SARA MAFFEY DUNCAN
Who hasn’t gotten a gift bag full of mass-produced tchotchkes and thought, “I’ll never use this!”? On the contrary, if you’re lucky enough to receive one of Inman Park resident Sara Maffey Duncan’s thoughtfully curated and beautifully presented boxes through her company, localhippo, your first emotion will likely be elation. The 33-year-old New Jersey transplant works with local artisan makers and purveyors to craft boxes for corporate conventions, weddings and even buildings to welcome new residents that help tell the story of our local community. Her driving force? “I want to make sure people know to shop local and that there is so much cool stuff being made in Atlanta,” she says. Here’s the story behind localhippo.
What led you to found localhippo?
It came out of what I was doing in economic development. I have a background working with small businesses, but I’ve also done business attraction and retention projects. I was receiving a lot of swag. I felt there was an opportunity to improve what communities were giving out to represent their cities because I knew so many small businesses existed. I make sure each box tells the story of the makers who are included.
What might one of your apartment welcome boxes include?
I always have an anchor item. For [a recent one on the] Westside, I had the Tipsy Vanilla Blueberry Jam from Preserving Place and tokens from Barcelona Wine [Bar] because residents can walk there. I also had Chattahoochee Coffee Company cards, and items from One Rooster Mongolian Bar, Le Fat and Relay Bike Share, since they’re all in the area. Why is it so important to support local makers rather than just finding some mass-produced goods? I grew up as the fourth generation of a family business up in New Jersey. To me, supporting local and mom- and-pop shops is literally at the heart of who I am as a person. That’s really at the center of why I wanted to do this with local people.
How did you come up with the name localhippo?
Obviously, the local part is because everything is hyper-local. My economic development career started with international development, and I’ve worked in Tanzania, for example, among other places. The hippo part is reminiscent of a sense of wanderlust and getting to know all these different places through the convenience of getting a box delivered to your home. You’ve been an Atlantan three years, but you’re passionate about this area.
Why does it feel like home?
I’ve moved a lot in my adult life, and coming to Atlanta was sort of a surprise. It was the first place as an adult where I immediately felt like I was a part of the community. And that’s only increased since I started doing localhippo. Getting to know the makers has made me love Atlanta for what it is now and what I think it will continue to become. You work out of Switchyards downtown.
Do you feel connected to other startup businesses there?
I think that Switchyards has such a creative entrepreneurial energy the second you move in. If you come visit, you feel the energy immediately. They have so many great events that showcase all of the different startups, especially in the downtown area. I’ll go and get a cup of tea and meet three people whom I can collaborate with. I also like being downtown because I feel that’s the underdog of Atlanta, and there’s so much cool stuff happening here.
Do you have an under-the-radar thing you discovered recently?
I took the Micro-Factory Tour at Xocolatl, and it’s awesome! They make chocolate from bean to the bar in about 200 square feet, and you get to see the entire process. I learned so much about chocolate. It was my favorite nerdy thing to do recently. I don’t think people even know that that exists as an option.
STORY: Jennifer Bradley Franklin
PHOTOS: Sara Hanna