Barbara Pantuso, Hey Neighbor, Woman Entrepreneur
Barbara grew up everywhere maybe that is why she created Hey Neighbor, a platform to share and connect with your local community. Her father was in the food service business for stadiums and during her youth stadiums were cropping up everywhere. She literally moved fifteen times before she turned 18. Going to Cornell for college was the first time in her life that she stayed somewhere for a significant period of time.
After graduation Barbara moved to Italy to become a pastry chef. At Cornell she majored in the restaurant management school which is possibly the best in the country. Leaving Italy for San Francisco to become a chef and eventually run a restaurant. She considered going to Harvard to get a MBA, actually got accepted and two weeks before school began she decided it wasn't for her. Her family was not too pleased but she went to Asia where she traveled for six months contemplating what was next for her.
Upon returning, her friend was starting up an interactive biz and she joined the party. It was 1998 and the business was called 415. That was a time when interactive businesses were popping up everywhere. She rode the wave up and the crash down of that dot com era. She happened to be grounded in NYC on 9/11 and after that experience decided to move back east.
Having a passion for growing things she got a job in the Healthcare to build their digitial division. She helped bridge the gap for patients to learn about their treatments based on their diganosis. It was all about design and education. She left in 2004 to work with Frog Design which is a Global innovative company. Barbara came up with the idea for Hey Neighbor while she was there. Frog Design was happy to support her and gave her a leave of absence to start-up her company. Pretty amazing actually to know that as a young entpreneur she has something to fall back on if need be.
She came up with the idea of building a platform for neighborly sharing and collaboration. After posting a listing on Craigs list to sell her couch she realized the need for more localized information. It took a few days but eventually someone came down to Harlem to the West Village to get her couch. Her neighbor saw the couch and asked if she was just moving in. Barbara said she had been there for a while but was selling her couch. The neighbor was bummed because she said if she knew, she would have bought it. Hmmm. An idea was spawned.
All information at Hey Neighbor is user generated and defined through your zip code. Collaborative consumption of neighbors helping each other from micro favors such as a need for a ladder or folding table of even a bundt pan. Bigger ideas such as planting flowers on the block to needing to find a good dog walker. The biz is centralized with peer to peer favors as well as possible group buying opportunities. Suburban and urban life becomes more efficient. Environmental benefits provides cost savings that because it shortens the distance to solve problems which can be as simple as selling a couch.
I love that Barbara followed her passion for food first and then evolved through the 1.0 Internet generation being involved with three start-ups and eventually putting her roots down in NYC and creating Hey Neighbor. For someone who has been somewhat of a nomad, Hey Neighbor speaks to her desire to create something that she didn't have growing up. Here is hoping that Hey Neighbor unlocks neighborhoods everywhere.