Five Questions For: Joah Spearman, Founder of Austin’s Localeur
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not homeowners. There wasn’t sustainable marriage. I felt like if I could own my own business, I could build something of my own, something I call my own and no one could take it away from me. When you’re an entrepreneur, the number one thing you can have is believing in yourself. When you look at a story of poor black boy without a father, all these people have a lot of self-belief. The self-belief that I needed to have to make it out from where I was trained me to be an entrepreneur.
X: How do you define success?
JS: Getting aligned with whatever your sense of purpose is. I really love supporting and creating entrepreneurs. I’m talking not just about tech, but business owners, bars, musicians that have their own businesses. I created the fashion part of South By Southwest, helping these emerging designers. With Localeur, I feel like I’m going helping local businesses.
Other thing I’m passionate about is place. A lot of people focus on people; I really focus on place. That’s the reason why Austin has the creative energy it has, Silicon Valley has the tech scene it has, [and] New York has [the] finance/media scene. I love supporting local business.
I lived in [Washington,] D.C. for a little under four years. One of the things I didn’t like in D.C., when you met someone, the first thing they asked was, “What do you do?” It’s all about the relevance to them professionally.
One of the reasons I moved back to Austin was the creative entrepreneurial energy I find in Austin. I ended up opening up a sneaker boutique in downtown. It was short-lived. It only made it a year, but I had the best interactions that I ever had with people. I made friends for life. There I was in Washington, D.C., thinking I was helping out the world, a part of American politics and all this stuff. I realized within one year of owning a local business that I had a bigger imprint on the city of Austin in that one year than almost four years working in politics in D.C.
X: If you get stranded on a desert island, what is the one thing you need to have with you?
JS: Definitely nothing involving technology. … What I would say is a really good book. [Martin Luther King Jr.’s] “Why We Can’t Wait”—I’ve probably read that book 20 times in my life. A really good book I can reread and uncover new things. It can give you hope, and if you’re on a deserted island, that’s kind of what you need.