Shop Small is more than a catchy slogan, it’s the backbone of America. Of course, the shop small movement helps stimulate the local economy. But when people shop small they connect with an individual and a community in a special way. Lisa Menchetti, small business owner and creator of Gridlock Lacquer explains why small business matters.
What is Gridlock Lacquer?
Gridlock Lacquer is a line of nail polish built from the inspiration of the Rust Belt, those cities along the south edge of Lake Erie that were established for manufacturing. Buffalo, NY, my hometown, inspired the first collection. We have expanded to include collections for Niagara Falls, Rochester, NY and Cleveland, Ohio as well. Each series pays homage to beloved rustbelt cities and honors them as they move into the next era, redefined and better than ever.
How did Gridlock Lacquer get started?
A while ago, I discovered that major nail polish brands were rebranding their products to sell under lew labels. They used clever names, making the branding as enticing as the actual nail polish color. I saw collections based on movies and other themes and thought it would be interesting to localize that concept. At first, I thought about “private labeling” a brand, buying stock from a manufacturer to relabel with my own brand.
I discovered an Indie Nail Polish community and started researching that option since it would allow me to create custom color combinations not offered by manufacturers. After researching the idea, I ordered small quantities to play around with the concept, and it just took off from there.
How long was it between initial idea and when Gridlock Lacquer was first offered on the market?
I started researching the idea in Spring of 2013. I experimented with making my own polishes that summer and started selling the products in December 2013.
Why honor the rust belt? It seems an unlikely candidate to inspire a beauty product.
Oh, there are so many reasons to love the rustbelt. First, I’m from Buffalo, and anyone who is from Buffalo or knows someone from here knows that we produce a special type of person. The kinship runs deep and Buffalonians have such a strong sense of place! There is nothing like being from Buffalo.
More recently, I have visited Cleveland (my sister lives outside Cleveland), Detroit and Pittsburgh only to discover that these cities have a lot in common. All are die hard about their sports teams. All were built on manufacturing, on the back of immigrants and blue collar workers. The outsourcing of the manufacturing sector has hindered these cities in a way that no one could have anticipated. They are now fighting a similar struggle and are on the cusp of an urban renaissance.
To outsiders this may be hard to believe, but rustbelt cities are innovating out of necessity and as a result are starting to attract a certain type of person- young, educated, entrepreneurial. The cost of living in these cities in minimal in comparison to the traditional American “power” cities that has traditionally attracted young people. It’s an exciting time to be in the Rustbelt.
Why should people shop small instead of at big box stores?
Shopping small is good for the economy, it’s authentic and it generally is made from local products.
As to the economy, when you shop small, your purchase supports local employees and business owners who spend their money locally. When you shop small, your dollars go into the economy and are spread as those business owners shop locally. Also, because shareholders, stock holders and high level executive salaries are not involved like at big box stores, the majority of what you spend on a locally crafted product goes into the local economy.
As to authenticity, small shops create items that reflect the region, like our nail polish. It’s inspired by the colors, the attitude and the personality of this region. By any other name, it would just be nail polish. The same goes for any small shop anywhere. You’ll get something completely different from a shop in the deep south than you would from the mountains of Vermont. The culture and history of the place comes into the product. The heart of the creator shines through those items, making the gift more authentic.
Finally, small businesses tend to network with each other. We support each other in business, purchasing the items we need from other local businesses. That’s the heart behind small shops. An easy way to see this is in local, non-chain restaurants. Many restaurants purchase meats, vegetables and even beer or wine from local producers. They even share this information on their menus. The same is true for most small businesses.
What has been the biggest surprise since you launched Gridlock Lacquer?
Around Easter of 2014, a local news station read a tweet about our polishes and asked to do a segment on us. The news report coincided with the busiest season at the Broadway Market, one of the oldest public market places in the country. The morning after the segment aired things got crazy! People were lined up at the market to buy our product, and we sold out of every polish by 9:30 a.m. That was a crazy morning and it really launched our business! We are quite grateful for that news story.
How would you encourage other people with dreams of starting their own business to take that leap?
I suppose I would just say “take the leap”. It’s so scary to make that first investment, to put yourself out there, but you’ll never know unless you try it. Every time I launch a collection in a new city it’s scary. I never know how it’ll be received. As the business grows I’m constantly faced with new obstacles and need to figure out a way to work through those. We are lucky to live in the age of the internet, where information is so accessible and problems can be worked out. But if you don’t actually take that first leap you’ll never know what could have been.
What is the one piece of advice that made the difference for you or that you wish you had known before you began?
The best advice…there are two, I suppose. First, I am blessed to have supportive parents. They’ve always told me that I can do anything I want, and they truly believe in me. That was an important message for me as a kid and as an adult. It’s a game changer and the power that gives shouldn’t be underestimated. (That sounds like great parenting advice too!)
The second advice came from Jeff Rogers, a man that I worked with in Columbia, SC a while ago. He always said that it was possible to be a business person with morals. His actions reinforced his words, and although he worked in a commission based role, he never thought about himself first. Instead He made sure that his decisions were in the best interest of all parties involved. He was the first person I’d encountered professionally that made me think about what it meant to be a “good” businessperson, and I still carry that with me today.
Where can we buy your product?
The products are available online at Gridlock Lacquer. In the Buffalo area, they’re available at the Broadway Market on Saturdays. They are also available in several locally owned stores in Buffalo, Rochester and Cleveland. Check the website for details!
Small businesses like Gridlock Lacquer are shaping the future of America. Shop small; shop local this holiday season for gifts that will be cherished for their unique flair. To find local businesses near you, search #ShopSmall on twitter or the internet.