How We Got Started

On a dark and snowy night in 2013…

Online Marketing Web Design

John and Mike started Rise Local with a mission to help local business owners win the local media game.

Mike and John gathered at the “Home for Hackers” in Kansas City to swap war stories from their GTE/Verizon Yellow Pages days.

At Verizon Mike had won a string of national sales awards by helping business owners shift their marketing dollars from yellow page print ads to paid search products. His customers loved it because Internet ads were cheaper than print ads and delivered better results.

John had been an Internet operations manager for Verizon SuperPages, then the largest Internet Yellow Pages(IYP) directory in the country. While Superpages got a lot of great traffic, there simply wasn’t enough of it so John recruited, trained and organized a team of 70 paid search experts. The team spent millions building websites and Google AdWords campaigns for all of SuperPages Pay-Per-Click customers.

Everything was gravy until Verizon spun off their directory business to a new company ran by yellow page executives who continued to operate from a “print pays the bills” mentality. It wasn’t long before Mike was told to sell more yellow page ads or else. John had to hand out pink slips. Both guys ended up leaving the company.

paid search marketing

Verizon Information Services honors the digital media wonder-kid with his national sales awards.

Now three years later Mike and John are back together in Kansas City discussing how stacked the deck is against small business owners trying to grow their business.

On one hand, local marketing agencies have become sales organizations. The local practitioners with the technical skills, passion, and commitment required to build a website and manage the campaigns have been replaced by “marketing consultants” and “project managers” who bundle and ship work overseas.

On the other hand, big media companies continue to push commissioned sales teams to sell print and digital media products they know don’t really work.

In desperation, some local business owners have tried bringing marketing functions in-house.  Unfortunately, the business results seldom recoup the production, operations, and media spend much less actually grow the business.

That night John and Mike realized that local business owners need an advocate. They needed someone with years of local media experience to help them rise above the noise and grow their business.

And that, my friends, is how Rise Local got started.

Meet the Founders

Mike Stewart

Mike Stewart

Domain Real Estate Overlord

Since 2000 Mike has helped hundreds of Dallas area local business owners save millions in wasted marketing expenses by eliminating broken agency relationships, wasteful ad spend, and useless online services that fail to deliver results. Mike’s straightforward, no-nonsense approach to local marketing transforms struggling businesses into market leaders, saving jobs, and restoring family fortunes.

More of an advocate and strategist than a sales guy, Mike is a long time Board of Directors Member of the DFWSEM and a frequent contributor to the BBB & Local U. He is also a popular speaker at leading industry events including the State of Search, Rocks Digital, and Pubcon.

When Mike isn’t helping business owners improve their online marketing results he is tuning up LS race cars or playing with his kids.

John O'Grady

John O'Grady

Operations Guy

An entrepreneur at heart, John’s passion is creating life-changing online marketing results for local business owners. John hates writing about himself in the third person, but Mike insisted that John mention he was the Internet Operations manager at for several years and is a 2009 graduate of Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business Executive MBA program in Dallas, Texas.

Lately, when not setting up website frameworks, John has been practicing playing the guitar alongside his two High School boys.