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Jul 25, 2021 3:53:59 PM 5 min read

Meet the Woman Behind the Newark Gift Card

Tamara Remedios at the Halsey Festival.

Tamara Remedios – A Proud Newaker and Marketer Dedicated to Local Businesses and Community

The COVID-19 pandemic hit Newark businesses hard. Like many towns and cities, storefronts and restaurants had to shutter their doors for extended periods of time. But as Newark shakes off the pandemic doldrums and residents venture out from their homes and office workers come back to the city’s downtown neighborhood, Newark officials, companies and organizations have been going full throttle to promote Newark and small businesses. One of the relatively new initiatives is the Newark Gift Card, an e-gift card to local businesses.

Easy to use and accepted at more than 100-plus participating businesses, residents can use the card to patronize their favorite businesses but it also gives people new to Newark the opportunity to discover the city. Hence, the gift card pumps money back into the local business community and promotes it. (The gift card is sponsored by Prudential Financial, which is providing a 40% bonus to all gift card purchases – i.e. buy a $100 gift card and get an extra $40 in your card - therefore amplifying the local spend.)

A huge part of making the Newark Gift Card happen is Tamara Remedios, Newark resident, mom and passionate community marketer. Besides the gift card, she started in 2010 the Newark Pulse, a positive news website for the city; Cool CAT (CAT for Cultured, Artsy Toddler), a program to provide fun activities for preschoolers and their families; and Newark Restaurant Week. And she has organized the annual Halsey Festival for the last several years since 2010. And there are more Newark initiatives that she has started under her business, Xplore Communications. Needless to say, she’s been an important part of Newark’s business, culture and arts community.

We interview her about how she started her company in Newark, her passion for small businesses and more.

How long have you owned Xplore Communications? And what kind of work do you do in your business?

I have owned the community marketing agency Xplore Communications for 23 years. So basically, from a business standpoint, my company puts together activities, events and promotions that are meant to promote small businesses, but have a community-oriented angle.

So, Halsey Festival falls into that category because it's good for the community and it helps our small businesses. And Newark Restaurant Week, Newark Pulse, the Newark Gift Card of course, and other initiatives we have started all fall under the same umbrella – doing community-wide initiatives that push local businesses.

Besides Newark, I have also done work in Jersey City and Hoboken, and when I first started, I began in New Brunswick.

Why did you decide to go into community-based marketing? It seems like such a vital, important endeavor.

When I started my business, I created printed community guides for New Brunswick and it went to all the college students.

Back then, there was no infrastructure like there is now. There were no high-rise buildings, there were no young professionals living downtown like now, and no one wanted to explore New Brunswick’s downtown. I was a resident advisor at Rutgers University- New Brunswick, where I graduated with a degree in marketing. Students would ask me about hotels and where to eat for their parents who would visit – so this is what gave me the idea to start these guides and it kickstarted my business.

My first advertisers were small businesses, and it made me fall in love with community marketing. I just love the niche of working with small businesses. Their passion and excitement for being an entrepreneur is infectious. And I just stayed in that lane for 20-something years.

When did you start your business?

I started my business in 1999. I had the idea of this business when I was in school, but I launched it after I traveled abroad in Europe. I backpacked through Europe for six months and then came back, worked for a year, and started the business.

What inspired you to get into marketing?

I was inspired by the movie, Baby Boom, with Diane Keaton who leaves the corporate world and raises a baby in the country. She ends up starting a successful baby food company. So that inspired me. In high school, I was president of the Future Business Leaders of America and was a member of DECA, a business club.

I'm really impressed by your resume because you've done so much. So why Newark?

I was actually recruited because someone from the city saw what I was doing in Hoboken and Jersey City, and they recruited me to come here to do the first Newark Restaurant Week in 2009. And in 2010, I launched Newark Pulse and started organizing Halsey Festival, which was previously organized by Rebecca Jampol, co-director of the gallery Project for Empty Space.

What keeps you engaged in Newark?

I love the fact that I think Newark is still, however much history it has, it's still a blank slate in a sense. There are still opportunities for people to be creative and to produce ideas and new concepts and bring it to the table and have success with it. And I don't think many cities offer that because either it's already been done or maybe it's not embraced as much.

I've also created a village here, and I'm raising my daughters here. As a single mom, I have created a village here that I don't think I can replicate very easily somewhere else. And part of that keeps me here. Part of that makes me showcase and cheerlead for Newark. People are surprised when they find out I am raising a family in Newark, And I say: I do, I do it well, and I have a village here, and I have people supporting us. We can go anywhere in Newark and most people will know my children, and I can’t replicate that anywhere else.

How do you do it all as a mom? You know, juggling like a business and raising two daughters?

Team No Sleep (Laughs). It’s a lot of time management and also not much sleep.

But I don't have any other answers except I try my best. Some things fall to the wayside, as you know, and I think that has been part of my learning curve and realizing I don't have to do all the things.