Tom Pollard is the founder of the local website Popular Pittsburgh. The site helps “interesting people find interesting information” on everything Southwestern Pennsylvania, from attractions to history to events for kids.
What part of Pittsburgh are you from and how did you get started?
I’m from the West End of Pittsburgh in a section that was called “Chicken Hill.”
I think I got the entrepreneurial bug from running a Kool-Aid stand when I was seven years old. Before launching Popular Pittsburgh, I did photography, operated a souvenir company, and was involved with designing and producing Christmas Ornaments. I’m still involved with my ornament company, Tom Pollard Designs.
What inspired Popular Pittsburgh?
Seven years ago, I had a few occasions where I was looking through websites for information and thought, “I can do better!” I started working on it and two years later it went live.
The site helps interesting people find interesting information about the attractions, events, history and urban legends of Southwestern Pennsylvania. We also have a great section for kids with stories and coloring pages that are built around our ‘Burgh Buddies characters.
How has Popular Pittsburgh grown over they years?
Our monthly numbers grew slowly until April 2013 when we added a writer to our team. That month, I had around 4,000 visitors a month. By April 2014, we had 10,000 visitors a month. This past month, we had 17,500. It’s due to our consistency – around 10 new articles a month. With a writer on staff, an illustrator building our kids department, and office staff to keep things moving forward, our numbers continue to grow.
Who is your target audience for Popular Pittsburgh?
We write for people who want to discover Pittsburgh. Young students, tourists or business people who came here for the job opportunities…all are welcome. Even lifelong Pittsburghers who might want to research some of the things that have been in their life for years. We keep adding new content every week to keep up with a Pittsburgh that keeps reinventing itself.
How does your company use the many social medias of today?
We’re involved with Facebook, Twitter and monthly Constant Contact newsletters. These help us to keep people informed about our new content. While we have a Pintrest account and an RSS feed, additional staff will be necessary before we can put very much energy into those functions.
How do you feel about social media?
For every small business that I know that are making money with social media I know five that are trying to make money with social media.
What is your biggest strength?
What I do really well is find good people to work with me. My staff consists of an artist, an office administrator, an assistant, a bookkeeper and a business coach. I’m very lucky to work with these people. Popular Pittsburgh wouldn’t be the same without them.
What is your biggest weakness?
Time management. Keeping my “must do list” current and relevant.
What was one of your proudest moments for the company?
One of my best moments happened at 3AM one winter morning. I was finishing working at my computer and decided to check out my Google Analytics before calling it a night. In real time, I was able to see that my site was being viewed from someone in India reading an article about the Indian community in Pittsburgh. Some time later, I got a call from a woman who told me that she and her husband had just moved here from India and she had some questions she wanted to ask me about the area. She went on to say that she learned a lot about the area from reading Popular Pittsburgh. I got a kick out of that.
What was one of your worst moments?
I can’t think of a worst moment. I’ve been very fortunate and lucky because I have a great staff that keeps those moments from happening.
What can we expect from Popular Pittsburgh in the future?
When the site went live, I told myself that when I had 100 articles up the site would be substantial. We now have over 200 articles on the site and I now realize that we are just scratching the surface. Every month our goal remains the same. Every month we ask ourselves, “What are we going to do this month to make Popular Pittsburgh a better website?”