Congratulations to Eat LoCo for being a finalist this year for the 25th Anniversary of the Loudoun Small Business Awards! View the full list of finalists here. These awards will be held on November 8, 2019 at The National Conference Center. Register Here!
Eat LoCo is up for the award of Small Business of the Year! Post submitted by Dan Hine, Founder & CEO of Eat LoCo.
1. Tell us your story of how your business evolved into what it is today.
We began as a Loudoun county marketing company (under a different name) in the mid 90’s. After serving a widely diverse set of clients for over 20 years (large and small), we decided to switch course slightly and find something we were a little more passionate about, and would have an enormous impact on our community while still showing-off our creative marketing skills. We knew that eating healthy was something everyone either already does, aspires to do, or thinks about often, and therefore we had our “target market.” But, we also felt strongly about looping in the people responsible for growing and raising the food that keeps us all healthy…our Local Farmers, giving us “our purpose.” Things began to fall into place.
Initially, we tried to pull-in one of Loudoun’s older farmers markets and offered our free marketing services, but got turned down. We decided it was best to begin our own progressive, modern, larger farmers market. And so we did…TWICE. In 2017, EatLoco, LLC was born. Keeping one eye on promoting healthy living in Loudoun and the other on the success of our local farmers, we quickly launched The EatLoco Farmers Markets. Knowing most farmers market entities don’t have the marketing budgets or business background to keep their markets viable, we felt we had the upper-hand. Fast forward to today, and our markets gross over $1,300,000.00 in combined annual sales, making EatLoco one of the most successful farmers markets in Northern Virginia today.
2. What would it mean to you and your company to win a Small Business Award?
This would be our assurance that what we are doing is on-point. We have laid everything on-the-line for the chamber judges for this award, providing every last detail of our business, the good, the bad, the struggles, the obstacles, and of course, laying out our passions, goals and progress. Putting it all on the table for them and then to be awarded the winner of the 2019 Loudoun Chamber Business of the Year, would mean everything to us. Absolutely Everything!!
3. What is the smallest thing that has made the largest impact on your business?
We have a farmer named Ed Smith that makes his own sausage (Smiths at Mecklenburg), and sells it at both our markets. Ed calls me (usually mid-week) and we discuss farming issues, local agriculture, our markets, childhood, you name it. Always a range of topics and sometimes never a real reason for his call, but oddly, the conversation rarely moves to anything about Ed himself, a request or a complaint. To be honest, I looked forward to the end of the conversations when Ed says either “Thank you, Dan, I appreciate everything you do for us”, or Thanks Dan, you really draw us a crowd”. Hearing him say that in his southern drawl, good ole’ boy, farmer accent, pushes me week after week to do better for our farmers, vendors and community.
4. Who is the one person that has influenced you the most in your career?
Probably Jack Canfield (Author). He has a real common sense approach to business (some old school and some modern-day). But mostly how to look at things differently or from a different perspective. From reading his Chicken Soup for the Soul books when I was younger, to his Success Principles that came out in 2004, he has helped change the way I do business everyday. He did a retreat seminar at his home is Maui several years ago. I wish I had gone. He is truly my biggest influencer. My biggest take-away from him is his quote “How you do anything is how you do everything.” Let that sink in a bit.
5. What is your favorite thing about running a business in Loudoun County?
Of course, it’s the people. All those wonderful, beautiful people! Our markets bring in people from all different counties telling us there’s nothing like this where they live, or they have never seen a market this size, or they have never seen a more diverse set of polite, honest and fair farmers and vendors. I love being the company that brought this to Loudoun County. The farmers, the vendors and the customers have all responded: WE WANT MORE! WE WANT MORE! WE WANT MORE!!! We plant to give it to them.
6. How do you see your business evolving in the next 10 years?/ future goals
We think EatLoCo will be a household word in 10 years. Not just for farmers markets, but for restaurant reviews, employment in the food industry, local chefs, videos and their stories, more farmer success stories, larger markets, events to strengthen the culinary scene in Loudoun County, more foodie events that involve the community, and more about eating healthy and educating the consumer. Ohhh yeah, baby, we’ve only just begun.
7. If you’re not in the office where can we find you/what is another passion you have?
Spending time with my beautiful bride down at our home in Charleston. While we typically work on our businesses the entire time we’re there, (we can’t help it), we sometimes knock-off early and enjoy some of my special pina coladas, walk to dogs, and sit out on the beach until the sun sets. That’s just about a perfect day right there.
8. What did you want to be when you grew up as a child?
A fireman, always a fireman. Until I was about 9 years old and I saw a friend of mine cut his finger wide open and I passed out. Ever since I can remember, I have always enjoyed helping people in one capacity or another. People work very hard today and sometimes need a helping hand without having to pay for it. I am always willing to help when I can.
9. If you have 24-hours off, and your family was out of town, what would you do?
Often thought about renting a Harley for a weekend and driving it through the beautiful hills of Virginia and West Virginia and maybe up through PA with a stogie in my mouth and the wind in my hair. I had a bike for years and sometimes wish I still did. But older now and too many people (in additional to family) count on me everyday. I can’t let them down.
10. What is one book you recommend everyone read?
Age Proof – Living Longer without Running Out of Money or Breaking a Hip
Thank you to the entire Eat LoCo team! Good luck at the Small Business Awards this year.