George Wacker Celebrates 10 Years… with Love
The following (after the foreword) is a conversation with Lehigh Valley with Love Founder George Wacker about the organization’s rise from an anonymous satire blog, to a prominent multimedia organization in our region.
In August 2016, I published this piece about what led me back to the Lehigh Valley, and how it eventually gave way to the launch of Lehigh Valley Underground. It was retweeted by prominent local satire blog Lehigh Valley with Love, run by fellow Moravian College alum George Wacker. When I tweeted back at the @LVWithLove handle to thank them for sharing, George (I’m assuming) replied with something to the effect of “’Hounds need to stick together.”
Since then, I’ve gotten to know George a bit. He has been a sounding board and something of a mentor to me. He’s heard and given feedback on many LVU ideas before they’ve ever seen the light of day (and, I think, some that haven’t). I always appreciate his feedback, because it is always well-reasoned and backed by years of experience. I admire and respect the fact that George, too, was once a fledgling blogger; one who would go on to build a hugely-successful platform in the Lehigh Valley. Although our content is entirely different in certain respects, I take a lot of cues from Lehigh Valley with Love’s role in the community when shaping LVU’s long-term vision.
So, when I heard that Lehigh Valley with Love would be celebrating its 10th anniversary this Thursday, June 14 with a #BestOf comedy show at SteelStacks, I knew that this was the perfect time to highlight LVwL’s history, from its humble beginnings, to its present status as a local, independent media juggernaut that has left an undeniable mark across the region.
Congratulations, Lehigh Valley with Love, on 10 great years! Here’s to many more!
Over the course of a decade, Lehigh Valley with Love has evolved from a simple satire blog to a prominent community organization. When you first started, could you ever have imagined things being where they are now?
(Laughs) Absolutely not. There really wasn’t a plan to the blog in the beginning other than to continue to write some fun stories. The fact that the blog has become as large as it has, and that it’s been able to be a part of so many great events, is well beyond what I ever could have expected.
What were things like for you when you first launched, and what were people’s initial reactions to the blog?
At the time, no one even knew I wrote it. I didn’t even put my name on it, because I didn’t think it was important. So, for the first year or two, some people speculated as to who wrote it. I think people enjoyed it so much, because it was a breath of fresh air to Lehigh Valley news and local stories.
Eventually, you left the 9-to-5 world, taking your brand full-time and also launching Lehigh Valley with Love Media, a digital marketing and multimedia consulting firm. What made you decide to take that leap?
There was a lot that went into that, but it ultimately came down to being able to provide national level digital services, locally. We’re more than happy to be able to do so, and to be a small business in the community.
Leaving the comforts of a day job can be a scary proposition for anyone. Did you feel any fear or hesitation before setting out on your own?
Absolutely, still do! It’s been a wild ride, though, and we’re lucky to work with so many awesome local businesses and organizations that the fear has kind of gone away a little bit.
Who are the people who have impacted your journey – mentors, peers, or other inspirations – as the LVwL brand has grown?
Oh jeez, that’s a huge list and to start to write one, I’d feel like I would leave someone off. Let’s just say that there have been more than I could list – and more to come, I’m sure!
Now, you find yourself in a position to impact the community. Lehigh Valley with Love participates in a number of fundraisers throughout the year, and is never too far from the major happenings in the Lehigh Valley. Tell us why it’s important to support the efforts of those around you.
I think we’ve all benefited from the help of others. So, I think it’s important to help others when possible. Some of our best events, like the “Christmas Tree Toss” are charity events and ones that the public can have a lot of fun with.
Through your eyes, how has the landscape of the Lehigh Valley changed over the past decade of LVwL’s existence?
The Lehigh Valley is big. There are what, nearly three-quarter of a million people in the greater Lehigh Valley area? I think that the area is realizing that and not comparing itself to other cities like NYC and Philly as much anymore. Sure, we’re always going to travel to those spaces, but the Lehigh Valley has more than enough to offer people and there’s more than enough reason to live, work, and play here.
How has your content evolved over the past decade?
At first, it was all about simply making fun of local news via writing snarky comments and finding some Facebook profiles. Some of that still goes on, but we’ve evolved into making videos, utilizing social media trends, and creating a brand that people can enjoy.
You’ll commemorate that decade this Thursday, June 14 inside of the Fowler Blast Furnace Room at SteelStacks, with an improv comedy show as part of ArtsQuest’s #BestOf series. What can we expect?
We will be bringing some of the best stories of the last decade to life! Come see how!
What’s on the horizon after Thursday? What do you envision for Lehigh Valley with Love, in both the short-term and long-term future?
The one thing I’ve learned is not to plan too far into the future. We’ve found our best ideas from reacting to what else goes on within the community, and we’ll keep doing that!
Lastly, let’s say there’s a young, enterprising blogger looking to build a brand, here in the Lehigh Valley or anywhere: What’s one piece of advice you would give that would have helped you immeasurably?
That it can be done and you can make a living doing it. If you care about the brand or the idea, that will show. It’s hard work, though, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be tons of fun along the way.