as well as consumers), and make sure we have the right people in place to make sure LocalShops1 continues to grow and stay true to its mission. We do so through collaborative "buy local" marketing campaigns and community events, including the Shopapalooza Festival, the St. Pete Tiny Home Festival and our new weekly St. Pete Sunday Market, which launches in October. We also have a brick-and-mortar shop that carries the work of almost 40 local artists and crafters (and adding more!), publish the quarterly Live Local! Buzz, and are in the process of overhauling our website to better spotlight our members and the importance of buying/eating/living local.

Why do you do it?

Shopping and dining locally have the economic advantages, of course: Money spent locally is more likely to stay locally. But it's not just about money. These are the businesses that link us to the past, and ensure our communities will have lots of character in the future.

What was your Catalyst? (How did you get started?)

LocalShops1 started out as a hobby. Back in 2008, when my parents would visit from NJ, and I was at work, they would always go to the malls and chain restaurants and all that. They said they didn't know where else to go, so they went with the "safe" choice. So I started listing some of my favorite local places for them, so they could go out and explore. A few weeks later I started a group on Facebook, asking for suggestions on shops and restaurants to add to the list. Soon LocalShops1 was born, and the grassroots organization quickly took off thanks to the support of local businesses and community-minded shoppers. When I lost my job during a round of layoffs in late 2011, my business friends encouraged me to pursue LocalShops1 full-time, rather than finding another job. Several gave me freelance writing, editing, and design jobs, to encourage me to go the entrepreneurial route! And my parents (who had always had their own business) also were very supportive during my transition.

What’s a common misconception or unknown aspect of what you do?

Because my job is all about connections and the community, I'm often "checking in" (on Facebook and Instagram) at local businesses, markets, and other fun places. So people who don't know me think I'm a social butterfly, and always out there partying and having fun. But in reality, much of my work is behind the scenes, dealing with logistics, creating marketing campaigns and keeping things organized.

What’s the most challenging part of your Hustle?

The most challenging part for me, even after all these years, is balancing work life and personal life. It's understanding and accepting that the world won't fall apart if I turn my phone off for a few hours, or even if I "check out" for a long weekend.

What’s the most valuable piece of business advice/insight that’s helped you?

The best piece of advice I've ever received, from another local business owner, is to stop obsessing over the details and to just go for it. We often hear that "good enough" is NOT good enough. But "good enough" IS often a good starting point and enough to launch your idea. If you wait until it's perfect, it might just be too late.

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