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Rise Collaborative: Boosting small businesses

Through social media, two Canisius College graduates are contributing to the rebirth of Buffalo by promoting local businesses and cultivating a culture of growth.

Born as an online blog and apparel store that was an outlet for small businesses and nonprofits, Rise Collaborative has evolved into a promotional tool for businesses — and for new ways of thinking, say proprietors Kevin Heffernan and Drew Brown.

“Most of the credit to restoring Buffalo has gone to big developers, but we feel as though small businesses and nonprofits are the glue and the bond between communities that keep people here,” Heffernan said.

Through their blog, a mission was born when friends – many of them small business proprietors — used Rise Collaborative’s voice to get the word out. Heffernan and Brown quickly discovered that the most attention for Rise Collaborative comes from social media, and over time Instagram has evolved into their most effective medium.

As the mission has grown, other small businesses seeking a promotional boost have turned to Rise Collaborative to help get their businesses out there.

For example, last October bar/restaurant Buffalo Proper reached out to Rise Collaborative for help promoting its Sunday brunch. Rise worked with the restaurant to plan a brunch event with music, champagne and a party atmosphere, and promoted it via social media for a few weeks in advance. It was a huge success, they said, with attendance far outdoing any previous brunch. In addition, the owners of Renew Bath & Body were there and asked Rise to do something similar for their business. Later in December, Rise threw a party in their storefront on Elmwood that helped bring in a few thousand dollars in three hours.

Rise Collaborative’s goals for 2016 include more innovative promotion, increasing followers (currently 5,500+ on Instagram) and reaching beyond small businesses to benefit everyone in Buffalo.

“There are development projects, but minorities aren’t being hired for them. There are great things on the waterfront, but little is changing on the East Side,” Brown said, adding that he grew up in Buffalo with humble beginnings. “It’s my aspiration to make what we are doing accessible to that side of Main Street.”

On deck for Rise Collaborative is a new, free newspaper that will hit local coffee shops in October. Every article will have two authors covering a topic and proposing a different solution to a local social problem. The launch issue will take a look into poverty within Buffalo; Heffernan and Brown hope it will provoke thought and discussion.

One hundred percent of the publication’s proceeds, which come from small advertisers, will benefit an organization assisting Buffalo’s impoverished.

“We have noted that our followers aren’t spread all over the city yet. Print will ensure it can reach a broader age base,” Brown said.

“Right now we have done a decent job of getting attention from people who are just like us. We would like to take a leap to people who might live or think differently to contribute to our conversations,” Heffernan said. “This is what will drive a rise in collaboration.”

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