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Local Motion

For a competitive edge, offer items made locally.

Names like Ocho and Angela Adams may not be famous, but they spell success for the Portsmouth, New Hampshire, gallery and home-furnishing shop Nahcotta. Owner Deborah Thompson, 36, says that stocking furniture and accessories from New England-based companies gives her company a cachet that big-box retailers just can't match.

"People like to buy things made locally, and it's a huge draw for tourists to know they're purchasing things that are made in the area they're visiting," Thompson explains.

"Finding good local brands can differentiate your business as cutting-edge and having more options than large-scale stores that only offer the same old products," says Kirsten Osolind, CEO of Re:invention Inc., a Chicago marketing consulting company for women-led businesses. Osolind also says these specialized brands can often command premium prices and draw repeat sales because they're unique.

Locating small manufacturers isn't always easy, but Osolind shares these tips:

  • Trade shows: Don't just look at the booths; watch the people walking the floor. "Many smaller manufacturers can't afford booth space, but they're still at the shows, so meeting other attendees at these events is important," she says.
  • Farmers markets, festivals and local events: You'll often find small companies setting up booths at these events.
  • Local business associations: Contact your chamber of commerce or other local and state business associations to find local manufacturers in your market sector.

This story appears in the November 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »