Rhyan Pietromonaco said that Proud Local is different from many of the other Junction program start-ups.
While others were conceived prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, this is a product of it.
Pietromonaco said he and co-founder Sarah Elstone put it together out of a passion for local businesses. What kicked the idea into high gear was seeing the number of businesses closing down because they couldn’t hold out during the pandemic.
“To me, it was just kind of a shame because all these people put in their life’s work and their savings and their dreams into this,” he said.
Pietromonaco has a background in accounting and business development. He said that’s what drives him; getting to know the business owners and showing them there are people out there who want to help.
“I could be a small tip in helping to keep them alive, or like I like to tell them – ‘survive, but then also thrive into the future,’” he said.
There’s a public desire to support local businesses in times of need, Pietromonaco said. So, he and Elstone decided to create a platform that would raise awareness and tell the stories of local companies.
That’s what separates Proud Local from other business awareness platforms: They tell stories, Pietromonaco said. He said they’ll shoot videos, do interviews so patrons have a connection to the people they’re buying from.
“So, if people walk into a store, they kind of knew the owner of so on, and then you kind of make an emotional connection,” he said.
It’s free for local businesses to sign on, but there’s a membership fee for the public. Businesses have their own landing page with pictures and bio and any other information. There’s a spot on the platform for businesses to access discounts that help them do business
The fee for members is to cover costs and create a sort of exclusive community, Pietromonaco said.
They also provide social media posts promoting members and email newsletters to help support the local small businesses.
Breaking through with Junction
Pietromonaco said he’s started a couple of ideas in the past, but he hadn’t moved them very far forward.
He said working with the Platform Calgary Junction program helped him prioritize tasks and create important targets for his business to hit.
“Even small things like keeping track of the data that I have through the platform is huge when it comes to next steps,” he said.
The goal over the next couple of years is to build out the Calgary version of Proud Local. He wants to build out the membership base to attract more businesses and vice versa.
Then it’s on to other Canadian cities, Pietromonaco said.
“That’s the goal, to get into to different cities, and certainly become the go-to name, and recognizable brand,” he said.