How The Richmond Experience grew from a fun idea into the business it is today. 

“So, what do you actually do?” is the question I am most often asked when I tell someone I am the founder of The Richmond Experience. But I know the real question they are wondering is, “how do you make money?”

When we started our Instagram account nearly four years ago, we had no idea it would turn into what it is today, or that I would leave my career in its pursuit. Here’s our story…

Identifying a need

We moved to Richmond in 2011 as young 20-somethings fresh out of college and eager to explore. We wanted to experience the best restaurants, check out the bar scenes, hike the outdoors, attend cool events, and everything else a city like Richmond has to offer — but we didn’t know our way around, and we didn’t know anyone to ask. At first, we relied a lot on Yelp and Google and quickly found our searches overwhelming and lacking the kind of local insight we craved. We wanted a resource that gave us insider information and that was more curated towards the kind of activities and places we wanted to experience. From this need, The Richmond Experience was born.  

The early days

We began as an Instagram account, creating daily posts featuring upcoming events, our favorite spots, and useful information like what to order and the best time to go. We researched the city and the art of building an Instagram following, dedicating countless hours on nights and weekends while working full-time careers. Within a few short months, we saw some real progress as our audience grew and provided us with valuable feedback that would eventually help us evolve.


With our Instagram account over 10,000 followers and growing, we turned our attention to the feedback we’d been receiving which was that the social media posts were great, but the information was fleeting and difficult to relocate when needed. We decided to offer a weekly newsletter rounding up everything subscribers (later to be called members) would want to know for the week. We continued to build on this idea adding discounts to local spots known as perks, creating full page articles (aka city guides) with more robust content than Instagram could support, and offering a highly curated event calendar. While the Instagram account would remain a free resource, we determined we would need to charge a fee in order to support the membership offerings, and this is how The Richmond Experience became a business.

Making the leap

Managing a growing business was exciting, but balancing a full-time career and a demanding side-hustle began to take a toll on our mental health. We were overworked and stressed out, and something had to give. After months of planning, saving, and meeting with a financial advisor, I finally left my full-time employment (Sean had been lobbying for this for well over a year, but it took me much longer to be convinced that it was a good idea.). While it was certainly terrifying, it was also a relief after years of putting in the work, and I’ve never looked back! I think every entrepreneur reaches a point where they have to make defining decisions about their future and the future of the business, and for us it happened at the two and half year mark.


2021 will mark the fourth birthday of our Instagram account and the third year of our membership program. Earlier this year, we hired our first full-time employee (a managing editor & media director), which is by far the most significant commitment we’ve made to the business to date. We also brought on a part-time editorial assistant. Our Instagram has grown to nearly 60,000 followers and our membership program has gone from just a couple hundred members the first year to over a couple thousand. We truly never imagined our passion project would turn into a full-fledged business!

If you have a project in mind that you’ve been hesitant to tackle, there is no time like the present (and trust us, you have more time now as a college student than you will ever have in your post-grad life — seriously!).  Get feedback from family and friends, do your research, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and be flexible in your approach!

We can’t part ways without giving you a few resources to check out:

Don’t miss these resources

And of course, you can reach out to us anytime at if you need any recommendations, have questions, or just want to chat about business!


Samantha Kanipe is the founder and CEO of The Richmond Experience, a resource for insider info to discover the best things to see, do, eat, and drink around RVA. In this blog post, she describes their origin story from passion project to successful business.