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Embracing Authentic Entrepreneurship in Rural Iowa

As the founder of Local., Hanna Nuss, I've been on this journey for nearly two years now. The first half of my inaugural year was a whirlwind of uncertainty, figuring out how to keep my doors open, stay afloat financially, and maintain a steady flow of customers and brands. For four years prior, I had been deeply engrossed in entrepreneurship, with three of those years dedicated to studying and launching ideas that ultimately didn't pan out. When Local. finally took off, it felt like I had achieved something truly significant, finally validated by the world.

Given the opportunity to pursue something substantial, I sprinted ahead eagerly—a skill I had always possessed. However, last January, my personal life was abruptly shaken. It was a humbling experience that quickly taught me two vital lessons: I cannot be everywhere or be everything to everyone—I am not invincible. Moreover, I couldn't escape reality, despite my efforts to do so over the past six months sprinting. As attention and interest grew around my work, I found myself hearing the affirmations and encouragement I had longed for during my previous ventures, only to realize that I was once again living up to someone else's expectations—a reality I had discovered I didn't truly love three years prior when I left corporate expectations of success.

Last night, I woke up from a recurring dream that had plagued me for years before starting my podcast and opening up about the truths that had held me back in life. Around January 2023, as I found myself overwhelmed and unsure of my next steps, this dream resurfaced after years of absence.

Last night, however, I confronted this dream head-on and, for the first time ever, saved myself. So this marks my "saving myself" moment. I have a profound love for entrepreneurship; it's the only realm where my mind feels completely fulfilled and challenged.

I know I'm exactly where I'm meant to be at this point in my life. However, I've often found myself avoiding harsh realities because they're difficult to face. I entered this journey for the challenges; while I tried to outrun them hoping they would work themselves out. Thankfully, I have an incredible support system without which I wouldn't be here today. But now it is time to stop outrunning it, it's time to confront these realities.

I've been applying systems designed for large-scale operations, aiming to make my business as big as possible because there's limited guidance for the alternative. I have thrown public fits announcing how the system is NOT set up for the small (which it is not). However, after my recent dream, I woke up with a renewed certainty that I am capable of building something different. This business isn't about scaling at the expense of relationships. Every attempt to scale left me overwhelmed, pushing me towards debt, and superficial relationships, and limiting my ability to grow at a pace that allows me to be present in my life while opening my shop peacefully each day.

I'm uncertain if my new approach will succeed, but I know that the rapid growth mentality led me down a path that strayed from the true mission of this endeavor: to remain small, special, and focused on individual brands and communities. I've realized that my true capacity at the shop is to help brands in a way that's meaningful to me. Instead of aiming to assist 100 Iowa brands this year, I've narrowed it down to only taking on three more movement marketing clients—focusing on impact rather than numbers.

When people ask me about success, I measure it by impact, not by quantity. If I'm not making a difference, the movement doesn't matter. This matters to me deeply. I'm committed to living my reality authentically, without sugarcoating the challenges. I am implementing the Profit First model to understand and apply business finances in a way that resonates with me and the way I need to build this, returning to basic accounting with pen and paper. The scale-oriented mindset didn't work for my business model as a sole owner-operator. I am not taking on more because, ultimately, more felt meaningless. So, I've decided to scale slowly. Local.'s impact will be focused, on expanding to more rural communities through personalized, long-term partnerships that leave a lasting legacy of impact. Likely limiting expansion to one town a year.

The opportunities will be intentionally limited to ensure an expansive and impactful experience. I believe the concept of Local. can genuinely address the challenges facing rural Iowa (and rural America as a whole) in ways that diverge from the broader global trends. It aims to revive the nurtured physical spaces that foster genuine community, a return to the meaningful connections we crave.

True connection isn't fostered by quick, superficial networking after work or through empty online likes. It's forged when individuals come together for a greater purpose, hand in hand. This approach acknowledges that meaningful change takes time—a stark contrast to the rapid scaling often seen in tech-oriented ventures.

I recently came across a quote in the book "Digital Minimalism" that resonated deeply: "They seem to relieve him of the felt need to offer chattering interpretations of himself to vindicate his worth. He can simply point: the building stands, the car now runs, the lights are on. Boasting is what a boy does, who has no real effect in the world. But craftsmanship must reckon with the infallible judgment of reality, where one's failures or shortcomings cannot be interpreted away." This speaks to the essence of craftsmanship, where tangible results speak louder than boastful words.

My craftsmanship lies in physical entrepreneurship, a domain that can't be measured solely by social metrics. It's about tangible outcomes—either the doors stay open, or they close. If my approach is making a difference and resonating, more doors will naturally open, both figuratively and literally. This model is grounded in real impact, driven by the desire to create lasting change in communities.

For our shop, 30 brands is our cap, and we're currently at 26. My vision is to build this movement so that every interaction with Local.—whether through Local. Foundation (Destination Chapters), Local. Pub. Co., or Local. Pod. Net.—reflects my personal commitment. A commitment I have waived in and out of delivering on because of my inability to see it as an intelligent or possible way to build my business. I am officially building this the way I figure out, no longer succumbing to the expectation that scaling, numbers, and growth is the end goal of all entrepreneurial endeavors. As our brand expands, we'll integrate amazing individuals into our team gradually, ensuring that we grow into the impactful vision I've set forth.

If this resonates with you please feel free to follow the journey as I work to figure out how to save physical spaces and build something that makes life in rural communities and entrepreneurship what it was always meant to be, small and special.

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