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At 22 years old, Nan Seymour discovered entrepreneurship in a job that was only intended to get her through college. Soon after becoming manager of the Great Harvest Bread Co. store in Holladay, the owner offered her the store. Seymour was an English major, with an emphasis in poetry, but this passion took a back seat and for the next 17 years she was a local business owner.
Seymour says she turned her store into “a gathering place for the community.” Young locals might recall Colonel Wheat, the mascot that accompanied her on the community education program she created and conducted at 40 local schools. Through this program, thousands of students learned about wheat and the baking process, and took tours of the bakery.
Seymour also co-created a collaborative marketing effort with other Utah-based Great Harvest Bread Co. owners to maximize purchasing power and marketing efforts. It was this experience that taught her that “strong-willed and fiercely independent business owners” can find common ground and work as a collective.
This is a lesson that has served her well in her latest endeavor as executive director of Local First Utah. The role seems hand-picked for her passions and talents. She describes Local First Utah’s mission as a “movement of collaborative partners,” whose membership is encouraged to purchase goods and services from local Utah companies before seeking it elsewhere. Members are also encouraged to seek advice from one another and view competition as a strength. They can provide each other with mentorship, resources and funding.
The walls of the warehouse housing Local First Utah are lined with pictures of members, some of which trace their origins to local farmers markets.
Seymour’s experience and enthusiasm give the movement a professional ambassador. Local First Utah operates on her personal philosophy, which she describes as “showing up for people and causes that matter.”
Blending personal passions with her professional goals proved difficult. It took three attempts over 25 years to earn the degree she bypassed to become an entrepreneur. True to form, she pursued her passion and earned a degree in English, with an emphasis in poetry. She describes her experience as a 42-year-old undergrad as “awkward” and a “privilege.” It also serves as one of her proudest moments and one of her biggest accomplishments.
She credits her mother with providing an “example of strength and resilience” and describes herself as a committed parent to her 18-year-old son and her “rescue doglet” from the Humane Society.
A true local, Seymour prefers to vacation in Utah’s national and state parks. She points to her recent backpacking trip through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument as an ideal local experience.