While walking around Penn’s Landing, Nick Canonica, then a high school student, noticed a homeless man playing music and struck a conversation with him.
“He was telling me things that high school counselors weren’t telling me,” Canonica said. “He was telling me things that my teachers weren’t telling me. He taught me that if … you want to be great, you simply just think great.”
The brief chat led Canonica, 19, to follow his dreams of owning a business, inspiring him to become an entrepreneurship major.
In September, Canonica launched an Instagram account called SavePhilly, which hosts photographs by those who submit them through the account’s hashtag, #SavePhilly. SavePhilly features photographs of the city’s skyline, historic buildings and people. Canonica started the Instagram account without an extensive background in photography. Since its creation, the account has gained almost 13,000 followers.
But Canonica said he doesn’t want to stop there. He hopes to introduce a social network called “SaveTheFace” by the end of the semester. SaveTheFace will introduce an app, which is currently in development, that connects people to interesting locations. It will come in the form of a magazine-style website, Canonica said.
“I actually started as an urban explorer and then went to photography because I needed a way to showcase the adventures and places I was going,” he said.
Every picture that appears on SavePhilly is accompanied by an inspirational message. These captions are either quotes from famous people in history or original thoughts from Canonica.
“‘Save,’ in SavePhilly, means to inspire for the company, so SavePhilly is inspiring Philly to go out and live life to the fullest,” Canonica said.
Canonica stresses that the SavePhilly Instagram account is only one facet of SaveTheFace. The goal of the company, which he plans to expand to other cities like New York, Chicago and Baltimore, is to build a social network that avoids the pitfalls of the traditional giants like Facebook and Twitter.
“It started with social media having this growing problem of … everybody’s addicted to their phones,” he said. “SaveTheFace is being built as a social media platform app that inspires you to grow through life instead of just go through life.”
Canonica, who was born in South Philadelphia and now lives in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, isn’t solely focused on SaveTheFace from a business perspective, but from an inspirational one as well.
“The bigger idea of it – it’s like saying you, no matter who you are, no matter where you are, you have the ability to go out and live any life you want,” Canonica said. “You can create anything you want. You can live the life of your dreams. Just make it happen.”
Canonica said he also wants to develop an app to connect people in multiple classes with similar topics to a flashcard-like game to help them study.
“After college, I definitely just plan on continuing to grow,” Canonica said. “I want to invest in companies that I believe in. I have so many ideas beyond just [SaveTheFace].”
For now, Canonica is investing thousands of dollars in coding the SaveTheFace application. Once launched, the app will be free for users, and Canonica plans to sell merchandise from an online store, which he is already doing for SavePhilly, to generate income.
Canonica dreams to work with advertisers that share the values of SaveTheFace.
“I’d like to connect with brands that incorporate going out and living and being active, like Red Bull, REI and [companies] like that,” he said.
Canonica said he frequently thinks about his interaction with the homeless musician at Penn’s Landing.
“At the end of the conversation, he gave me such valuable insight on life and inspired me in such a huge way by what he said that day,” Canonica said. “That just changed my viewpoint on everything.”
Jack Tomczuk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.