After success in Asheville, North Carolina-a city that often draws Chattanooga comparisons-an app and website that highlight only locally owned businesses are expanding to the Scenic City.
Local Flavor is a mobile app and website that allows small business owners to have creative control over online content and connect directly with customers.
Anyone looking to visit only locally owned businesses and have an “authentic” Chattanooga experience can find curated information about restaurants, attractions, outdoor opportunities and other entertainment options.
Local Flavor developers said they will give some nonprofits a free listing on the site because it’s their mission to support entrepreneurs, help nonprofit organizations, and provide value for both business owners and users.
Branching out from Asheville
Local Flavor co-founders Ted and Flori Pate developed their idea last year during an entrepreneurial development contest similar to Chattanooga’s 48-Hour Launch.
After launching in Asheville and getting an “overwhelmingly positive response from users and businesses,” they decided to expand into other cities.
-The site has had more than 21,000 page visits in the past five months and has a daily visitation rate of 40 percent new users and 60 percent return users.
-Users spend an average of four minutes on the site. A Nielsen ratings report recently found that people tend to spend about 30 seconds on other sites, Ted said.
-The app has more than 3,000 downloads.
-In order to qualify, you must be independent and at least 50 percent owned within a 20-mile radius of downtown Chattanooga with no headquarters outside of that radius. You cannot be registered as a franchise, and you must make independent decisions about your business. Your name, look and purchasing plus distribution practices must be decided on by your local team.
At the beginning of this month, they launched in Chattanooga. They are also adding Greenville, South Carolina, and Boca Delray, Florida.
In each new city, the Pates know someone who will head up the local operations.
For example, Chattanooga native Amy Kilgore, whom Flori has known for years, will head up Chattanooga’s Local Flavor.
“We didn’t want to expand and not have quality control,” Ted said.
So they chose their longtime friends and colleagues to head up the expansion in select cities.
And Chattanooga seemed like a natural place to expand.
“There are not many places in the Southeast that have the appeal that Asheville has, but Chattanooga shares the love of local and the unique culture we have in Asheville,” Ted also said.
More than a dozen Chattanooga businesses, such as Track 29 and 1885 Grill, have already signed on with Local Flavor.
Those who download the free app, available in the App Store and on Google Play, can switch between locations.
Users can use the “change your city” button to choose locations and rotate among the four cities.
Creators said that having multiple locations “greatly increases exposure for drive-to and feeder cities and is also a key incentive for users to keep the app on their phones for future travels.”
Businesses featured on Local Flavor might be able to get more exposure, as the app is promoted in new locations, they said.
Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, are the next cities where Local Flavor will soon launch.
Kilgore described it as “collective marketing.” Everyone features benefits, she said. And the more businesses featured in the more locations, the better it is for everyone.
And the Pates said their site provides more than just an online listing. It isn’t like being on Yelp-the value of Local Flavor is more than simply being listed online.
Asheville’s Local Flavor is a proven model, which should instill confidence, Kilgore said.
“We are a means of collaborative marketing for independently owned businesses,” she said. “Your membership does not sit stagnant-we are working to bring people to the app, improve the app features and improve our SEO.”
Business owners can customize their content and post on social media from the site.
They can also highlight deals and update a calendar with different daily information.
The website also provides directions, so users can easily navigate from one local business to another, leaders said.
Their powers combined
The Local Flavor team said that their backgrounds and passion for the project make them unique.
The Pates met in advertising school in Atlanta. They both have decades of experience in design, marketing and advertising.
Kilgore has a background in working with nonprofit organizations, and-now living in Atlanta-she’s been a longtime Chattanooga ambassador, constantly making travel itineraries and giving suggestions of places to visit in the Scenic City.
“I want to lend a brand security so people don’t feel like they are dumping their money in a black hole,” she said. “[I] have a true love for Chattanooga and for local.”
It costs $100 a month for businesses to join, and it’s free for users.
Mike and Taylor Monen, owners of four downtown-area restaurants-Urban Stack, Community Pie, Milk and Honey, and Taco Mamacita-have joined Local Flavor.
“Our team loves what Local Flavor has to offer,” Betsy Chapman, marketing director for the Monen Group, said in a prepared statement. “Until now, we have yet to commit to any kind of mobile marketing, and this is the first product we have seen that is in line with our kind of marketing.”
Monica Kinsey with Track 29 said she likes how the Local Flavor team defines “local.” She also said pricing is very reasonable and that she loves the user-friendliness of the site and app.
“I think the ease of use and keeping it clean and simple and really focusing on local is really going to make it successful,” she said.