Entrepreneurs can’t be successful without having a strong support system in place, especially during their business’s earliest stages. Like a seed planted in soil, no good idea – and there are plenty out there – can blossom without the proverbial water and sunlight helping it grow.
This week, VISTA.Today received the Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry’s 2018 Small Business of the Year Award, a testament to how far the platform has come in celebrating this wonderful region’s quality of place.
Launched in November 2014, VISTA.Today – an online platform that unceasingly shares Chester County’s positive, upbeat stories and, at times, makes the half-million people who live here all seem like next-door neighbors – was the brainchild of Ken Knickerbocker.
Knickerbocker knew Chester County would have an appetite for good storytelling, but he also knew, having worked for decades in sales, that he needed the capital and the connections to sustain his new venture.
To understand how VISTA.Today came to be, one must time travel back to the fall of 2013 when Knickerbocker was introduced to the Chester County Economic Development Council (CCEDC) by local author and historian Bruce Mowday.
For several years, Mowday had been helping CCEDC tell their story but the organization, driven by the goals of VISTA2025 – the ten-year economic development strategy for Chester County, was searching for a new model to share the county’s good news and happenings.
Two CCEDC staff members from that first meeting have continuously played a part in creating and sustaining VISTA.Today’s success – Marybeth DiVincenzo who serves at CCEDC’s Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer and Leslie Rylke – Marketing and Creative Services Manager.
Over the course of the next year, as the VISTA.2025 was being finalized, VISTA.Today was being formed. Early concerns ranged from the ability to curate and cultivate stories that highlighted the success and prosperity of Chester County to the ability to ensure the financial viability of VISTA.Today.
“We all know Chester county is a great place to live, work, and play,” said Gary Smith, President and CEO of the CCEDC. “Back then, we were looking for a way to highlight good commercial, community, and cultural news.”
What emerged from those meetings was VISTA.Today’s business model of the affiliate partnership program. “Marybeth not only encouraged me but also came up with our affiliate partner model,” said Knickerbocker. “She had been a great sounding board, champion and partner.”
Years later, it still sustains VISTA.Today, which has become a galvanizing force in the community. “We would not have gotten off the ground if not for the CCEDC,” continued Knickerbocker. “We value our close working relationship with them, and our collaboration was and remains critical to the success of our platform.”
VISTA Today is, indeed, a product of a great partnership. A partnership that has actually grown over the years to include the publication of CCEDC’s Weekend Edition. Working closely with CCEDC’s Rylke, each weekend Knickerbocker publishes a newsletter that showcases CCEDC’s impact in the region, highlights upcoming events, and asks a relevant survey question. In addition, the top VISTA.Today stories from the week are showcased.
“I met Ken within my first few months of working at CCEDC back in 2013,” said Rylke. “He has been a pleasure to work with all these years and I’m so pleased with his success with VISTA.Today.”
“Without Bruce’s introduction and the creativity and encouragement of the CCEDC, VISTA.Today would never have sprung into existence,” said Knickerbocker.
“We are happy to have played a role in launching and sustaining it,” added Smith. “We’re looking forward to what the future has in store.”