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San Diego Start-up Launches to Save Local Businesses

Riding the New York City Subway from work one day in 2013, Praveen Ramineni smiled; he had just finished his last day of work. After 6 years of working in private equity and corporate consulting, he had grown tired of the rat race, tired of the stress and tired of spending every day chasing money.

He spent a year in Chile before returning to his hometown of San Diego where he connected with a couple of friends from UC Berkeley. Together they decided to launch Golden Coast Mead, a local craft beverage company specializing in making fermented beverages from honey. While they launched with excitement, they immediately faced the struggle that all small business owners face: how do you compete against established brands and their large advertising budgets?

This problem stumped them for months. They tried every tactic in the small businessman’s toolkit without much success until one day they realized their most powerful asset was their story. Because they were passionate about their product, they were certain that if they could find a way to share their story, customers would follow. Through trial and error, they became masters of telling their story.

Fast forward a couple years and Golden Coast Mead is a San Diego success story. Praveen however, wasn’t satisfied. He realized that his struggle as a small business owner was a common one, and that his solution could help others, too. He needed to come up with a way to help local companies tell their stories and spread their passion.

Finally, an idea hit him. An online marketplace that does just that: storytelling for local brands. And just like that, Tell Market was born. Tell Market allows small business owners to record videos and publish directly to their marketplace. It gives small business owners an online, digital and mobile identity like they’ve never had before.

Take for example AWESOME Hot Sauce, founded by Daniel Urbaetis. He was one of the first merchants to sign up for Tell Market. As a small business owner, he would never have had the budget to build his own iPhone app. But with Tell Market, he essentially has an app of his own. Customers who download the app can now easily find Daniel, see his story, see the passion that goes into every bottle of hot sauce he produces, and then make purchases directly from the app.

When asked by SanDiego.com what his long term plans were, Praveen said “Launching a small business is hard. You work very hard to make something and then you just put it out there and hopes someone cares. Sadly having a good product doesn’t necessarily translate into success. You need a good story, something that people can connect with and share with their friends. We built Tell Market from the ground up to help small businesses sell through their story. Established companies may have large marketing budgets but they don’t have the raw authenticity of a young local artisan trying to make it happen. The more you can connect customers with that story the better.”

And so far, Tell Market is off to a good start. Since launching a few months ago, hundreds of local merchants have contacted them to join the platform and they have successfully raised angel funding from prominent investors including the founder of Lookout Mobile security and a senior executive from Quid, a portfolio company of billionaire Facebook investor Peter Thiel.

From UC Berkeley, to New York corporate life, to small business owner, to small business defender, one thing is clear: with Praveen leading the way, San Diego small business owners are in good hands.