This week on the coLab blog, we talk to Des Regier about giving the Okanagan economy a shot of adrenaline.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it shattered a lot of paradigms and sparked a lot of changes. For coLab member Des Regier, the most significant shift had to do with realizing just how many consumer goods in Kelowna don’t actually come from Kelowna.
“The majority of what we consume isn’t from here,” Des says. “A good example is: Am I going to buy produce at Costco, or at the local produce stand in Lake Country? Who am I going to support?”
For Des, the answer was obvious – it’s always better to buy local whenever possible. But supporting local businesses through a pandemic requires more than just one individual consumer choosing to switch providers. It requires an organized strategy for local consumers to support local businesses at scale.
Says Des: “The question became, ‘what’s it going to take to get local consumers to spend their dollars locally?’”
That’s when Des came up with the idea for LoLo (short for “LoveLocal”) – a platform where consumers can find discounts, gift cards, and loyalty rewards programs for local Okanagan-area businesses.
The idea, he says, came off the back of Des’ current business Trade Exchange. With over 350 businesses involved in Trade Exchange and deep roots in the community forged over the course of 20 years, Trade Exchange would become Des’ pathway to market for LoLo.
“We’ve been seeing an evaporation of small businesses over the years. The question is how we help the businesses that are hanging on gain a stronger foothold. Right now, we’re looking to recruit enough companies that want to use gift cards, discounts, and loyalty marketing as their new method of client acquisition. Can we create a hub that benefits small businesses? That’s the question, and that’s what we’re in the thick of.”
Des takes partial inspiration for LoLo from his previous line of work as a CPA in the radio industry. During his time working in radio, Des had a unique view into the challenges that small businesses face. Building a website, he says, is the easy part – the real work comes when it’s time to take a product to market. That’s why he encourages new entrepreneurs to get all the mistakes out early:
“If you’re a brand new entrepreneur, the best thing you can do is make as many mistakes as possible, as fast as possible, while utilizing as few resources as possible.”
Des says that LoLo is now in the process of automating and systematizing its operations. The aim is to create a seamless, frictionless onboarding process that makes it easy for business owners to join LoLo. He credits coLab with giving him the perspective he needed to come up with the idea for LoLo:
“In February of this year, there was a young fellow who was interested in buying my company. I said to him that if I was buying the company, I’d move it out of our current office and into a space where we could add on or rebrand. A space where we could grow technologically and surround ourselves with different thinkers who understand the new consumer, the new way of doing business. That’s why we moved into coLab, and it’s given us that different view we were after.”
LoLo is in the process of launching and will soon be live at http://lololoveslocal.ca.