In Kelowna, Ashley Stone and The Village App team are using their community-building platform to encourage individuals, organizations, and municipalities to foster connections through real life interactions. Through asks, offers, and events shared on the platform The Village App aims to improve social ties, resource sharing, and service coordination within communities.
Ashley Stone is one of twenty five recipients of the Level Up Local Grant, offered by Prospera Credit Union and Accelerate Okanagan. We caught up with Ashley to learn more about her experience building a social platform in the Okanagan, challenges she’s had in her business, and how she’s leveraged the Level Up Local grant to support her customers.
What prompted you to start your business?
My entire family is entrepreneurial. I started my first business at just 6 years old, selling flowers from my moms garden, this evolved into a few other ventures as I got older. After highschool I attempted to escape the entrepreneurial lifestyle and pursued a career in nursing, however my entrepreneurial spirit remained strong.
In 2018, I had a surprise pregnancy that turned out to be twins. At the same time, my son was being investigated for autism, my mom was diagnosed with cancer, and my husband was working out of town. I needed hands on help, but asking for it felt awkward and overwhelming. Having worked in public health, I knew I wasn’t the only one needing access to a supportive network. People need community to not only survive but thrive, so I decided to create The Village App.
What makes Kelowna the best place for the Village App?
Kelowna, with its diverse population and influx of newcomers, provides a unique backdrop for The Village App’s mission. Many people face challenges finding connections, making friends and accessing support, making our platform particularly relevant. The potential for a culture of mutual aid thrives here, especially for those who don’t fit or qualify for any specific resources and depend on people around them to provide much needed support.
What makes your business unique compared to your competitors?
In a landscape that can be dominated by noise and negativity, The Village App stands out as a platform for genuine connections and real-world interactions. Unlike platforms filled with distractions, we’ve eliminated the comment section and algorithm, allowing users to cultivate their own experiences. This focus on connection touchpoints, trust-building, and meaningful interactions is what sets us apart. So while you might think you’re just borrowing something from a neighbour, what you’re really doing is creating relationships.
It takes a village to raise a business
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had growing your business?
Securing funding is undeniably a hurdle, compounded by the fact that merely 2% of funding typically reaches women-led teams. Adding to the challenge is the current economic downturn, which further exacerbates the situation.
Another hurdle is getting leaders to be trailblazers, taking that pivotal first step. We’re not inviting people to take a seat at our table, we’re inviting them to build the table with us. We’re fortunate to have discovered extraordinary people who genuinely embrace our solution but to ensure its sustained success, we need more believers as it takes a village to raise a business.
Has there been an individual that supported your growth as a business owner?
I couldn’t do any of this without my fantastic cofounder, Karen Olsson. She’s believed in me and this vision since it was a few ideas in a word doc and some pieced together mock ups. Without her knowledge, support and expertise, we wouldn’t be where we are today. We joke that we got “married” on the second date. We met twice via Zoom at the beginning of the pandemic and signed papers soon after. I couldn’t ask for a better cofounder.
How has the Level Up Local Grant helped your business?
Our journey started with supporting individuals, but we’ve evolved to embrace nonprofits and municipalities as crucial stakeholders. This expansion allows us to foster a comprehensive village of resources and collaborate with various partners to achieve a shared vision.The Level Up Local Grant provided the means to revamp our website, aligning it with our new target audiences. This enhancement ensures that visitors can easily grasp how The Village App can cater to their specific needs. As we continue to grow, I’m excited about the positive transformation The Village App will bring to how people connect and thrive.
You can grow your community with The Village App by registering for their platform. To learn more about The Village App, visit their website.