Text And The City: Newport, Ky. company connects communities with ads, coupons, event information

NEWPORT, Ky. - Text And The City is a Northern Kentucky company that connects residents to their communities with text-based advertising, coupons, community events and more.

Co-founders Shawn Blain and Steve Wallack moved the company from Cleveland to Newport in June 2012, attracted by the region's emerging UpTech program for entrepreneurs.

Blain, who has a background in marketing, advertising and sales, started the company as a mobile marketing service. The company evolved into a text service that encompasses the entire community ecosystem, from local business and food to shopping and entertainment.

9 Questions for Shawn Blain, co-founder of Text And The City

1. How did you come up with the idea for Text And The City

Text And The City started as a mobile marketing company in 2009 under the name Pinpoint Advertising Agency. We started selling mobile marketing services to small businesses, such as text messaging program and mobile websites. As we talked to people, we discovered that there was a need for individuals living and working in a neighborhood to communicate things going on in that community. Each small city has concert events, stores openings, car shows, farmer’s markets, fair and festivals. We decided to use mobile as the best way to communicate these events. Then we expanded on this idea by using mobile technology to encourage people to buy local. We eventually built a mobile platform called Text And The City to give individuals a place to find information about local businesses.

2. What do you offer that is unique or better than other local, mobile business marketing services?

Text And The City is unique because of the hyper local information. We have not found a product yet that combines events, mobile coupons, business directory and text messaging all in one package. We work closely with each neighborhood that we have in our program. Our product is a neighborhood resource for school information, parks, restaurants, landscapers, fun this to do etc. Anything that you want to know locally you can find it in Text And The City.

We also have some unique features of our product such as, Text A Business, a is two-way communication between the user and the local business via text messaging. This will be used for asking a question, scheduling an appointment or making a reservation. We also are in the process of creating a recommendation engine that would recommend a place for dinner or hair salon, based on your personal preferences.

3. What features do businesses and users seem most interested in?

Businesses love the opportunity to highlight what makes them special. We've expanded our directory to include business information such as menus, product listings, gallery of pictures and properties (for real estate agents) to name a few. Each local business gets a free listing and the ability to point out those features that make them unique. We will soon be offering the ability for customers to make reservations, schedule appointment or ask a question of a business.

Another feature that businesses love is geo-targeting. This is where a business can decide on a specific geographic area to send a message. For example, when a customer walks into their store they will be greeted with a message that lets them know that there are lamps on sale in the back of the store for 20% off today. All of our services are very affordable to the small business owner. For example our mobile coupons are $40/month, mobile ads are $50/month. We offer advertisers an easy way to step into mobile marketing

The biggest draw to our program for the user is the mobile coupons. All a user has to do is pull up a free coupon and show it to the cashier or server. We are different from Groupon and Living Social Those sites make the user pay for the coupon upfront, fill your inbox with unwanted emails and force you to purchase when you’re not ready. The consumer decides when they want to use the coupon and they never expire.

4. Why did you decide to apply to the UpTech program and move your company to Northern Kentucky?

We decided to apply for the UpTech program because of NKU College of Informatics. Our program is full of data and we felt the college would be the best way to organize and distribute that information. When we saw all the things the college had to offer we were very excited to come to Northern Kentucky. Since we are a technology company, we also felt that the University would be a great resource for recruiting students to our company.

5. Besides the funding, how has UpTech helped your businesses?

Uptech has supplied us with wonderful resources, such as a lawyer, Jeff Schlosser, Dressman Benzinger and LaVelle; accountant Mark DeSalvo,-DeSalvo and Company; public relations consultant, Joe Shields (Wordsworth Communications) and a banker, Andy Bucher of Republic Bank. They also gave us the best adviser anyone could ask for, Frank Caccamo, retired CIO of Proctor and Gamble. We met Frank at the first UpTech event introducing the winning teams. Besides Frank having impressive credentials, being technology minded and understood our concept; he was funny and easy to talk to. We hit it off right away. When we found out he was going to be our mentor, we were thrilled. Frank has a strong relationship with NKU and has been a key asset between the services the school offers and our development project.

6. Are you currently up and running in any cities, are you preparing to relaunch?

We do have a beta version of our product in the app store for Apple users, which launched June 1st. Soon we will be launching our product for Android devices. We are in Northern Kentucky at this time, with plans to expand to the rest of Greater Cincinnati in 2014.

7. How many markets would you like to be in by the end of 2014?

At this point we are only focused on Greater Cincinnati area for 2014. We do have plans in the future to grow to 8,000 communities in the nation.

8. What is your biggest challenge as you grow?

Product development is our biggest challenge. Just like building a house, technology start up projects always cost more money and take more time than expected. Are number one goal is to make our product affordable to the small business owner and an easy and enjoyable experience for the user.

9. What are your near future plans for Text And The City?

We are working on the finalizing our product and completing our database of local information. We also plan to launch our Android version in the next couple of months. 

Connect with WCPO Digital Contributor Feoshia Davis on Twitter: @feoshiawrites

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