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"Bozeman Strong:" Bozeman man creates website to help businesses, customers during COVID-19 pandemic

BozemanStrong.org connects businesses to community as concerns impact economy
Posted at 8:38 AM, Mar 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-23 16:24:05-04

BOZEMAN — In these troubling times come some of the best examples of people coming together to help each other.

Another example can be found online at BozemanStrong.org, one Bozeman man's effort to use his talents to help businesses in need.

Just walking through Downtown Bozeman, it is easy to see signs of strain on most businesses due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Paul Van Lierop saw them himself and with his own personal experience, took it upon himself to help.

"As a technology guy, I just kind of started to think about what can I do to help?" says Van Lierop.

Van Lierop knows his way around making a website.

"I'm always working on something, some project here and there,” Van Lierop says.

But to Paul, with each posted sign on the doors of businesses, that community felt more disconnected.

"It kind of felt a little hopeless, I'll be honest,” Van Lierop says. “It just kind of popped in my head and I thought that's something I can do."

So he went to his computer.

"From a late night Monday night to Tuesday morning, I got it going,” Van Lierop says. “It is kind of a crude site to begin with. It is a place for businesses to submit their stuff."

Paul created “BozemanStrong.org,” making a space for businesses to all pool their information, posting their new hours, if they deliver or serve takeout.

"It's been pretty cool to see that we are in the hundreds of businesses now that have shown up on the site,” Van Lierop says. "That was the hope was that there was someplace where we had a common news source to do that. A common area where somebody can very easily add their business regardless of what the business might be and then also be able to go look as residents in Bozeman and the Gallatin Valley."

In three days, over 130 businesses joined.

Including Cupcake Mountain.

"I thought it was awesome,” says Terry Ketterer, co-owner of Cupcake Mountain. “I told Paul, I said hey, this is pretty cool that you have a website doing all of this. Can I add my business information to it? And he said yeah."

Terry Ketterer and his wife have closed the shop but still deliver.

He says Paul’s site breathes new life to more than just their business.

"We have our kids to look out for, our family,” Ketterer says. “There's a lot of expenses that go into owning and operating a business so this has been really helpful."

And there’s no charge.

"I didn't know, you know?” Van Lierop says. “I just thought, I'm going to do what I can. If it gets used, it gets used. If it doesn't, it doesn't."

A humble response from the man at the keys, just looking to help.

"It makes me productive and feel like I'm actually helping the community,” Lierop says. "I just hope that for the community at large that it's just a resource they can go to and say, let me think about how I can help my local business."

Paul says his website looks pretty simple right now but he has more features yet to come.