UpStart, an occasional column covering the business side of Mission Local

First published on Mission Local

Upstart # 1 Sales!


January 12, 2015 2:34 pm

I’ve just survived my first week as a saleswoman—urging local businesses to buy memberships in Mission Local and promoting ML with readers, too.

It hasn’t been pretty.

All my life I’ve avoided my family’s business. And now, here I am, in business and, of all things, selling. If my dad were alive, he’d be having a good laugh.

Quick background: I started Mission Local as a project at the UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism where I am a full professor, where I hold an endowed chair. But my real passion for the past six years has been this site. So when the school announced last year that it would stop year-round funding Mission Local (as well as the other hyper-local news sites), I decided to spin it off.  READ MORE

Upstart # 2, Feeling the Love (or Not)

Posted  January 19, 2015 10:45 am

There was big news last week: Mission Local is getting a hotdog named after it next month! If customers order the Mission Local hotdog only 360 times, Los Shucos, the Guatemalan hot dog café on 22nd Street will buy a $360 Mission Local business membership.

I’m now calling this marketing maneuver the Shucos move because it’s so damn clever – not an out-and-out rejection of my sales pitch, but a way to keep the conversation going and, not incidentally, boost its own sales. (For those of you just catching up to this column, I’ve jumped into selling Mission Local business memberships because doing so is part of our business model to stay alive and moving from professorship/editorial to selling is such a new experience that I’m also writing about it. You can see my first column here.)

The same day that Shucos outsmarted me, I got a message from someone – I’ll call him B – who had read my first UpStart column about venturing into sales, “felt my pain” and wanted to convince me that our members should use a new app keeping businesses connected. READ MORE


Upstart #3, Carlos and Me

Posted  January 27, 2015 9:40 am

I gave local businesses a break from my relentless sales campaign last week so the staff and I could concentrate on blanketing the Mission with 5,000 calling cards. We decided on some door-to-door outreach because lately we’ve all been meeting people who should know about us – they are interested in the Mission and what is happening here – but don’t. Yet.

Our gang of six, which included a few freelancers, divvied up the territory, picked up the box of flyers and headed out Tuesday morning. As I walked my plat of the Mission, my mind wandered: Isn’t this a job for a minimum wage worker? But would they dump the flyers in a bin? And, after too many stairs in the famously flat Mission, I began to wonder,  will I?

And then I began to notice the cards from Carlos, Landscaper, expert in trimming trees. He seemed to be one pace ahead of me, dropping them on the same steps, placing them carefully, name side up. I was not alone. After a few more blocks, I began to feel Carlos’s pain. And admire his persistence. I picked up his card.   READ MORE


Upstart #4, After the Fire


February 23, 2015 12:49 pm

If there was a silver lining to the horrific fire at 22nd and Mission last month, it was how it brought out the best in our community– the way people rallied around the GoFundMe campaign; the generous effort of local restaurants, organized by Tartine and Bi-Rite, to feed displaced tenants; and the genuine concern of residents that those tenants had everything from diapers to inhalers. Although we at Mission Local lost our offices too, we found it immensely fulfilling to be doing just what a local news site should do – keep everyone informed of the latest developments, including what all of us can do to support our neighbors.

We were gratified, too, to receive multiple offers of temporary space, and it looks like we will have a permanent home next month at the Mission Economic and Development Agency. We signed up some new business members, and many others emailed to wish us well.

So now it’s back to sales and the unavoidable bottom line: If we can’t get enough business and readers to join, we will cease to exist. No matter how clearly I think I’ve delivered that message, I still find confusion. No, we are no longer part of UC Berkeley. Yes, we are entirely dependent on reader and business support. READ MORE