Santa Paula Times

Totally Local VC: Live, eat, play and shop local to boost local economy

February 16, 2011
Santa Paula News

Being totally local pays off in many ways, those attending the February Good Morning Santa Paula learned from an entrepreneur who is promoting a social initiative to benefit Ventura County by building economic growth from within our community.

Totally Local VC, launched in March, is devoted to educating the public to “live local, eat local, play local and shop local,” as well as support supporting local charities, arts, services and music, “and be a part of the community,” according to Kat Merrick. “It all starts with us,” she noted.

“Totally Local VC teaches people the benefits” of local participation, from eating out to shopping downtown. “Be a part of your community, be active, try to be as involved as possible,” she urged.

Merrick said she started watching Facebook about two years ago and she decided to start posting local-centric items. “I started seeing this trend that people really do want to support local, want to be part of their community, but have been brainwashed to want bigger” stores and other venues.

Merrick said if there was just a 10 percent shift of people thinking and acting locally, “It would have a dramatic impact on the community” and the growth of the state, which relies heavily on its 98 percent base of small business. In fact, she noted, since 1975 almost all of California’s growth was generated by small business, which is “credited with bringing us out of recessions... that tells us that the backbone of our economy is small business.”

Totally Local VC has been working with businesses to link up with others to form partnerships: “I hear all the time from businesses how others ‘aren’t supporting me,’ but they’re not supporting others. Petty Ranch is a good example of how it works,” with their tree to local business to consumer collaborative, reached through restaurants and their menus highlighting local products down to and including wood scraps being used in pizza ovens to local lemons highlighted in Ventura Limoncello liquor.

Once such entities are introduced, they recognize the mutual benefits of working together to create long-term sustainable growth and attraction for new business and tourism to the community.

Merrick said there were more than 1,000 business licenses issued in the City of Santa Paula last year, nearly all of which meet the small business definition. And, a 10 percent shift in market share to independent Ventura County businesses from chain stores would result in 1,600 new jobs, $53 million in wages, and a $137 million economic impact to the county.

By choosing to support locally owned business, Merrick said individuals could help to create and retain jobs in their communities. “A strong community is a sustainable community,” and such growth trickles down helping to support a community in many ways, even in “rough times.”

It is estimated there are 200 “unique farming operations in the Santa Paula Basin, which breaks down to about 15,000 acres of irrigated cropland, plus 30,000 acres of rangeland,” and Merrick said if each household spent just $10 a week on locally grown food it would have a dramatic impact. “It’s phenomenal... we would redirect $186 million dollars each year to countywide farmers and ranchers,” revenue that would positively impact many others.

Merrick said when she started “cross connecting them, it was staggering” to realize the figures “add up very quickly.... People are just shocked” to learn the impacts that result from building long-term economic growth through seemingly simple steps.

She spreads the word “without preaching about local shopping, enjoying local culture. Sometimes people have an image of me weaving my own cloth,” laughed Merrick, but starting with a 10 percent shift creates a demand that “fills gaps and grows the local economy.”

And, “I think Santa Paula is just prime for this, it has so much from agriculture to art to businesses.... I go downtown and think so much could be happening down here.”

And Merrick is helping not only to spread the word, but also to hook up local businesses. “When I learned there’s a new coffee shop coming to Santa Paula I introduced them” to a local company that roasts coffee.

“When you buy a car at your local dealer, even if it’s not the manufacturing you’re looking for,” Santa Paula Chevrolet will get you that car and the revenue paid to the city benefits the city. And “You tell people what a good deal you got” and they will shop locally also.

Merrick said the “biggest thing I found is people don’t know how do it,” and she has launched a website to tell local businesses how to get involved “without preaching, and show them how much that 10 percent shift is.” Eating locally, buying locally, giving locally, enjoying art and music locally, is just a matter of “helping people know how to do that... and together our communities can show long-term growth.”

Already the website is receiving 4,000 hits a day, generates about 1,500 outgoing emails on local events and happenings, and is creating “outreaches” to introduce new and existing businesses to the public. “Our biggest hits,” said Merrick, are linked to food and dining opportunities.

Merrick said she put up a Totally Local VC Facebook page about a year ago, and so far she has about 1,600 friends, all who believe in her mission and are widening the circle of those who want to go Totally Local within Ventura County. For more information visit