As veteran DC entrepreneur and former mayoral candidate Andy Shallal said, “Give ‘em the finger!” The first annual Local First Awards is hailed as a massive success—conferring honors on high impact local businesses and celebrating the District’s community of entrepreneurs, creatives, artists, and makers that invigorate our local economy. On Thursday, Nov. 9 more than 300 local business leaders, entrepreneurs, and artists along with their supporters gathered at Blind Whino SW Arts Club for the inaugural Local First Awards. The awards, a Think Local First DC initiative, recognized and showcased the diverse ways businesses make a positive impact on the neighborhoods they serve.

Think Local First DC board members presented awards created by local design firm Trey Jones Studio. The award ceremony had seven categories: DC Maker, Ripple Effect, High Road, Green Thumb, Builder, Pioneer, and Community Champion.

The evening began with welcome remarks from Raj Aggarwal, Think Local First DC board chair and president of Provoc, a DC-based digital strategy firm.

Aggarwal said, “Think Local First DC exists to support the long-term success of local entrepreneurs and artists who make DC a more equitable, inclusive, and vibrant place to live in our rapidly growing city. Our work is a labor of love and I’m honored to be in service to creating an economy that works for all in Washington, DC. If you might be wondering what you can do today to join this effort, make a pledge to shift your spending 10% to local entrepreneurs and artists.”

Members of City Council and other policy makers were in attendance, including Council Chair Phil Mendelson, Councilmember Charles Allen, and Councilmember Elissa Silverman, who addressed the standing-room-only crowd.

FOX 5 News Anchor Tisha Lewis served as the host and emcee for the evening. Flash talks on the importance of supporting local entrepreneurs and artists were delivered by Gina Schaefer, co-founder and owner of 12 local ACE Hardware Stores, as well as Shallal, who is an artist, social entrepreneur, and founder of Busboys and Poets. Gina Schaefer delivered an inspirational flash talk, sharing a story of her journey as an entrepreneur and the challenges faced, hard fought, and won. Shallal’s remarks focused intently on the diversity of the local business community and it being its biggest strength. Shallal expressed that in business “despite the ups and downs, we keep doing this entrepreneurship thing to make a difference.”

Think Local First DC partner Lyft also announced their “Going Places” donation and a $1,000 award to DC Community Carrot, a local nonprofit that trains young entrepreneurs.

Steve Taylor, GM for Lyft, said “We’re thrilled to be a part of the Think Local First Awards this year. Not only is Lyft passionate about the DC community, but empowering others and improving our cities is core to Lyft’s mission and something my team and I focus on every day.”

The first award of the evening, the DC Maker award, was for a local business, entrepreneur, or artist who designs, makes, produces, and/or assembles a product in DC that makes an impact. The winner was Bailiwick Clothing, a local favorite located in Navy Yard.

The Ripple Effect award was for a business that supports the local economy by purchasing supplies and services from other local businesses, creating a “ripple effect” as money circulates within the local community, won by Paul Ruppert Restaurants and Upshur Street Books.

The High Road award was for a model employer who puts their people first by providing quality jobs, fostering a positive work environment, and championing beneficial business practices, which went to The Potter’s House. The Green Thumb was for an environmental champion who works to improve the local community through sustainable practices, products, or services. This local business or individual significantly reduces waste or consumption, creates green products, and/or provides green services. The winner was Misfit Juicery.

The Builder award went to a local community developer, investor, or lender with deep roots in the community and known for positive investments in DC’s people, culture, and future. It was won by City First Bank. The Pioneer award was for a local business, entrepreneur, or artist who inspires with a creative new idea, product, perspective, model, and/or solution, and was won by Tightshift Laboring Cooperative. The Community Champion was for a local business owner who makes a significant and noticeable impact in the community across a range of categories. The winner was longtime DC company Lee’s Flower and Card Shop.

Following the award ceremony, attendees spread throughout the venue to enjoy the after-party celebration featuring a Shop Made In DC Marketplace, music provided by DJ 2-Tone Jones, and an interactive avant-garde chalk art installation by local artist Jesse White. Attendees also enjoyed food provided by BBQ Bus, CAVA Grill, Homestead Kitchens, Red Apron, RICHBars, and Sloppy Mama’s Barbeque. Beverage partners included local craft breweries 3 Stars Brewing, Atlas Brew Works, Bluejacket, DC Brau, Right Proper Brewing, as well as City Winery and New Columbia Distillers.

Think Local First DC Board Member Nizam Ali of Ben’s Chili Bowl described the night as “an evening where everyone was friends, everyone was talking, and open to communicate,” furthering the theme of collaboration and community.

Think Local First DC is a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting local independent businesses and the city’s next generation of entrepreneurs who create dynamic neighborhoods and make a positive impact in their communities. Read more at

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