We had the good fortune of connecting with Tarek Anandan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tarek, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
I started ATTIC, including ATTIC San Diego and ATTIC Los Angeles for one specific reason: to help make it easier for people to shop locally from small, independent businesses. Shopping small and shopping local are issues that are near and dear to my heart and issues that are incredibly important to cities and our communities. Here’s why I believe that to be true. My wife and I have done a lot of traveling in the past ten years and what we’ve noticed is that cities throughout the US — as well as those all around the world — are starting to look alike, at least in regards to retail. The same stores, the same restaurants, the same coffee shops in every city, whether you’re in San Diego, Los Angeles, Washington DC or New York. Chains have come to dominate our retail-scape. I find it sad. The experience of traveling to a place and discovering something unique and new is so much harder to have nowadays. (Again, I’m talking about shopping and retail — thank goodness for historical landmarks, museums and other natural wonders.) Shopping small means you’re supporting unique businesses, ones with their own character and style. ATTIC is meant to help local residents and tourists alike discover and patronize businesses that make each city a little more unique and a little more interesting. It’s meant to help keep our neighborhoods and shopping centers from becoming generic, cookie-cutter, big-box only retail centers. The second benefit is that shopping locally helps build your local economy, giving your own entrepreneurial neighbors and community members the opportunity to thrive. Further, you’re also likely to lower your impact on the environment by buying furniture, furnishings and clothing from local stores, especially if their products are vintage, manufactured locally or at least not shipped from half way around the around.
Please tell us more about your business. How did you get to where you are today business-wise. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I’ve started several businesses and while I’ve enjoyed some component of all of them, none of them were what you’d call a “passion project” until ATTIC. It started out as just a tool for me and my wife to shop from local vintage furniture stores. But then I shared it with a few friends and they encouraged me to keep going. I got the bug and worked tirelessly on it, night after night beside my sleeping wife. I saw an opportunity to make something original that could have an impact on how people shop and help local businesses thrive. Frankly, I didn’t see it as a business at all at the beginning. In my field of web and software development, it’s common for people to build tools and let others use them for free. That’s what I thought ATTIC would be. But then a bit of reality hit. We held an event to launch ATTIC and it was covered by the Washington Post. Suddenly, I was getting email after email from stores asking to participate. And as the website grew, the amount of work and resources necessary to keep it running also grew. I had to figure something out. Thankfully, an organization called the Awesome Foundation stepped up to provide an early grant and it was enough to give me a small runway. Five years later, we’ve got a model that is sustainable and growing.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My shoutout goes to every small business owner that has put their blood sweat and tears into trying to create and build something. Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. It’s hard and not for the risk averse. My shoutout also goes to every one of those business owners who have had to put their efforts on hold, or worse, to close a chapter. Unfortunately, the pandemic has likely hastened the march of generic, big box retail and made the challenge of running a small business harder than ever.