Inspiration can come from unlikely sources. Longtime friends Melinda Haughey and Chelsey Roney were inspired by Halloween and a need for normalcy during the pandemic in 2020.
They noticed people posting their addresses in neighborhood Facebook groups for kids to safely trick-or-treat while keeping their distance.
"We wanted to compile these addresses and crowdsource an interactive master list of COVID-safe trick-or-treating homes to share with the community," Roney says. "So we jumped in and built a map the community could share and add to.”
The map included more than 2,000 Seattle-area homes and had more than 500,000 views. The friends knew they were onto something.
Roney says, "People started asking us to build other maps and we realized the demand for custom, crowdsourced maps was pushing us to start building Proxi!"
Their one-time project turned into Proxi, a web-based platform that allows users to quickly create and share customizable, collaborative maps.
The business-minded women met more than a decade ago in undergrad at Texas A&M University; both went on to pursue Master's degrees at the University of Washington. Roney followed a career in startups and marketing, and Haughey went on to work as a U.S. intelligence analyst and then pursued her Ph.D.
The most common feedback they’ve received so far? How easy these maps are to create and maintain.
"Proxi Maps are for the casual cartographer who wants a high-end customer experience," Roney says. "Map makers can navigate to the site, generate a map, customize it with their branding, add points and share in just minutes. Then, they can return to the map and edit it over time with intuitive options."
When it comes to customer feedback, a blogger from Tilted Map commented, "I loved using Proxi! It was super easy and intuitive, and I think the result looks fabulous on my site, even without going too hard on customizations! I'm planning to add maps to more of my posts."
Brittany Caldwell of the Bothell-Kenmore Chamber of Commerce said, "Everything was fabulous! It was fun having the virtual map at the Shamrock, Wine, Beer and Spirits Walk."
The business-savvy duo shares that the most fulfilling part of launching this project together has been watching their mutual goals and dreams come to life.
Roney says, "We sat in the car before our first big mentor meeting in the summer of 2021 and had a visioning session. We painted a picture of what problems we thought our company would be solving, what our office space would look like, the caliber of employee we would get to hire and how our lives would look as Proxi started to grow."
Many of their goals — like having a dedicated office space with employees, seeing phenomenal product maturation and raising funds to continue user growth — have already come to fruition.
"We’re excited about our future and grateful for our progress so far," Roney says.
The most challenging part of building Proxi has been reimagining their fundraising deck, "Making dozens of revisions to a deck is completely normal," Roney shares. "But it’s hard to concentrate on anything other than literally building the business."
So what's next for this powerhouse team?
Down the road, the pair looks forward to further collaborations with local and national businesses and organizations, in order to create custom maps that elevate experiences and inspire exploration.
"We see huge growth in key sectors like hospitality and travel," Roney says. "We’ve been growing our team, and we’re working on creating a Proxi app; stay tuned for updates!"
Corinne Whiting is a freelance writer for Seattle Refined. Follow her adventures here.