Fresh Start Brainstorming

Happy New Year! After a nice winter break, I’m back to work on my thesis project. Here are some insights from my first brainstorming of the year with my classmates Abhinav and Kinza, and my thesis professor Eric Forman.

Post-its from brainstorming by my classmates Abhinav and Kinza, and my thesis professor Eric Forman.

Just a reminder of my problem space…

Gentrification and high rentals are making it nearly impossible for NYC small businesses of storefront shops and restaurants to survive.

From talking to business owners I learned that they all share similar challenges, but they tend to keep these challenges to themselves. Often times small business owners are working alone or with very few employees to make ends meet and survive the high cost of having a business in NYC.

My current solution

HelpLocalBiz is a community building platform that provides tools and guidelines to empower NYC small business owners to organize and participate in group discussions with other local business owners in their neighborhood.

The group discussions are designed as a co-design workshop to teach business owners how to work together and take actionable steps towards implementing an idea that can help their businesses.

Besides working together toward an idea, this is an opportunity for them to exchange knowledge and resources, do cross-promotions, and collaborations.

Takeaways from brainstorming

How could my platform connect business owners with each other?

Right now my system design is relying on someone to just go around the block and coldly ask people to join. Should I offer a matching experience, in which business owners are matched with each other based on their interests, needs, and type of business?

How could my service incentivize business owners to share their progress from these meetings on the website? And how could it help them to set goals?

I presented a product management feature in my final prototype presentation last semester, and this week I created a very low fidelity prototype on a google sheet and share with the West Village attendees to help them keep track of their tasks and progress toward implementing their ideas.

What am I most excited to work on next?

Continue prototyping and iterating the task management/track progress part of my service.

Meeting the West Village business owners again.

Excited, but also dreading working on next?

Design and test the framework of the follow-up meetings, which business owners will be more focused on implementing their goals. How can I make them motivated to continue pursuing their idea together?

The reason I’m dreading this part is that the ideas that come out of these meetings can be very open-ended and unpredictable which makes it more difficult to make a structure that could work for different outcomes.