Local First overhauls sustainability conference


The nonprofit Local First produces an annual sustainable business conference. Photo via fb.com

Local First is changing the format of its annual sustainability conference.

The half-day INsight conference has become so popular with its approximately 200 attendees that Executive Director Elissa Hillary said it was time to make some changes that she hopes will help deepen professional and personal connections and enhance the conference’s educational component.

The conference will be held on April 23, from noon-5 p.m. at the Wege Student Center at Aquinas College campus. 

Local First is also introducing monthly workshops that will focus on a variety of sustainability topics pertinent to local businesses.

“The changes are really largely responding to the demand from the business community that we’ve heard,” Hillary said. 

Hillary added that the new format was designed based on business conferences that she's attended across the country.

“We think it will be more impactful for the community and really help us as we are continuing to support creating a culture that values entrepreneurship and the highs and lows that come with that,” Hillary said.

Live interviews

The conference will feature two speakers who, instead of giving traditional presentations, will give live interviews about their business struggles and how they overcame them.

The interviewees will include Carol Roeda from Carol Roeda Studio, a creative arts brand, and Wayne Oom from TerraTrike, an international recumbent tricycle brand.

“It will be more of an interactive dialogue that people will be able to experience,” Hillary said.

Case studies

In place of breakout sessions, there will be ideaXchange case study sessions, where pre-selected businesses will present a problem and a panel of experts will offer suggestions on how to approach the issues. The audience will be able to contribute their ideas or experiences to the conversation.

Downtown Market’s Malamiah Juice Bar will be featured in the large group ideaXchange case study, which will focus on cash flow and sustainable business implementation.

Attendees can choose to attend one of the four small group ideaXchange case studies: branding, with Kirin Design serving as the case study and facilitated by Seth Getz of Business Mastery; seasonal employment, with ArtPrize serving as the case study and facilitated by Rob McCarty of The Image Shoppe; strategic growth, with Alliance for Environmental Sustainability serving as the case study and facilitated by Doris Drain of United Bank of Michigan; business financing, with Coppercraft Distillery serving as the case study and facilitated by Bill Smith of CompuCraft.

Monthly workshops

The conference will be followed by two hour monthly workshops held at different locations, featuring a variety of sustainability topics.

“We’ve had so much demand for sustainable business education,” Hillary said.

“We’ve traditionally just offered that on the one day of the conference, and this year, we decided to break that out over the course of the year. So there will be multiple opportunities for people to learn about sustainable business practices, not just a one-day event.”

The first INsight workshop will focus on stress management, and it will be held on May 1 from 5:30-7 p.m. at Thought Design in Rockford, at 10 East Bridge St. NE.

The workshops will address several topics throughout the year: succession planning, employee retention, healthy home incentive programs for employees, the impact of employee gardens on company health and productivity and moving toward a zero waste work environment.

“We have a committee of businesses that have been selecting the topics for us,” Hillary said.


Pre-registration is required for both the conference and each workshop.

Facebook Comments