With its 45 million annual visiting consumers, an extensive entrepreneur network, deep and diverse talent from universities such as USC, Caltech and UCLA to feed the talent pool and extraordinarily pleasant weather, Los Angeles is an excellent place for burgeoning small business owners to start a new enterprise. However, the City of Angels’ high cost of living and population density also makes a very competitive market to break into.
As such, SoCal founders need to prioritize meaningful connections with the local community, regardless of industry. So, whether you want to create the next killer L.A. networking app or a new restaurant to take the DTLA culinary scene by storm, here are a few ways you can connect with Los Angeles consumers.
Apply to join a local incubator and accelerator program
Let’s say you’re a passionate startup founder who has come up with a potentially revolutionary product concept and committed team, but you lack the resources, experience and contacts to get your brand off the ground. If you fit that description, you might consider applying to one of the many business incubators and accelerator programs that are based in Los Angeles.
Although Silicon Valley is thought of as California’s innovation hub, incubators or startup accelerators like IdeaLab, Science Inc., and MuckerLab are giving NorCal a run for its money. Those organizations have provided the funding, mentoring and most crucially, community connections that have helped guide Los Angeles-based companies like NetZero, Dollar Shave Club and Wallaby, through the process of being fledgling local firms into global category leaders.
Be as unusual as possible
As Hollywood is the nexus point of the entertainment world, Los Angeles draws in creative types from all over the world. Consequently, the eclectic locals have a taste for the artisanal, the novel and the idiomatic. For instance, an indiscriminately named fish taco place with excellent food and a quality jukebox. However, The Best Fish Taco in Ensenada, with its eye-catching name, idiosyncratic style and comedy nights featuring stars like Patton Oswalt and Demetri Martin, has become a local institution. The same goes for other unique L.A. success stories, such as the steampunk-flavored bar The Edison and boutique retailer Light My Fire, which sells more than 1,000 different kinds of hot sauce. All of those businesses have succeeded by providing residents with an experience they can’t get anywhere else.
Know which L.A. you want to serve
As opposed to other bustling metropolises like New York City and Chicago, Los Angeles’s population is not constrained to one urban core. On the contrary, the City of Angeles is spread out over 503 square miles that are home to a variety of different communities with very different wants and needs. If their businesses are to prosper, a Los Angeles-based entrepreneur needs to tailor their offerings to appeal to their particular region. As noted by Thrillist, the owners of the health conscious fast food joint Locol have found success by serving their highly-anticipated, delicious and nutritious fare to the residents of Watts. As Hollywood citizens are 65 percent more likely to order off of a vegetarian menu than the national average, it’s no wonder that dairy-free cheese shop Vromage has become a WeHo sensation. When it comes to starting a business in L.A., hyper-localization is mission critical.
This article was written by Mario McKellop for CBS Small Business Pulse.