Start, Stay, Grow: Entrepreneur Amy Blain Helps Computer Users At

By Steve Tarter
Journal Star, Peoria, Ill.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Amy Blain’s website which promotes her community of Peoria, Ill. is growing, expanding and committed to region. Blain shares how got up and running and why it is so successful.


Peorian Amy Blain seems to have quietly accomplished the impossible: She’s put together a local website that actually turns a profit.

Her site, started up 11 years ago, focuses on area entertainment events. With a click of a mouse, a viewer can find out what’s playing on a particular day of the month.

Blain, 54, doesn’t qualify as your typical computer nerd or high-tech honcho. She served as the Peoria Civic Center’s marketing manager and worked in television production. She’s also held a number of area sales jobs including a stint as regional sales manager for the WHOI-TV station in Peoria back when it was known as Channel 19.

But Blain was drawn to setting up her own online business.”I was always fascinated by the internet,” she said.

That fascination led her to start a site at about the same time that Discover Peoria was launched. That site was sponsored by such big-name local entities as the chamber of commerce, economic development council and job network.

While the better-funded site soon ran into problems, Blain soldiered on alone with hers, learning what worked and what didn’t. “I had a business directory and a classified section at one time but I took those out. I learned you can’t be all things to all people,” she said.

Instead, Blain settled on letting people know what entertainment was available locally. While there are free listings, there’s also plenty of advertising. Last year, video spots called entertainment reports were added.
“Frank (her husband who produces video for the Peoria Civic Center) shoots them in personable ‘Mr. Rogers’ style,” she said.

ExplorePeoria has built up a list of 17,000 subscribers who get Blain’s newsletter every Thursday that features what’s happening over the weekend in the Peoria area.

“I built that list by doing ticket giveaways. Recently, we just gave away tickets to the monster truck show in town,” she said.

In addition to the ExplorePeoria site, Blain operates a YouTube channel and Facebook page as well as a separate coupon site, “Coupons have been a challenge for me. It can be hard finding enough different advertisers,” she said.

While Blain figures her online efforts have seen business revenue and visitors numbers grow each year, now allowing her to earn between $40,000 and $45,000 a year, she likes to stay involved with her readers as well as her advertisers.

“I try to be personable. When I call somebody to tell them they won tickets to a show, I want them to realize it’s me, not some big corporation,” said Blain.

“My other challenge is to find ways to get new subscribers. The next step is to focus on Instagram. That’s what so many of the young people are on. My daughter tells me that Facebook is like writing a letter these days,” she said.

Cathie Neumiller, the marketing/communications VP for the Peoria Riverfront Museum, believes in the effectiveness of the ExplorePeoria site. “If we find an event is lagging in ticket sales, we’ll send out an email with ExplorePeoria to fill it. Her viewership is an important part of our marketing audience,” she said.

Jen Parkhurst, theater manager for Corn Stock Theatre, calls Blain a computer crusader. “Amy is one of those pioneers who was way ahead of the cutting edge in promoting the city of Peoria digitally. ExplorePeoria was, to my knowledge, the first of its kind, and to this day, the most comprehensive site for activities in the Peoria area,” she said.

Blain also gets a rave review from Peoria Players. “For every show, ExplorePeoria produces an entertainment report, a video which showcases our current show along with interviews with the director and cast members,” said theater manager Nicki Haschke.

Kathy Bush-Wuthrich, whose agency represents the Avanti’s restaurant chain, is another Blain fan. “We could not be more pleased with what she promises versus what she delivers. She has a good following and it is increasing. She sends us monthly reports and I’m always amazed,” she said.

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