Chances are you live in a city with a strong local culture. Eat local. Live local. Buy local. Support local. At its core, the message is pretty simple: preserve what makes your city your city. One of the most rewarding aspects of my job here at Volusion is that I get to work with tons of small businesses across the nation that are realizing their dreams while supporting what makes their city their city.
Like many others living in Austin, I’m not a native. I packed up my car and drove halfway across the country five years ago ready for a new adventure. It didn’t take long for me to feel like I was part of the local atmosphere and part of what makes Austin, well, Austin. I always get that refreshing feeling when I see a business invest in its hometown, and the feeling extends to the businesses I interact with every day in my job. It’s my hope that the next few minutes of reading will show you that anything can be sold online, and local businesses can really expand and reach a whole new audience by developing an online presence. In no particular order, here are some small businesses based right here in Austin, Texas that I (and I’m sure many other Volusioneers) believe instill what makes this city tick.
1. Mellow Johnny’s
You can’t mention Austin without mentioning bicycles. The cool thing about Mellow Johnny’s is they offer more than just cycling gear and apparel. They’re invested in Austin through social rides, bike maintenance clinics, safe bike route scouting and much more. They’re focused on the bicycle enthusiast community as a whole, as evident in their company’s philosophy.
“To serve the bike community is our job, but to introduce people to a bike life is our mission.”
Having been to their shop before (and not being an avid bicycle rider) I can attest to the laid back, community-minded spirit that permeates the shop. Ride your bike down to their shop in downtown Austin or visit them at www.mellowjohnnys.com for all things cycling!
2. Gallo & Spence Toys
With so many new technological distractions, kids need a way to have some good, wholesome fun outdoors. Austin is a city that prides itself on its waterways, fun parks and unique outdoor spots. Gallo & Spence Toys is a business run by some fellow Austin transplants who made their way to Texas via South Africa. The founders wanted to find a way to provide fun for their kids while being smart and economical about the toys they bought, and they had this to say about their vision for the company:
“As the parents of young children ourselves, we know the importance of safe, quality products that can take a beating and still be passed down from one sibling to the next. And as big fans of our new home, we make all of our products with love and care right here in the U.S.A.”
Gallo & Spence exemplifies that spirit of adventure that made me gravitate to this place five years ago. Grab your little tike a sweet new ride from www.gallospencetoys.com today or head over to their local shop to test out one of their bikes!
3. Pride Socks
The premise of this business is incredibly simple. They sell socks and accessories with rainbow stripes featured on the products. The idea came from the founder’s obsession with socks and an upbringing that forced her family to make do with what they had. The messaging behind the company is what really sets Pride Socks apart. Rachel, the founder, has this to say about what Pride Socks means to her.
“At Pride Socks, we believe when people are proud of who they are, where they are and what they do in life, they can and will accomplish their dreams. With that, I am proud to be the heart of a company that encourages and supports individual freedom and expression.”
In an increasingly noisy world, sometimes the simplest messages are the most powerful. You’ve probably got a few holes in the toes so check them out at www.pridesocks.com or various partnering stores around North America (and community events around Austin) and grab yourself a few pairs!
4. Medusa Skates
You may have heard of roller derby or seen the Ellen Page-starring movie, Whip It. You may not know that roller derby’s resurgence as a sport got its start right here in Austin back in 2001. That resurgence has led to hundreds of leagues worldwide and a passionate, loyal and supportive culture of fans and skaters. One of those skaters, known on the track as Glitterotica, saw a chance to share her passion for roller derby with a budding community looking for information, inspiration and, of course, derby gear! Here’s what she has to say about her journey from skeptic to skater to business owner/derby ambassador:
“Here I am 5 years later, still feeling an intense connection to the sport and the women of derby and will play until I break. Derby has changed me for the better and I hope it can be as powerful for other women as it has been for me. Medusa Skates is my dream business.”
Medusa Skates fills not just a business need but provides a source of inspiration for men and women looking to make their passions into their career. Swing by if you’re in Austin, or hop on over to www.medusaskates.com and get everything you need to step onto the track and earn yourself a few bruises.
5. Danny Ray’s Music
You thought we’d get through a list of Austin merchants without mentioning music, didn’t you? Austin is known for its music, but what often isn’t mentioned is the tightly knit community of musicians based here and the businesses that support their passion. Danny Ray’s Music represents a part of the music industry that is disappearing all too fast: independently run shops focused on sharing their knowledge. Owner Danny Ray Ellis wanted that personal experience to be a driving force behind the creation of his shop.
“I always thought it would be cool to have a music store as special to others as Whitey Lunzar's was to me. It was a place that every customer was important, and the people who worked there shared a lot of knowledge while helping their customers select just the right instrument for them.”
I’ve been playing guitar since my teenage years, and I’ve always learned the most from watching and listening to people talk about their musical passion. It’s refreshing to see that passion pressing on in the greater Austin area. Just a short trip up I-35 into Round Rock sits Danny Ray’s retail location. Head up there to talk shop with their committed and knowledgeable staff, or browse online at www.dannyraysmusic.com.
6. Sanderson Foods
I was fortunate enough to be raised in a household with a father who loves hot sauce with some flavor to it, and that food training spilled (no pun intended) over into salsa. Since moving to Austin, salsa has probably become one of my top five most eaten foods. Sanderson Foods developed award-winning salsas that bring the focus back to the ingredients instead of tear-inducing heat. Despite their busy schedules and success, the founders are still dedicated to batch-by-batch quality.
“We may have outgrown the personal delivery business long ago but we still sample every batch. Why you ask? We do it for the same reason every chef, friend, or loved one tastes food when preparing if for others – We believe you deserve only the very best we can make.”
In a city that prides itself on the freshest ingredients to make the most memorable flavors, it’s great to see someone putting that mindset to work for one of Austin’s table staples. You’ll find Sanderson Foods salsas in your grocery store, but read more about their company and find some tasty recipes at www.sandersonfoods.com.
Working at Volusion has given me the opportunity to see every angle of the entrepreneur. Each business runs a bit differently and reaches different levels of success at different times. But my experience has shown the one thing that holds true throughout is passion. Austin is certainly a mosaic of people from different cities, countries and cultures. I like to think that each one of these local businesses, in their own way, represent bits and pieces unique to Austin. They represent what makes our city our city, and that’s why I love living here.