When it comes to showing love for your community, Dana Sargent Schlagenhaft has it mastered. The Bentonville native is the founder of Hello Local, which is a gift boxing service operating out of Northwest Arkansas. Schlagenhaft says she created the business to help tell local stories and to encourage people to buy locally when considering gift options. Schlagenhaft believes that small businesses enrich our communities and are often the heart of a downtown’s vibe, and wants to draw those merchants together to showcase their products. “We ultimately want to get local products into the hands of more consumers,” she explains of herself and the businesses she partners with.
Schlagenhaft is no rookie when it comes to creating promotional opportunities for her ideas. In 2014, she started the Bentonville Love line of t-shirts after she realized that there wasn’t anything already on the market to showcase her hometown. She and her husband sold the merchandise at First Friday events, out of their home and in a few small shops. Bentonville Love picked up steam and became a sort of mini-movement, with its own social media hashtag. Eventually, Schlagenhaft felt that the Bentonville market became saturated with similar products, so she decided to intentionally make a pivot with her business model into something that would draw in participation from a variety of small businesses. “I wanted to give them the chance to sell things in downtown, in gift boxes or other venues that maybe they don’t have access to right now,” she says. Schlagenhaft also wanted her new business to include products and items representing all areas of Northwest Arkansas, not just Bentonville.
Hello Local launched in May of this year. As Schlagenhaft describes it, “Hello Local is about creating a small business community linking arms with other small business owners and makers.” Hello Local gift boxes contain products of all kinds, in a variety of themes and price points. For example, there are coffee and cocoa themed boxes, holiday boxes and those that offer products like tea, craft beer or local honey. The Hello Local boxes make great gifts for any occasion from birthdays and client appreciation to teacher gifts and housewarming parties. Because Schlagenhaft says that her love language is gifting, she may have created the perfect career for herself. “Gifting is fun, and I’ve had a lot of fun putting them together,” she adds.
Schlagenhaft does a lot of her product research via late-night Instagram sessions. “I like to find local makers and do some sampling. I really learn the story of the maker and get to know them,” she adds. Her research into local products and makers is important to her in sharing the spirit of Northwest Arkansas. “We’re just the vessel in getting that story out,” she says. Each Hello Local gift box also contains a flyer that tells the recipient about the history of the products and its maker, in hopes that it drives future business to their websites and storefronts.
Schlagenhaft continues to create ways to grow her business. This fall Hello Local will partner with 211 Café in downtown Bentonville to offer on-site gift box sales. And as for the future of her business, Schlagenhaft says she would be open to the idea of franchising into other areas, but only if it’s done in an authentic manner. Recognizing that each area has its own feel, it would need to be done in a way that feels genuine and not an exact copy of Hello Local. For now, the focus is on introducing the community to Hello Local and finding more local products to feature in the gift boxes. For more information about Hello Local, visit their website at www.shophellolocal.com.