“It takes a village, but for this, it takes a City of Brotherly Love.”
Craig Shoemaker might call the hills of Southern California home, but for a time he bled green in Philadelphia, his hometown. Even decades after moving out of the city, the comedian still says that Philly is “unlike any other city in the world.” That unwavering loyalty is something he says doesn’t leave any true Philadelphian, which is exemplified by some of his Hollywood friends, who like him still consider their hearts with this East Coast city. It’s those connections made from Philly that helped kickstart his latest project, which happens to put the city under the spotlight for all of the right reasons.
Amazon Prime’s “The Wolf PAC of Philadelphia” features a group of local business investors and advisors who use their expertise to mentor different small businesses around Philly. The show came to Shoemaker after a friend from third grade (Dr. Kent Griswold) approached him with the beginning steps of a show.
“I was bold enough to say to him, this needs a lot of work—would you want me to jump in on this and put my creative juices into it?” says Shoemaker. One stipulation in adding in his creativity came in thinking of Philadelphia, and Philadelphia alone. “I said you need Philadelphia to be a character in itself—I’ve traveled the world and it’s the greatest city for community and even business.”
Amazon’s official description describes the show as the city’s very own “Shark Tank,” with the added elements of philanthropy and mentorship. In each installment of the four-episode series, a panel of investors — known as The Wolf PAC (President’s Advisory Council) — hits the streets to explore local entrepreneurs, offer guidance, and spotlight the ways in which they are giving back to the community.
For Shoemaker, the show is about so much more than adding dollar signs to designs.
“The reason we say ‘Shark Tank’ is because there is some precedence in that it is a business show where we are investing in small businesses—but that’s where it ends with the comparisons,” he explains. “It really is a deeper dive into what it takes to create a small business and have it succeed. There’s such a mentorship component to it, and they invest as one Wolf PAC, not individually. This is very organic, real and authentic just like Philadelphia is. This group is also very much concerned with the business owners even if they don’t invest in them. You’ll see on the show that they have concern for them and might even invest in the future. So, it’s very sustainable and teaches people, especially these days, how to follow your dreams.”
The show does not start and end with a pitch or an idea, as Shoemaker pointed out, it’s deeper than that. What the small businesses get is advice, something that is priceless in the world of most entrepreneurs. Each PAC member has their own area of expertise and they as a group decide to go all in, or to hold back and maybe invest in the future. The impact is so strong, Shoemaker even invested in two of the businesses himself despite not being a member of the PAC himself.
“We are so proud of this city and so proud of what we are putting out there so the world can see Philly. There’s a lot of negativity out there, and that’s not Philadelphia. This is Philadelphia: great food, laughter, joy, sharing with one another, community interest, helping the homeless and vulnerable—Philly really does pick it up. The timing with this as well, we want people to see possibility through COVID,” Shoemaker continues. “We can’t stop businesses, or creating businesses, or living out dreams. This is the time to do it, this is the time we get together in union to really put these plans together. It’s such a readjustment phase as a country and world—It’s almost divine timing, this a great show for people to be educated, informed and entertained all at the same time.”
The episodes were filmed in February, right before the pandemic really struck. However, fans do get to see a glimpse into how some businesses have been handling themselves after the fact in some follow-up episodes. Shoemaker also said the PAC is planning on returning to the City of Brotherly Love again before moving on to other cities. In fact, they are looking for more local businesses with enthusiastic leaders now.
“The leader of the business is important to us, that’s the personality. The Wolves want to work with people, not just invest with people—they want to invest in a person,” adds Shoemaker.
It’s not everyday opportunity comes knocking, especially when falling on hard times. However as the show puts Philly as a character itself, it also puts more than that on people’s radars—it puts the grittiness, tenacity and creativity of Philadelphia on display.
“I think it has something to do with the cultural diversity in Philadelphia—it doesn’t exist in any other city. There’s such a generational component to the city and a feeling that authenticity that is so real. They’re going to tell you how it is, they’re truth-tellers in Philadelphia,” says Shoemaker. “We hope we can show a couple of people who are sitting on a dream that it can be done. This takes it to the next level, even during a pandemic. It’s real reality opposed to what we normally see with reality—we did not want to create something phony just for ratings and I hope that’s what people take from it.”
“The Wolf PAC of Philadelphia” is available to stream now on Amazon Prime.