Building Local Business
February 1, 2011
In 2004, Joelle Kanshepolsky and her husband embarked on a year-long trip to see the world. They lived for a month at a time at various locations on a mere $30 a day, and they came to know and love people from many other cultures.
These travels, and earlier travels as a child, gave Kanshepolsky a unique perspective about local commerce. “I don’t want to go to Pizza Hut in Chile,” she recalls saying to her parents on an early visit to South America. Today Kanshepolsky serves as executive director of Local First Utah, a nonprofit organization that focuses on growing local businesses.
“I don’t want to go to other places and see chains. [Local First] comes full circle for me.”
Kanshepolsky grew up outside of Racine, Wis., a child of immigrant parents. “[Our family] was very different from people around me,” she shares. “[There was] not a ton of diversity in the life I grew up in. I felt what it was like to be different, and there were definitely times in my childhood I knew what it was like to be out of the norm and fighting to be treated like everyone else.”
Those challenges helped Kanshepolsky embrace diversity. After high school, Kanshepolsky attended Tufts University in Boston. She later interned with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and Planned Parenthood. She then worked with a domestic violence shelter and facilitated a depression support group. While these pathways were rewarding, she came to understand that “I was not meant to be the person dealing directly with clients. I took their pain home with me.”
With a renewed interested in marketing and public relations, along with a love of social work, she earned a MBA in nonprofit management from the Heller School at Brandeis University.
Kanshepolsky moved with her family to Utah in September 2008, when she took the helm of Local First Utah. The position is a win for Kanshepolsky, and a win for the local businesses of Utah.
“Not being native to Utah, it’s been really satisfying to me to be involved in something connected to Utah,” she says. “I also think I was hired for a reason… I really connect with Local First: educating the public and the government to buy local first and why that is an essential component of your community.”