In 2007 Aaron Kremer dipped into his meager savings to launch Richmond BizSense. For the first few years, the online news site was a tough sell.
"We had zero readers except my parents," he says.
Five years later his business is growing while traditional news outlets are contracting in a seemingly endless series of buyouts and layoffs.
Kremer employs three full-time journalists with a fourth on the way and has built a following of readers and advertisers. Moreover, the site regularly breaks stories. "I think we do a lot of work that's not going to see the light of day if we don't go out and dig it up," he says.
While the site's sharp coverage helps guide the business community through a recession, Kremer has highlighted fledgling city businesses, giving startups a boost in the process. "It's not just covering scandals — although we're very good at that," he says. "We also point out a lot of interesting ideas that people have had, and when we cover them, they get a lot of positive results."
Kremer, who also has found time to volunteer, says there's no secret to his website's success. He says he just identified a "huge, huge hole" in local business coverage and tried to fill it. Most cities this size have a weekly business journal that competes with the daily paper. The last such journal in Richmond, Inside Business — sister to Style Weekly — has kept publishing in Norfolk but folded here in 2002.
Kremer says he had a holy-cow moment when he first realized his website was verging on success. "You think, 'Surely it's harder than this,'" he says. "You wonder how could someone like me start a business, and how could it then actually work."