Businessman Vernard Alexander of Homewood is known in his neighborhood as the "Connecting King,” because he uses online platforms to share information about jobs, housing and funding sources to help others in his community.
Alexander spoke with 90.5 WESA’s Elaine Effort for our series 90.5 WESA Celebrates: 90 Neighborhoods, 90 Good Stories.
Below are excerpts of their conversation.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Alexander on how he has used social media to crowdsource start-up funds for local businesses:
I have around 15,000 people that follow me on social media. So, I host a variety of different business and social networking events that usually bring out a good crowd. I'll give you an example: about a year ago I hosted a happy hour fundraiser for an aspiring entrepreneur. She's an amazing chef. She needed some things to really help launch her business, equipment-wise and a few other things. So, I hosted a happy hour event on her behalf, and her family and friends and my network came out to support the event, and, within a three-hour span, she raised almost $1,500 toward the launch of her business.
It gave her everything she needed and then some to purchase all the necessary equipment that she was lacking, to register her business with the state, to help with some of the marketing. And she has been off and running ever since.
Alexander on how he uses social media to connect employers with prospective employees:
I use my social media platform to post job openings for folks who are looking for entry-level positions, mid-level positions, or even executive-level positions. I helped one young lady through a post on my page obtain a new position; she was a Ph.D. student, and, through the listing that I put on my social media page, she interviewed, was hired, and she received a $40,000 bump in salary from her previous job—simply because of the post she read on my social media page.
In addition to that, I have a housing list that is forwarded to me every two weeks, and it has housing in pretty much every corner of Allegheny County. I post it on my page, and it's a good resource that's usually shared by 50 to 70 people or more every two weeks because so many people are looking for housing.
Alexander on what motivates him to use his online presence to help connect members of the community:
I just have a passion for helping people. I have a passion to help people within our community, to get any type of answer to the questions that they need [answers for]. So, I'm all about encouraging, empowering and motivating people within my sphere of influence.
I guess I just get the satisfaction of helping people. Helping someone solve a problem; helping someone get the answer to a question; helping someone find a resource that they need that will help them get closer to achieving one of their goals. Whatever I can do to help affect change in our community.