This issue of TAPinto Featured Franchisee highlights TAPinto South Orange and Maplewood with the site's owner Fred Smith and lead editor Anna Sandler. Check out the interview to find out how owning and operating a TAPinto site came at the most opportune time for these NJ residents.
Q. When did you join
I first joined TAPinto in 2014 as a sales and marketing representative for TAPinto Millburn, adding sales in South Orange and Maplewood in 2015. In October, 2015, I became the Franchisee for TAPinto SOMA. I continue to handle all ad sales in addition to my role as publisher.
Q. You’re in a unique setup as compared to other franchisees at TAPinto. Can you tell us a bit about that?
When I purchased the TAPinto SOMA franchise I was fortunate that Mike Shapiro, TAPinto’s Founder and Chief Executive Officer, had already hired Anna Sandler as the editor for the site. I was able to negotiate a quasi-partnership arrangement with Anna, who is an editorial partner even though she does not hold an equity stake in the franchise. She is what makes TAPinto SOMA the excellent site that it is, and her focus on editorial works well so that I can focus on the sales side of the business.

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Q. Why did you want to franchise with TAPinto? What made you want to choose SOMA as your TAPinto site?
I knew Mike Shapiro for several years through the Millburn Chamber of Commerce and greatly respected his work and business ethics, as well as commitment to running an objective news organization. When my wife, Deborah, and I decided to close our retail store in Millburn due to an egregious rent increase, I was searching for a new venture.  Mike offered me the opportunity to “taste” TAPinto as a Sales and Marketing agent, and I fell in love with the company, its approach to business and its creativity. I enjoyed the opportunity to be out amongst and collaborate with bright entrepreneurs, and to meet and partner with various people and businesses. So when I had the opportunity to franchise the South Orange and Maplewood site, it was a perfect fit.  My wife and I currently live in South Orange, after living many years in Maplewood, and Anna currently lives in Maplewood, so we are truly a SOMA community-based publication.
Q. What do you enjoy covering the most at TAPinto SOMA?
I love attending the many special events like outdoor concerts and holiday celebrations that are held in the two towns all year round. TAPinto SOMA sponsors many events as well, including South Orange’s biggest outdoor event, PlayDay, the Bob Miller Oysterfest for Melanoma Awareness in Maplewood, and the Maplewood South Orange Book Festival and the SOMA Film Festival. I also enjoy covering the official ribbon cuttings for new businesses and restaurant openings in our two towns.
I also find it important to provide on-site reporting as often as possible at meetings, as well as emergency situations, such as when there is a house fire or car accident.
Q. Is TAPinto full time for you or do you still work outside of the journalism world?
TAPinto is my only business activity, although I spend a significant amount of time doing charitable work. I am also a member of the South Orange and Maplewood Chambers of Commerce.
Anna also works as a freelance writer and as a social media consultant, in addition to her work with TAPinto SOMA.
Q. TAPinto allows businesses and users to post content on our sites, either for free or for a small fee. How do you think they can best utilize your TAPinto sites? What sort of advantages do you have that other advertising platforms lack?
FRED: The ability to post press releases and/or event listings free for advertisers, or for a minimal fee for non-advertisers, allows businesses and organizations to see for themselves the effectiveness of becoming one of our Marketing Partners. These listings can include images and/or video in addition to the written content.  TAPinto SOMA is differentiated from our local competition because as part of the TAPinto network of over 75 sites, we are able to provide our advertisers with the opportunity to market their business in areas other local sites can’t reach.
Q. What are some of your business strengths? What’s something you would like to work on?
FRED: My business strength is years of experience in sales and being able to meet and develop relationships with a wide range of people and businesses.  Having owned and managed my own business for many years, I’m good at motivating others to “get the job done.”
I would like to concentrate in the coming year on meeting more people and organizations in SOMA, and having more groups use our site submission capabilities. It can be hard to cover all the exciting and important things happening in SOMA, so the more people that can use the site submission tool to share their group’s events and information, the more we can help get the word out to the community.
Q. Describe the TAPinto culture as a franchisee
FRED: The TAPinto culture is supportive and collaborative, and I can always find someone to discuss a story angle with, or how best to approach a potential advertising client. Working as part of the TAPinto network is one of the best parts of the job.
Q. What are your goals at TAPinto? Any future plans for your TAPinto site? 
FRED: I want to continue to grow our business and expand the base of Marketing Partners while also growing our site coverage and readership, which is already more than three times what it was when Anna and I started in 2015.
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