At first glance Localvore Today resembles Groupon; however, they're decidedly more different than they are similar and the same can be said for Localvore and LivingSocial. It's taken me a year to wrap my head around exactly what Localvore Today does. Monday night I attended a Localvore event, actually their first event, and it finally made sense to me. Localvore’s social mission is to “support local food systems and local economies.” Helping to keep local economies sustainable and using social media to fulfill this mission is a hard sell.
Dan White, the founder and CEO, spoke to the social, product and business mission of Localvore without using the word mission. His enthusiasm about Monday night’s event came through both at the door of the event while greeting guests and when we spoke on the telephone the following day. Maine was this start-up's second market, after a robust beginning in Vermont. This event was designed to show Maine that Localvore’s approach is different from the ones practiced by other social media companies.
“Vermont Loves Maine, was an opportunity to re-engage Localvore’s Vermont clients and introduce these businesses to Maine,” said White.
Both participating Vermont businesses, and those of us attending from Maine, appreciated the effort. Building good will for Localvore was the stated goal, along with leveraging their relationships with Vermont businesses. As an early-stage tech company, the leadership of Localvore was not certain that an event like this made sense. Most small businesses can benefit from the social media marketing technology offered today. Budgets are tight and funding a marketing campaign is seldom a top priority. The payoff, which is not always easy to quantify, can be substantial. But how do you engage a company like Localvore Today without appearing desperate? Unlike using Groupon as a way to sell more product, advertising on Localvore Today is a way to tell your story and educate potential customers about what it means to buy local. Education is a big part of Localvore’s objectives and a socially conscious audience makes meeting these objectives viable.
White offered up this explanation: “People are tired of the rants and one-off comments that can be found on Yelp. Taking advantage of a Localvore campaign is an opportunity to experience a product in a physical way without breaking the bank.” Once introduced to a client/business, the customer can determine the product's level of excellence and whether or not they will choose to purchase that product again in the future. O’Maine studios which had its start at 54 Danforth Street a couple of years ago, has been an excellent venue for showcasing Maine’s local products.
The following vendors from Vermont participated in the “Vermont Loves Maine” event: Alice and the Magician, VT99 Meats, Cabot Cheese, Jasper Hill, Shaksbury Cider, Caledonia Spirits, Pizzeria Verita and Trapp Brewing. Many other Vermont companies donated products for the event.
Although I found the entire evening to be equally informative and enjoyable, I especially appreciated the effort that went into providing freshly made pizza throughout the evening. Pizzeria Verita made pizza in a mobile pizza oven behind O’Maine Studios. I tasted four or five different varieties of pizza made on crusty dough with fresh ingredients. Beverages provided by Localvore’s clients did not disappoint.
Bartenders mixing cocktails for Alice & the Magician provided beautifully creative cocktails using Barr Hill gin and Fever Tree tonic. Alice & the Magician are known for their elixirs and aromatics. The showmanship of the two mixologists added a sexy atmosphere and spice to an already dazzling event. I was especially wowed by the misting of aromatics atop a perfect cocktail. What’s next for Localvore?
Many were so excited by the success of the “Vermont Loves Maine” event, it's been suggested that a similar type of event take place in Vermont. I met several Maine food vendors at the event who were ready to sign on for such an evening. White and his team seemed fired-up and poised to start planning for 2017. I’m going to wait for an announcement about where and when as I look forward to future Localvore events right here in Portland. I’m not sure if Groupon and LivingSocial will survive our new economy, however, I am fairly certain Localvore is a company to learn more about and to watch closely.
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