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How a Pop-Up Shop Made Me a True Entrepreneur: Celebrating Two Years of Local. Love

Two years ago today, I officially became an entrepreneur. I had been exploring the entrepreneurial space for about a year prior, playing with different ideas and generating lists of potential customers, but never making anything official. About a year and a half before this milestone, I asked a mentor what truly makes an entrepreneur. At the time, I had boldly labeled myself as an entrepreneur on all my social media, owning the term without a real understanding of it. My mentor responded with this measure: "When someone who doesn't know you pays you for something you made." Realizing I hadn't made a penny from my ideas up to that point, I thought I should probably remove "entrepreneur" from my bio. Despite having many ideas, none had yet produced any income or showed promise of doing so.

I hoped my next idea would get pitched and funded. When that didn't happen, my mentor moved on, and so did I. A short year later I remember loading the truck with enough shirts to clothe what felt like an entire rural community. As my husband and I drove silently to our first Local Love Pop-up event, we felt the weight of the reality that nothing could sell. I faced the possibility of being a failed entrepreneur again, stuck with five boxes of shirts that could only sell in this community and context. It was a bold decision, but I kept following this belief that people loved their rural communities—they just never had a chance to express that pride. Rural communities didn't receive the same love as tourist towns, despite being visited frequently and beloved by their residents.

I wondered: Do people love their rural communities enough to wear shirts celebrating them? Could these shirts create community and connections? I wanted to find out, yet part of me didn't. I considered canceling the pop-up, and staying safe at home with my hopes, dreams, and hypotheses untouched. But the boxes of t-shirts and a supportive family told me this was not the time to back down. It was time to show up and stand up for what I believed in. I believed in rural communities and the people within them. I believed these communities had been forgotten and written off in a world that needed them to thrive.

I believed it was time for a rural revolution.

As we got out of the truck, my anxiety rose. Each box carried the weight and reality that this bet might be wrong. But as the shirts sold, my confidence grew with each transaction. The success of that first sale was the start of everything that is today. It was the biggest investment I had made in myself and my idea ever. That pop-up shop officially made me a real entrepreneur. That sale marked the beginning of Local., transforming a simple idea into a thriving business that celebrates and unites rural communities.

The experience taught me invaluable lessons about resilience, belief in oneself, and the importance of community support. It showed me that entrepreneurship is not just about making money; it's about making a difference, following a passion, and taking risks despite the fear of failure. Today, Local. has grown beyond that initial pop-up, fostering connections and pride in rural areas that often go unnoticed. Reflecting on this journey, I am reminded that every big success starts with a small, courageous step. That first sale wasn't just a financial transaction; it was the validation of a dream, the spark that ignited a movement, and the foundation upon which I continue to build.

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