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SHOWCASING SMALL BUSINESSES

BY AMY BARTLETT | PHOTOS BY ROB KAUFMAN

When Katie Silva tells the story of how her business venture began, she leans heavily into the networking angle, but the heart and impact of the brand have all the poetry, purpose, and personality we’ve come to expect from anything that’s Lowcountry Made.

“Lowcountry Made began creating pop-up markets during the pandemic to provide a safe platform for makers to engage with shoppers,” she said.

Silva had long known it was something the community needed, and her downtime during COVID, “provided the opportunity to put my time and talents into that need so I got to work developing a business plan. I wanted the LCM brand to promote and showcase our local creators and innovators, provide a platform and access to a creative marketing strategy and ultimately be a steppingstone for these b usinesses to grow.”

Lowcountry Made has grown into a small business incubator where entrepreneurs can bring their products to market and engage with the community. It primarily serves Bluf f ton, Hi lton Head, Beaufor t and Savannah. Lowcountry Made Port Royal launched this spring.

A SCAD graduate with a master’s and a background in arts and marketing, Silva is a prime candidate to spearhead the balance of business development, client relations and artistic flair the endeavor requires.

“I felt that entrepreneurs and small businesses needed someone in their corner. Lowcountry Made is that brand ambassador,” said Silva, who lives in Bluffton. “We partner with small businesses, providing an opportunity for shoppers to engage with the owner and maker directly through pop-up markets and events at host venues like Southern Barrel Brewing, Burnt Church Distillery, Lot 9 Brewing, and private communities like Haig Point.”

There are also monthly markets at city and town parks, including Buckwalter Park Place in Bluffton.

Having now facilitated more than 40 artisan markets since its inception, each LCM market provides:

  • An alternative to brick-and-mortar expenses
  • Up-to-date networking opportunities
  • Direct customer feedback and interaction not often available online
  • A chance to see what others are creating
  • An opportunity to learn about target audiences and building an ideal customer profile

Lowcountry Made isn’t just a sales platform, it’s a buzzing networking outlet for the homegrown.

“We want shoppers to feel connected and a part of the overall ‘support local’ movement,” she said.

Applications to be a vendor can be found on its website at www.lcmade.com where vendors are vetted for professionalism, craft quality, and the required South Carolina retail licenses.

“Supporting local is investing in your local economy,” Silva says. “When our small businesses are successful our area is successful, and it’s more than just buying local. It can be good reviews, referrals, engaging with sellers and offering them opportunities to grow their client list through your resources and circles.”

In addition to offering consistent sales and advertising opportunities, Lowcountry Made is advancing entrepreneurs through small business coaching, peer-to-peer networking resources, and relaunching the Lowcountry Made Collective in 2023.

“Ultimately my vision for Lowcountry Made is to be an accessible and highly effective marketing strategy and platform to scale your small business locally. I want to see businesses use these opportunities to increase their profitability, visibility, and brand awareness and grow their professional network,” Silva said.

Silva said the process has been “incredibly rewarding” and a huge professional growth opportunity.

“I created a way to be involved in the community while working from home raising my kids,” she said. “I think small business owners also felt alone in their journey and Lowcountry Made brought us together to contribute to each other’s growth. We have become a small business incubator, providing entrepreneurs a chance to gain a foothold in the community, create a business and a product, and bring it to market literally. Many of our makers and brands have gone on to launch local brick-and-mortar stores, run successful wholesale accounts, and become Lowcountry household names.”