#44. Rise Collaborative


A big reason why we do this is so that you know about and can meet some of the people that are working really hard to make Buffalo a better place for all of us. They’re working to promote Buffalo to people in our region, and to people outside of the area who may have some common misconceptions about what it’s like here in Buffalo. These guys are busy. They have a lot going on, but they’re having fun and they’re doing it because they really just want Buffalo to be better for everyone. We want you to know about Drew, Kevin and Bridget who are behind Rise Collaborative. They’re coming out with a FREE paper (tomorrow) and also have a big 90’s Halloween party that you are invited to. Read on to learn more about it, and them. We like this guys. We REALLY like these guys…

Meet Drew Brown

drew brown rise collaborative
“I was born and raised on the East Side of Buffalo, in Old Polonia. My grandmother actually still lives over there. I grew up with strong Polish traditions, and in a modest income family. I saw my mother go through a lot, struggling with poverty and getting out of that. Seeing the shift in crime that was happening in our neighborhood, my mother decided to move us out to East Aurora when I was about 11 years old. It was a culture shock for me, coming from the inner city. After high school I moved back to the East Side and attended Canisius College, and studied marketing. That’s where Kevin and I met. After college, I took a job working for a company that did large scale repossessions and appraisals. After working there for 6 years, I got burnt out. We thrived on a poor economy, so when the economy hit an upswing, we had some troubles. I’ve now been a resident of the West Side since college.”

“After taking about a year off, doing freelance design and photography, a job opening came open at Visit Buffalo Niagara (see Karen Fashana’s interview) for the position of Marketing Coordinator. It’s been a perfect fit. I have been having a blast for the seven months that I have there. I’m seeing a lot of great things, meeting a lot of great people and I’m getting to show off Buffalo to people that come into town.”

Kevin Heffernan

Kevin Heffernan - Rise Collaborative

“I grew up in West Seneca and went to Canisius High School. I didn’t really get too much of a feel for the city back then, other than Elmwood and Cleveland. I lived in the city for the first time while attending Canisius College. It pushed me out of the bubble and introduced me to a more diverse population and really encouraged me to travel, a lot. That changed everything for me. I spent some time in El Salvador, Germany, India – which really made me realize how small Buffalo is compared to the big world out there. And how some of the things that we worry about are so trivial compared to some of the things that other places in the world are going through. That, and Canisius set the conditions for me. I landed in Admissions for the three years following graduation, and was traveling to other cities around the country. I was seeing what cities like DC, Philly, Pittsburgh and New York were doing and accomplishing and seeing how they had taken ideas and implemented them. Then looking back at Buffalo and how the good ideas we have get squashed in the politics of it. That helped develop the idea that lives behind Rise which is that the perception of the city is one of the most important things that we have going for us when it comes to attracting people here, keeping students here. There has to be a fun vibe, a lot of things to do. It has to be an entertaining city, a welcoming city, a diverse city. That’s what the greatest cities in this country have and that is why people want to move to those cities. We want to highlight the things that make Buffalo an attractive place. The latest and greatest five-story apartment building downtown is not going to make someone want to move here. Converting AM&A’s into condos is cool, but nobody is going to move across the country because of that. We want them to say ‘wow, they have great events going on during the winter and an event every night in the summer. There’s always something to do”.”

“My role at Canisius led to doing some fun marketing projects on social media. That gave me a thirst and hunger to get into marketing. I got a start with The Martin Group, and ended up moving over to 19 Ideas to get a feel for the smaller startup environment. That’s where I am now.”

Bridget Schaefer

Bridget Schaefer - Rise Collaborative

“I grew up in Williamsville, the oldest of 5 kids. I didn’t really ever come to the city. I didn’t even know it existed. All I knew was Transit Road and 4 obnoxious siblings, who are now my close friends. I wanted to leave and go to DC and New York. I also went to Canisius and worked toward studying abroad. I went to Ireland. I really wanted to travel from there, but once I got there I found that I really just wanted to stay in Ireland. It was cool to immerse myself there. That was really eye opening for me. When I graduated I still wanted to leave town. But, I got a job at Channel 4 that I couldn’t pass up. That let me explore the city that I grew up near, but never got to see. I got to do it every day from 9-5, and I got to meet new people every day. I remained at the station and for 3 years. I now work at 19 Ideas as well, with Kevin and live in Allentown.”

“Kevin and Drew approached me in January about being a part of Rise. I was starting to work with photography and video, but I didn’t really have an outlet for it at the time. This gave me an opportunity. At the same time, I started Buffalo Music Cooperative with some friends, which Rise has helped a lot with, even just with our social media strategy. We focus on local musicians and give them an outlet for their music and let people know what they’re about. We do a video interview and share their story. We film it in all different venues around the city. Some of the bands we interviewed in Season 1 were Humble Braggers, Sixties Future, The Naturalists, Savannah King, Grace Stumberg, and The Tins. We want to branch into all areas of music in the city.  I think that we need to get behind local musicians more.”

Now tell us more About Rise Collaborative

Kevin: “We want to make sure that people here know that stuff is going on and how to support local businesses. We think that develops a strong identity for the city, and that’s something that we want to contribute to.”

Drew: “It’s also about making sure that it’s not just our demographic that is enjoying these things. We want to make this a renaissance for the people. For the people that have been here all their lives. For the people in every single neighborhood in Buffalo. It’s what makes that city a whole.”

Kevin: “One thing that we have made an attempt to do is include an event section on our website that promotes art openings and things like Allentown First Fridays. ”

Kevin: “We have thrown a couple of events that helped out local small business, like Renew on Elmwood and a really great one at Billy Club that also raised money for Roswell Park. I think that has become one of our strengths. But, with all of us working full time, it’s not something that we can do all the time. It’s tough to say what Rise can become because we’re almost at our capacity of what we can do outside of our 9-5’s.”

Drew: “It’s also tough to say what Rise can become because it has changed so much since it’s inception. It was about writing some articles about Buffalo and selling some t-shirts. The shirt think didn’t really pan out, but we still sell some now and then, but it’s not our business model. Rise was formed out of noticing that our friends that were opening small businesses weren’t getting the recognition for the Buffalo renaissance that the large-scale developers were getting. It was also about allowing us to explore the city on a personal level. We get to meet new people, see new businesses, go to community events and be an activist for Buffalo. I still feel like that’s my main mission.”

Kevin: “It’s not a knock against the developers here. They have really hard work. But to decide whether to buy your 18th building and line up the tenants and business credits from the 16th and 17th buildings is hard work. But the small business owners are the ones that are dropping everything, trying to figure out how to pay for where they live and their health insurance and things for their kids. That’s why we want to highlight those people and let people know that these are your neighbors. You can choose to spend your money to support them.”

No Boundaries. The new Rise Collaborative paper!

No Boundaries. The new Rise Collaborative paper!
No Boundaries. The new Rise Collaborative paper!

Photos by Drew Brown of Rise Collaborative

“We had some other interviews locally which really helped us do some soul searching, to figure out what we were about. From that, we found that everyone that we cover is Hertel, Elmwood, Allen, for the most part. If we’re going to claim that we are about Buffalo, we need to talk to people that are from other areas of the city. It’s not that easy. Nobody is just calling us up from these other neighborhoods. So, we got the idea for this paper through something that I witnessed in Washington DC, called Street Sense. We have people in all sorts of neighborhoods writing about things in their neighborhood. It’s about positive changes in their neighborhoods, positive ideas. We want people who never go to the East Side, that forget that Riverside is part of our city to read this and say ‘wow, there are other people like me out there, working really hard’. And to see that the East Side isn’t just a giant war zone that is to be written off and is hopeless. There are really great opportunities to move there, open up shop there, invest there or get employees from there. That’s the mission of the paper. To change people’s minds. We’re distributing it in the suburbs too. We want people to know what their options are for places to live. It’s about meeting your neighbors, not fearing them. That doesn’t just mean the people next door. It’s the people who are on the other end of the city. For the people that say that Buffalo’s too small, it’s really that they haven’t explored the city. They haven’t met people who are unlike them. We want to encourage people to do that with this paper. And, we plan is to do this every 6 months.”

Drew: “The beautiful thing about this first round of the paper is that it’s completely funded by sponsors. We had some great local businesses take out some ads or even underwrite for other community organizations to help them get exposure in the paper, for which we are printing 7000 copies.”

Kevin: “To be honest, it was very difficult to make connections in the East Side. We emailed every single City Councilperson and didn’t get a single response from any of them. We’re trying to do something good here and couldn’t get a response. What we discovered, and rightfully so, is that the East Side is skeptical. I guess I understand the lack of response because we need to prove that we aren’t just another group that says that they want to do something and doesn’t follow up on it. We’re getting the opportunity to do that through Open Buffalo, who is here in Buffalo working for economic and social justice, as you’ve covered before. That was a connection by you that opened the door to and helped this paper come alive. It was Yeah! Buffalo’s interview of Open Buffalo and connection to them that helped us get them on board with this idea.  They helped us get authors, poets and have made this a reality. We had very few connections on the East Side before that. We have a very diverse set of authors from around the city. We aren’t going to cover every neighborhood in this issue, but that’s why we want to make this an ongoing thing. In return, Open Buffalo is receiving a donation from the proceeds of the paper. After our costs are covered, the money is going to them.”

No Boundaries is a Free paper!
Pick one up tomorrow wherever you find The Public or Artvoice

Learn more about Open Buffalo from our interview with Francelle Hart.

“Some of the contributors to this edition are: Partnership for the Public Good, The Matt Urban Hope CenterOpen Buffalo, Bak USAKaribu News, Sean Wrafter of Wrafterbuilt, among others.”

Kevin: “We have a lot of fun with how we write. We use a lot of exclamation points, we swear, we throw parties, but it comes down to highlighting what’s attractive about Buffalo, and you can’t do that by talking about how housing costs have skyrocketed in the Elmwood Village and how there are events every night at Canalside. Those are great, but this is such a huge city. The East Side is a huge piece of the city’s geography and to say that we’ve come back, while leaving it behind is just a total farce. We need to have the entire city embracing these forgotten neighborhoods like the East Side, West Side, The Valley, The Ward, Hamlin Park, Mastin, Kaisertown, Lovejoy.” Drew: “Kaisertown might be one of my favorite neighborhoods in the city!”

Drew: “We like to have fun, but we want to have something that we are really proud of. And, we are with this paper.”

Bridget: “I was drawn to this to. I worked for the news and I should know about these areas, but they didn’t get the exposure that places like Canalside get.

90s Rise Again Halloween Bash with Rise Collaborative

Join Rise this this Halloween for a 90’s party! 

4-Hour Open Bar, 90’s Music + Late Night Buffet from Fat Bob’s Smokehouse, Prizes and more.

Get your tickets today!


What would you tell a younger version of yourself:

Drew: “I would tell a younger version of myself to be riskier, to be more inquisitive and to challenge myself on a daily basis. There’s nothing more fulfilling than waking up every day with strong goals in mind and hurdles to overcome. Strive for that sense of purpose, whether for yourself or the community around you.”

Kevin: “I’d tell my younger self what I’m only learning now: Every single friend you’ve made is someone you’ll likely need to lean on one day. Treat them well. ”

Bridget: “I would tell myself that the city of Buffalo is 15 minutes from my house and bug my parents to go there. (That’s like my way younger self… pre-teen if you will)”

“To my College-self I would say, stop looking for opportunities elsewhere and stop immediately writing off Buffalo without looking into what’s happening in the city and community. Stop thinking that staying home equals failure.”

In closing…

Kevin about No Boundaries: “If you have a unique story to tell about your neighborhood and the positive change that it’s going through, we want to hear from you for the next issue. In the meantime, pick it up and talk to your friends about what you read.”


  • Ray Guarnieri
  • Brad Bethel (Restore Our Community Coalition)
  • Stephanie Barber (Hamlin Park Taxpayers Association)

What do you think?

Written by Sam @ yeahBuffalo
Sam is co-founder of Yeah! Buffalo as well as Owner of theBREWROOM, a Buffalo NY based internet marketing company. Follow Sam : @SamInsalaco