ALEXANDRIA — John Dockrey says rural America is dying.
The CEO and owner of What’s Up 24/7, a free social calendar, said it was the realization that small communities are struggling that inspired the creation of his business.
“We sit at home watching reruns and saying there is nothing to do,” Dockrey said.
There is a breakdown in communication between businesses, organizations and their communities, he said. The biggest problem is an overwhelming number of community calendars that offer only regional or local events.
“Every time you draw a line around it, you are done,” Dockrey said.
That's why What’s Up 24/7 is a calendar without boundaries.
What’s Up 24/7 lists community and event calendars into a single database, creating one site for people to visit for information on events in their neighborhood or anywhere in the United States. The site is easy to navigate, providing an easily searchable format that can target the communities the user wants to see.
The format is also easy for the businesses using the calendar to upload their events.
Robert Anders, chapter chair of SCORE, previously known as the Service Corps of Retired Executives, has posted several events on the What’s Up 24/7, including a fall workshop.
“It’s pretty user friendly,” said Anders. “Not only is it good for us, I think it is going to be great to have in the community.”
Dockrey said his calendar can be personalized to an individual user specification and it allows people to find everything in one place.
The shrinking rural communities that inspired Dockrey to create What’s Up 24/7 are also reflected in 2012 census estimates showing a population shift in one of every three counties as older generations pass away and younger generations gravitate toward metro areas.
Prior to his new company, Dockrey owned his own mortgage company from 1998 to 2007. When the economy bottomed out, he had to close his business.
“The hardest part was we had 45 employees that we had to let go,” Dockrey said.
Wanting to stay in the Alexandria area, Dockrey said he sent out 800 resumes.
“I had one interview,” he said in response to the resumes sent.
Eventually Dockrey went to work for Alexandria as the city’s economic development director and the chamber director. His experience with the chamber and economic development is one of the reasons he decided to partner with economic chambers with his new business.
“We never had money to do things for our communities,” Dockrey said.
While there is no cost to post events, businesses can advertise on his site at a reduced rate if they register through their local chamber. Dockrey will then give the chamber 10 percent of the revenue from the ad. Users posting to the site are also required to register — at no cost — which puts them in touch with a local chamber.
Dockrey is planning new additions to his site including a "bucket list" and other personalized features. He is also open to new ideas and working with companies that have suggestions for the site.
What’s Up 24/7 recently created a partnership with the Madison County Chamber and Kyle Morey, president and CEO, said it is a great concept.
“It’s a fun partnership,” he said. “We encouraged him to go out and quickly work to build a relationship in the counties around us.”
Dockrey has done more than visit other counties, he said he has recently visited with Colorado and Nebraska officials who are interested in using What’s Up 24/7.
“This thing is starting to stretch across the country,” he said. “This thing is getting ready to take off in a big, big way.”
Like Traci L. Moyer on Facebook and follow her @moyyer on Twitter, or call 648-4250
Getting Started 1. Visit Whatsup247.com and click "register" to create an account. 2. Register your organization by logging into your new account and then scroll to the bottom of the page and select "Register an Organization." You will be approved by the Madison County Chamber. 3. Post events by clicking on the "Create Event" button. You can post events for the entire year for free, and schools, not-for-profits and small businesses are encouraged to post on the site. 4. Adopt a widget for your website to publicize your event.