5 Startup Strategies With Dina Litt & Janie Schwartz, Founders of Local Mercato
I had the pleasure of interviewing Dina Litt & Janie Schwartz, founders of Local Mercato, a curated shopping experience. In less than two years, they have grown their network from 0 to over 4,000 highly-targeted women in Los Angeles, CA. Their events attract around 200 women that come to shop and connect. Some of the top venues in Los Angeles have hosted their events, including HD Buttercup, Griffin Club, Cisco Home, Big Red Sun and Feastly. They have had their pick of the most talented early stage designers and brands that keep them at the pulse of discovering the best of LA. They have also “paid it back” by raising almost $20k for local charities.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
We are both born & raised Southern California girls, who met through our kids more than seven years ago and became fast friends. Dina attended one of Janie’s trunk shows and as she walked around the mini curated marketplace, she noticed the feeling of women truly enjoying each other, connecting both socially and professionally along side a true tactile shopping experience. An “aha” moment occurred and we realized this could be something bigger. The online marketplace has changed the way we shop, making the shared experience of shopping non-existent, along with it the opportunity to personally engage with local brands and genuinely network with women in the community. In June 2016, Dina approached Janie and asked what she thought about taking these small multi-brand trunk shows and developing it into something substantial…tapping into cool local venues with emerging designers and a charitable component. This was the birth of Local Mercato.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
We were in deep execution mode for our holiday 2017 event when the unexpected occurred! We were juggling over twenty-five vendors, various food partners, the charitable component and its celebrity client as well as managing the venue and other details when disaster hit. The fires in Los Angeles (over the holiday season) decimated parts of our city and forced us to deal with the unexpected. With over 500 RSVP’s and all event details confirmed, we made the executive decision reschedule. It was a lesson in flexibility, resilience and grit. What do you do when things don’t go as planned? We made it work!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Local Mercato strives to nurture commerce and connection through a new shopping experience. Every event offers a fresh discovery into local vendors, exciting activations, connections, and conversations with culture changers. As a result of our events, women have started businesses, collaborated with new partners, even joined the workforce again. Today, Local Mercato has grown into a powerful destination for women (and men) to come together, shop together and connect in an authentic and fun environment. Regardless of age, stage of lif, or profession, Local Mercato bridges these gaps with access to the best of our community.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
Local Mercato offers 8–10 events a year, four pillar evening events, four intimate Friday afternoon networking & learning lunches (all by invite only and word of mouth). Additional services launched in 2018 include brand consulting, event activation and business development. We also just launched curated gift boxes that highlight our amazing vendors.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Transparency. You have to be able to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly. You will celebrate successes but even more importantly you will have to navigate failure. You will have to learn from your mistakes and communicate the takeaways accordingly. Don’t micromanage. Hire people you believe in, who feel passionate about the work…and let them do the work. Communication is the key!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
Our first sponsor Emily Bregman of Emily Bregman Fine Homes & Compass. She has believed in us from the beginning!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Local Mercato proudly donates a portion of all sales from our events to a hand selected local charity that speaks to our brand. To date, we have donated over $20,000.00 to local Los Angeles charities.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- It takes time! We started this business in 2016 and it continues to be a blood, sweat and tears endeavor. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
- Accounting — Neither of us like to deal with the nitty gritty numbers but at the end of the day someone’s gotta do it (and well).
- Have a community of people to support you. We could not have done all of this without the wonderful, supportive men & women in our lives. It truly takes a village.
- Everyone has an opinion — stay true to your mission and try not to get distracted.
- Competition — have confidence in what you do because no one is reinventing the wheel (well maybe a few).
Can you please give us your favorite “life lesson” quote:
“You can be soft and successful, a traditionalist and a rebel, a lover and a fighter, vulnerable and invincible.” — Lisa Messenger
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Who would you like to have a breakfast with. he or she might see this.:-)
Maria Shriver — because her story is full of twists and turns, highs and lows and the drive to strive for purpose and meaning.
If you would like to see the entire “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” Series In Huffpost, Authority Magazine, ThriveGlobal, and Buzzfeed, click HERE.