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Azavea hiring to keep up with growth, new projects in Philly and Toronto

Robert Cheetham, founder and CEO of Philadelphia-based geospatial analysis firm Azavea, is all about good growth. "We hire conservatively. We're not a venture capital funded company. We grow based on cash flow and the amount of business coming in, so there's not much margin for error."

His company is currently in the process of building staff. Some positions have recently been filled, while others are in the resume review stage, and still other positions are yet to be posted.

Azavea has built a strong reputation for merging geographic data with web and mobile software. Its high profile projects include the recently released PhillyTreeMap, which can easily be adapted to any city in the world and was funded by a research and development grant from the USDA; PhillyStormWater, to assist the Philadelphia Water Department's Green Stormwater Management Initiative, and a yet to be launched open source redistricting tool for implementation anywhere in America.

Azavea has just added several administrative and marketing assistants, a Graphic Information System (GIS) Analyst and a web designer. "We have grown every year we've been around," reflects Cheetham. "The last 2 years were relatively slow. Last year was 6 to 7 percent growth. The year before, nine percent. This year we're on track to grow 20 percent."

The secret of Azavea's growth is a mix of spending on business development and marketing through lean times, along with the lucky decision to hire a dedicated grant proposal writer just as the recession began. "We didn't necessarily anticipate the recession," says Cheetham, expanding Azavea nationally as well as internationally, with a recent job for the City of Toronto. "We get a fair amount of federal R&D work," says Cheetham, and while that's not the most profitable sector of the business, it's good for cash flow and pays for research that lays the groundwork for applications that can be adapted to any city or region in the world.

Azavea is always looking for great software engineers, a job sector that has remained fairly recession proof. In comparison, administrative job listings yield hundreds of resumes, and as a result, Azavea has developed a tool to select applicants. "We have crafted a questionnaire that requires job seekers to go to our website and look at the projects we do," says Cheetham.

Those who make it to the interview round have a much better take on Azavea's work and environment, and are able to explain exactly why Azavea is the right fit. It's almost like a college application, says Cheetham, who adds that he asks would-be employees where they heard about the job opening, allowing Azavea target the most effective places to advertise. Maybe there's a future app: Azavea Management Map?

Source: Robert Cheetham, Azavea
Writer: Sue Spolan

Science Center welcomes five early stage companies in lifesci, investment, and medical devices

Days before longtime tenant BioNanomatrix announced its move to San Diego, the University City Science Center recently welcomed five new companies, and continues to be an incubator for both startups as well as international companies wishing to establish a U.S. base and national companies hoping to move into the Philadelphia market.

The new tenants include life science companies Longevity Biotech, Claremont, and Epitek, Inc.; investment firm Karlin Asset Management; and Parsortix, Inc. a French company that specializes in the transportation and medical equipment sectors.

Scott Shandler is co-founder of Longevity along with Dr. Sam Gellman of the University of Wisconsin. "Longevity develops market leading, novel therapeutics for both rare and widespread diseases," explains Shandler, who has a dual background in finance and biochemistry.

Longevity's primary product is the proprietary Hybridtide platform, developed at Gellman's academic lab in Wisconsin, enables the development of new therapies to treat a range of diseases including primary arterial hypertension, small cell lung cancer, type II diabetes and HIV, according to Shandler. Longevity currently has a contract with Fox Chase Cancer Center. "The exciting science in Dr. Gellman's labs together with the increasing lack of products within the Big Pharma pipelines led me to commercialize this line of work," says Shandler.

Claremont's sole employee is Blandine Chantepie, the U.S. director of sales and business development. Chantepie fell in love with Philadelphia in general and the University City incubator in particular, having already occupied space at SciCenter while working for Claremont parent company Ballina Capital group.

Claremont's two divisions have quite different client bases. Its medical device division manufactures a laser for dental use. "They have been selling around the world, and are strong in Europe and Korea," says Chantepie. Now the company wants to make inroads into the U.S market. Already past the hurdle of FDA approval, it's just a matter of setting up a sales and distribution network, which is already showing early success. Chantepie cites the proximity of Penn Dental School as a selling point for the company's location.

Calremont's train parts division looks to Amtrak and SEPTA for major contracts, and Chantepie says that Philadelphia's central spot along the heavily travelled Northeast Corridor is ideal. Many of Amtrak's corporate offices are right here in Philadelphia in the floors above 30th Street Station. Chantepie anticipates hiring employees within the next six to twelve months.

The remaining three companies moving into the SciCenter are early stage investor Karlin Asset Management, a Los Angeles based firm with $1 billion in equity capital; life sciences firm Epitek develops treatments for radiation exposure and methods of radiation prevention, and Parsortix is a particle separation company founded in 2006 that is developing applications for stem cells, oncology, pre-natal diagnostics and bacteria.

Source: Blandine Chantepie, Claremont; Scott Shandler, Longevity
Writer: Sue Spolan

Move over ice cream man, Healthy Carts are coming to Philly neighborhoods

Some Philadelphia neighborhoods have no choice about the food residents can buy. Corner stores stocked with sugary and salty processed snacks, Chinese take-out and pizza shops are the only options in many low-income areas of the city. The city's brand new Healthy Carts Initiative offers a solution to food deserts as well as providing employment to vendors.

"The program came out of the Get Healthy Philly Initiative," says Healthy Cart Coordinator Rachel Hynes, who is now accepting applications from individuals and organizations. "We approved the first five applications last week." Ultimately, the goal is to set up 20 vendors in this first pilot year.

Healthy Cart operators receive free small business training, waived fees, a streamlined inspection process and free EBT machines, which allow processing of debit, credit and food stamps/SNAP cards. "We are covering the minimum monthly EBT fees through March," says Hynes.

Vendors will be allowed to sell cut fruit and vegetables, as long as the chopping occurs in an approved kitchen. The initiative is administered by the Office of Food Protection, a division of the Department of Public Health, and the same group that oversees the city's growing fleet of food trucks.

To figure out which areas get carts, says Hynes, the Healthy Carts program employs a GIS (Geographic Information Specialist) who has mapped out the areas which are most in need. It's a matter of finding a balance of where there's a need and where cart owners will be successful, according to Hynes, who used the Green Cart program in New York as a springboard but added more features to the Philly program.

Cart owners can make a living wage, says Hynes, if they are out seven days a week and establish a routine. Vendors need to come up with their own business models and are responsible for sourcing, purchasing, storing and displaying their goods, with training from the city. Healthy Carts plans to partner with local community organizations and recreation centers to promote the new program.

Source: Rachel Hynes, Healthy Carts
Writer: Sue Spolan

Welcome to Quorum, the Science Center's clubhouse for entrepreneurs

"I was a Science Center squatter," says Han Cao, founder of life sciences startup Bionanomatrix, now valued at $40 million. It's success stories like these that inspired the new Quorum at the University City Science Center. Back when Cao was a struggling scientist, he occupied virtual office space at the SciCenter. But when rent money dried up, Cao camped out anywhere he could, hiding behind a column in the lobby or setting up shop by the coffee machine.

The Quorum is a well-appointed series of rooms that can be opened into one big space or divided into smaller areas. With a sweeping view of the city, SciCenter CEO Stephen Tang calls the space a clubhouse. "We acknowledge the universal need to meet people," says Tang, who feels that face time is an essential part of business success. With so many electronic ways to connect, meeting in person is harder when you don't know where to go.

Philadelphia's business and government leaders were present last Thursday to bless the grand opening of the 4,000 square foot Quorum, including Mayor Michael Nutter, Duane Morris attorney Richard Jaffe, who is the outgoing SciCenter Chairman of The Board, Craig Carnaroli, who replaces Jaffe in that role in addition to his day job as executive vice president of the University of Pennsylvania; Mel Baiada, founder of BaseCamp Business, and State Representative Jim Roebuck.

Upcoming events planned for the Quorum are designed to unite area business leaders with entrepreneurs; on June 20, Smart Talk: Adventures in Entrepreneurialism, Deloitte Fast 50 Secrets of Success features CEOs from some of the region's fastest growing companies giving advice to hopefuls who may one day be able to tell their own mutli-million dollar success stories.

Source: Han Cao, Bionanomatrix; Stephen Tang, University City Science Center
Writer: Sue Spolan

Code for America loves Philly, again

Philadelphia has made the cut, and is one of 10 finalists for the 2012 Code for America program. A national initiative that launched last year, Code for America links programmers with city government to create new avenues for civic participation. Philadelphia is a 2011 Code for America city, and Jeff Friedman, Manager of Civic Innovation and Participation for the City of Philadelphia, says Philly is all but assured a back to back nomination for the second year in a row.

Philadelphia's coding project is still in development, and you can get a sneak preview of the tool on June 15 at the Municipal Services Building. Friedman says the fellows began in earnest in January of this year with a month of orientation in San Francisco, returning east to do requirements gathering, meeting close to 200 people, and participating in a hackathon. The program is expected to roll out this fall.

But, you may ask, what does it do? "It helps people get projects done in and outside of government," explains Friedman, who uses as an example his own East Falls neighborhood. "Let's say I want to get a playground for my local park. I start a project with the Code for America tool. Now I am a known quantity and people can join my project. Once I have opened it up to the world, I find that there are actually 37 people who also want to work with me, and I can also locate another 17 people in the city who have been identified as experts in recreational development."

Friedman calls the initiative a revamped version of a public/private partnership that helps compress the life cycle of civic projects. "It's in line with a lot of the work we've been encouraged to do in this administration. We're using a new term, civic fusion, to explain this phase of using Internet tools for localized utility."

Source: Jeff Friedman, City of Philadelphia
Writer: Sue Spolan

A mobile app brings the dead to life at West Laurel Hill Cemetery

Eternity just got a little longer and a lot more powerful, thanks to a new Android app. West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd has launched an interactive cemetery guide designed to run on the Samsung Galaxy tablet. It's a pilot program designed by WebCemeteries, and the first of its kind in the country. West Laurel Hill and its cross-river predecessor Laurel Hill have always been ahead of the times. Back in the 1800s, founder John Jay Smith envisioned a rural burial ground, away from the city. Before Laurel Hill, the only option for burial was in a churchyard. In 1836 and in 1869, Smith built havens for the heavenly in Laurel Hill and West Laurel Hill, creating verdant spaces that attracted families out for a Sunday picnic. There was even a train that stopped directly at West Laurel Hill for just such visits.

The idea of creating a non-denominational park setting for the dead caught on like wildfire in the 19th century. And then cemeteries pretty much remained the same. The great majority of memorial parks still do business on paper. West Laurel Hill has broken new ground in other ways, creating a scattering garden for loved ones' ashes, a green burial section, and a soon to be opened Jewish section. "We're proud of the fact that West Laurel Hill embraces new trends," says Deborah Cassidy, the cemetery's Marketing Manager. Working with WebCemeteries of Virginville, Berks County, on the mobile app, visitors can access photos, video, text and other information graveside. There is a built in GPS to keep you on track. Additionally, says Cassidy, the app will increase efficiency internally, allowing the office to go paperless.

There are a lot of famous Philadelphians buried at West Laurel Hill. So far, says Cassidy, about 25 of the cemetery's permanent residents are featured on the app. Videos were produced by Gillian Hurt of GH Video Communications, a Bala Cynwyd based production company. Preview some of Hurt's West Laurel Hill videos on architect Horace Trumbauer, hat magnate John B. Stetson, and Dr. John Thompson Dorrance of Campbell's Soup.

For now, visitors to the cemetery can check out one of six tablets running the app; Cassidy says plans are underway to release the smartphone tour as a paid app to the general public in the next six months.

Source: Deborah Cassidy, West Laurel Hill Cemetery
Writer: Sue Spolan

FLYING BYTES: SEPTA's TransitView, MAC founder raises $75M, and Phila. Printworks strikes chord

Flying Bytes is a recurring roundup of innovation and quick updates on the people and companies we're covering:

SEPTA launches TransitView

Back in January, we reported that SEPTA was weeks away from launching a real-time, system wide tracking program. The future is finally here. Like SEPTA's TrainView for regional rail, the new TransitView provides live updates on the whereabouts of buses and trolleys throughout the city. Also launched: SMS Transit Schedule Information, allowing customers to receive a text with the next four scheduled trips, and Schedules to Go, a mobile website function that provides information on the next ten scheduled trips.

Shah closes $72 million IPO with Universal Business Payment Solutions

Following a hot tip, we learned that Bipin Shah, creator of the MAC, was seeking $72 million for payments startup Universal Business Payment Solutions. On May 13, UPBS (NASDAQ: UBPSU) got its money. According to Shah's partner Peter Davidson, "we closed on 12 million shares at $6.00 per share. The underwriters have a 45 day option to cover any over-allotments, which they have not exercised to date." Investors include hedge fund magnate J. Kyle Bass, who purchased about 800,000 shares.

Philadelphia Printworks up, running, finding its market

The lovely ladies at the helm of Philadelphia Printworks are going full speed with their new T-shirt business. Co-founder April Pugh reports that most of PPW's customer base has come from custom work, particularly from local indie rock artists. PPW loves its rockers right back and offers a band discount. Pugh says she and partner Ruth Paloma Rivera-Perez are now seeking partnerships with retail outlets and will be selling at upcoming summer festivals.

Specticast expands with EuroArts partnership
Digital entertainment distribution company Specticast continues to widen its reach. The company, which we originally profiled back in April, announced an exclusive partnership with EuroArts, bringing live and pre-recorded events from Berlin's Philharmonie, The Sheldonian Theater at Oxford University, and Madrid's Teatro Real, according to Mark Rupp, SpectiCast president.

Source: Andrew Busch, SEPTA; Peter Davidson, UBPS; April Pugh, PPW; Mark Rupp, Specticast
Writer: Sue Spolan

Green data center at former Bucks County steel mill could create up to 1,100 jobs

On the banks of the Delaware River, a green data center is set to rise from the remains of an old steel mill. David Crocker, CEO of Steel Orca LLC, says that while demand for data centers is growing at about 18 percent per year, supply is growing at only 5 percent every year. With many older data centers becoming obsolete in the face of new technology and increased power requirements, Steel Orca's goal is to build the greenest data center in the world, powered entirely by renewable energy sources. "Three to five percent of all energy generated in the United States goes into data centers. You can appreciate that data centers have a responsibility to be as efficient as possible," says Crocker.

As power density increases, so do cooling requirements. Steel Orca's planned center near Fairless Hills in Bucks County will require 100 megawatts of power, with an ultimate goal of 300,000 square feet of 'white space,' the term coined to describe the area where the servers are located, with a total footprint of 730,000 square feet.

The data center is in now the planning stage. HP has signed on to lead the design and construction team, with help from GE, Gilbane Construction and Villanova University Professor Alphonso Ortega. Ideas in the works include a triple failsafe power system, river water as a cooling mechanism, solar panels and and wind turbine generation.

Crocker terms the future center "a source of technological renaissance in the Delaware Valley," eventually creating 1,100 jobs in Bucks County. Steel Orca has completed a first round of funding with more than 50 investors, and Crocker projects that the first phase of the center, with at least 50,000 square feet of white space, will go online in the second quarter of 2012.

Source: David Crocker, Steel Orca
Writer: Sue Spolan

New hive for all things local and literary, Apiary, launches next week

Heard of slow food? In the age of instant communication, there is a slow words movement at hand. The Philadelphia based literary magazine Apiary is set to release its second issue on June 3 with a First Friday launch party at The Painted Bride Art Center, which includes a screening of Apiary's public access show, The Apiary Mixtape.

The 150 plus page illustrated semiannual, brought to life by a $4,000 Kickstarter campaign, has quickly attracted top names in the city's literary community, including Jim Cory, Lamont Steptoe, Nina 'Lyrispect' Ball and Janet Mason, but even more impressive are Apiary's young contributors, who represent the great diversity of culture to be found in Philadelphia.

Lillian Dunn is one of the founders of Apiary and serves on the editorial team, which, she says, reflects the diversity of Apiary's content. "Two of us live in South Philly, one in North Philly, and one in West Philly." Apiary was partially inspired by a multicultural reading series run by co-editor Tamara Oakman.

"We started out of a desire to read something exciting," says recent Swarthmore College graduate Dunn, who considers Apirary a much needed central location for writing not seen elsewhere. "Literature is one way to access other people's reality. It makes your brain light up in a way that statistics don't."

The Apiary website has a comprehensive local literary calendar that will have your head spinning, listing multiple events nearly every day of the month.

Apiary's upcoming launch party at the Painted Bride promises a cross section of Philly literary scenes, a mission the magazine takes to heart, with MC J Mase III, members of the Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement, readings from Apiary authors, plus live music from Kuf Knotz and jazz trio Peace Love Power The Unity. Issues of Apiary will be available at the event or at these local outlets: Bindlestiff Books, Penn Book Center, Brickbat Books and Wooden Shoe.

Source: Lillian Dunn, Apiary Magazine
Writer: Sue Spolan

Academy of Natural Sciences and Drexel announce historic partnership

Sixteen tons of dinosaur bones. Let's start in a lab somewhere in the vast reaches of the Academy of Natural Sciences. Drexel University paleontology professor Kenneth Lacovara has been using the Academy's research facilities for over a decade.

The Academy of Natural Sciences and Drexel University have announced that they are joining forces. Pending approval of both boards, the Parkway stalwart will henceforth be known as The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.

Drexel will take over management of the Academy's $61 million endowment. It is an innovative strategy that could set a standard for institutional partnerships nationwide, says Gary Steuer, head of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy for the City of Philadelphia. Compared to its West Philadelphia neighbor Penn, Drexel has not had signature cultural facilities, adds Steuer.

In what Lacovara terms a win all around, leveraging scientific assets at both institutions, students and faculty at Drexel will have access to one of the greatest science collections, rated top-10 worldwide, and the museum will have access to Drexel's growing Media Arts and Design school to enhance exhibit design. Lacovara points to grad student Evan Boucher who digitally reconstructed and animated a 65 million year-old crocodile whose bones were discovered right across the Delaware in Sewell, N.J.

The Academy is "much more than a place for school trips," says Steuer, who views the Drexel/ANSP partnership as marrying a 19th century museum with forward thinking technological creativity.

Source: Ken Lacovara, PhD, Drexel University; Gary Steuer, City of Philadelphia
Writer: Sue Spolan

Lights, Camera, Ice Cream: Little Baby's rides into East Kensington

It's mobile punk rock ice cream with the cutest darn name. Little Baby's is pedaling into Philadelphia, courtesy of three guys who approach the creamery craft like a rousing cymbal crash. Little Baby's makes its debut on May 21, when the fledgling company rolls out its custom built multimedia tricycle at The Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby, a fitting location for what is sure to be a steampunk delivery system complete with music, lights and an ingenious regulatory-compliant system that provides hot running water, created by local sculptor Jordan Griska.

Little Baby's flavor roster reads more like a set list for a show, with options that include Earl Grey Sriracha, Balsamic Banana and Cardamom Caramel. And that makes sense, since co-founders Pete Angevine, Martin Brown and Jeffrey Ziga are musicians and artists, not formally trained chefs.

"It's been mind over matter," says Angevine, who is also a drummer. "It's a strange, engaging, intriguing kind of fun."

Based in East Kensington, Little Baby's is already generating buzz, with articles in Zagat's, Meal Ticket and Thrillist. The fledgling outfit has a loose agreement with Pizza Brain, which will provide storage for Little Baby's full offering of twelve to fifteen flavors. At any given time, the Little Baby's trike will offer 6 of those flavors on a rotating basis. Little Baby's will also set up at private parties and events, tricycle optional. And Angevine reports that Green Aisle Grocery, on East Passyunk Avenue, will carry the frozen confection if you need your fix and the trike's not out and about. For up to the minute info on Little Baby's whereabouts, check them out on Twitter and Facebook.

Source: Pete Angevine, Little Baby's Ice Cream
Writer: Sue Spolan

Gallery owner plants seeds of revitalization on Norris Square

Betsy Casanas is planting seeds in North Philadelphia. Using art as a catalyst for social change, Casanas has opened A Seed On Diamond Gallery on Norris Square. This past weekend, Casanas opened the gallery to the public with a show featuring two Philadelphia artists: Spot Lights Strobe Lights Street Lights is a multimedia work by Daniel Petraitiis, and H.O.O.F., Horse Owners of Fairmount, photography from Amanda Stevenson.

Norris Square is not your typical Philly arts destination, yet if you look on a map, Casanas' gallery is in an area surrounded by urban renewal, with Kensington to the east, Temple University to the west, and Fishtown to the south. Casanas, a muralist, teacher and community gardener, also co-founded Semilla Arts Initiative. "We've been taking over areas that have been neglected and abandoned," says Casanas, who along with fellow artist Pedro Ospina creates cultural celebrations, urban clean up projects, after school programs and student run community gardens. "I've lived in North Philly all my life," says Casanas, who was born at 4th and Somerset, an area unaffectionately dubbed the Badlands, with some of the highest crime rates in the city. Casanas got her degree from Moore College of Art and was the first in her family to graduate college.

A Seed on Diamond is housed in a formerly grand home overlooking Norris Square. Casanas and her two home schooled children live upstairs. "I was able to convert the first floor into gallery space," explains Casanas. Casanas neighborhood experience forms the basis for all her work. "I was painting when I was 14 and no longer allowed outside," explains Casanas, whose paintings are on a massive scale, sometimes stretching 13 feet in height.

Casanas is planning live events at A Seed on Diamond, and along with gallery shows, is bringing a new crowd to a formerly forgotten neighborhood.

Source: Betsy Casanas, A Seed on Diamond Gallery
Writer: Sue Spolan

New report details tourism's growing impact on Greater Philadelphia

For every dollar spent on tourism marketing, Philadelphia sees $100 in revenue, according to a new study highlighting the long term success of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Corporation's ad campaigns. The report, released by Longwoods International, provides dramatic evidence that marketing the city's image is serious business.

But wait, there's more ROI: according to the report, for every dollar spent on advertising, visitor spending created $6 in state taxes and $5 in local municipal taxes, a remarkable ratio of 11:1 in government dollars. Leisure hotel room nights have tripled in Center City, and since 1997, the city welcomes an additional 10 million visitors each year. In 2010, 37 million tourists came not only to see the Liberty Bell and the Rocky statue, but also to sample some of the local cuisine and enjoy the region's arts and culture.

The Power of Destination Marketing, written by Longwoods' CEO Bill Siegel, measures the impact of two tourism efforts in the United States: Pure Michigan and With Love, Philadelphia XOXO. Siegel, who has been charting Philadelphia's tourism marketing since 1995, spent a day in town recently to share the results of his study. "In 1994, Pew commissioned a study to find a replacement industry for job loss," says Siegel, who reports that results of the study pointed to a push for hospitality, something of an intangible in a city formerly known for Stetson hats and Botany 500 suits, among many other world famous manufacturers that closed or relocated in the 20th century.

Philadelphia's tourism marketing budget is between $10-12 million annually, the majority generated by a one percent hotel tax, with other sources that include funding from The Delaware River Port Authority, a regional marketing partnership with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and an assortment of grants. In 2010, tourism was responsible for $8.7 billion in visitor spending here. Siegel says of his findings, "It's an increase that runs against the rest of the nation."

Meryl Levitz, President and CEO of GPTMC, added that the city's post 9/11 campaign, Philly's More Fun When You Sleep Over, was the most successful of any tourism effort in the United States. "Philadelphia does better when times aren't as good." Levitz terms Philadelphia a resilient destination, and credits social media. "In travel, word of mouth is the most important determinant for success," says Levitz, who looks forward to a summer of tourism love, with upcoming events that include Philly Beer Week in June and the annual Welcome America celebration in July.

Source: Bill Siegel, Longwoods International; Meryl Levitz, GPTMC
Writer: Sue Spolan

Success is the main dish at Philly Side Arts

Some creative types are great with ideas, but not so great with promotion. That's where Philly Side Arts steps in to offer career building marketing and promotional services for individuals and businesses in the world of art. It's run by C. Todd Hestand, who is also a part time instructor at The Corzo Center for the Creative Economy at The University of The Arts.

"About five years ago, a group of friends and I would get together to talk about our artwork. None of us had a website or representation," says Hestand.

Hestand put up the starting capital to build a site in which every artist had his or her own page with images and contact information. "We found opportunities at a better pace as a network than being frustrated individually," reports Hestand, who has just relaunched the Philly Side Arts site with tiered membership levels. Basic membership is still free. For individuals, the initial entry level allows you to upload five images, contribute to the blog, write your own profile and identify yourself as a Philly Side Artist. Businesses, such as galleries and collectives, can post basic information and a logo. A Premium level upgrade, which is just $5 a month for artists and $10 for businesses, greatly increases the amount of information on member pages.

Growth since the tiered launch surprises even Hestand, who reported that during our short interview, two new premium members signed up.

"Membership doubled in April 2011," says Hestand, who counted at the time of the interview 500 artists and 100 businesses on the roster, with about 25 percent at the premium tier. "The point is that the economy is changing. We have to accept what the new economy is going to look like, and where the growth potential really is," says Hestand. "The easiest thing for people to approach as a new source of revenue or employment is to be creative and just make something. It's a huge emerging section of our economy."

Side Arts allows people to spend time creating, not looking for opportunities. As for the name, Hestand drew inspiration from Tony Hawk's skateboarding video game series. One of the skate parks in the game is based on Philadelphia's JFK Park, but for legal reasons, was renamed Phillyside Park. Hestand separated the word because he envisions a future where there will be a multitude of cities in the Side Arts franchise. Watch out, Chicago Side.

Source: C. Todd Hestand, Philly Side Arts
Writer: Sue Spolan

Bucks County Joomla developer Sitecats expands into Doylestown, hiring

You know a company understands customer service when its phone number is right at the top of the site. Sitecats Web Design must be on the right track, since it has grown out of its former office and set its sights on a larger market. The company, according to founder and owner John Ralston, was originally structured as a traditional freelance web design company, but with the advent of user friendly content management programs such as Joomla and Wordpress, he saw a business model that would allow customers to have the freedom to edit and create their own content.

"We're very proud that we have stuck with Joomla, and have become the area's authority on this CMS, based on our many hours of creating great sites with it. No other CMS has over 7000 powerful modules and components for just about anything a customer needs to do."

Formerly based in Souderton, Sitecats recently expanded to offices in Doylestown, where it counts among its clients Alderfer Meats,  Landis Supermarket, and the Heritage Foundation. The company is now centrally located by the Bucks County Courthouse with 9-to-5 hours "and a landline," adds John, who runs the company with his son Jeremy Ralston. Right now, Sitecats employs five, soon to be six.

"If our projections are right, we'll need to hire a new employee every quarter in 2012, after we're dug into the fiber of the Doylestown scene, according to Ralston.

Some marketing wisdom from Sitecats: when you're out networking, always sit at the table where you know the fewest people. Get heavily involved in the local scene.

'I started with the Main Streets group in Souderton, joined chamber committees, and even co-founded a brand new and very successful business networking group," says John. "We also advertise on local radio WNPV, where I have my own show Mondays at 11 a.m., that focuses on non-profits like Keystone Opportunity Center and Manna on Main Street."

Sitecats clients can sign up for training classes in Joomla along with the company's traditional offerings of site hosting and development.

Source: John Ralston, Sitecats
Writer: Sue Spolan
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