Prototype Iterations Insights
Last week, I organized one group discussion with Lower East Side small business owners and a second group discussion with West Village business owners. Here are my insights from these meetings, and a new explanation of my problem space and area of focus.
Gentrification and high rentals are making it nearly impossible for NYC small businesses to survive.
The key insight from user research
I discovered that business owners who have strong local community engagement tend to succeed in business because they add to the local community by doing events and collaborations with other businesses, while the ones that are not as engaged may struggle and go out of business.
Area of focus
Knowing that local community engagement can influence the success or failure of a business, I decided to focus my solution on increasing community engagement.
From my user research, I also learned that:
“Being a small business owner can be lonely.” –Person with 10 years of experience in the hospitality industry.
With very slim profit margins due to high rentals, NYC small business owners often work alone or with very few employees. They don’t want to share their business problems with their employees because they don’t want to concern them. And they want to be positive with their customers, so they can have a good experience in their establishments.
What if small business owners could share their challenges and brainstorm ideas together? Since they all share similar problems they can relate to each other more than anyone else.
HelpLocalBiz is a community building platform that will provide tools and guidelines to empower NYC small business owners to organize and/or participate in group discussions with other local business owners in their neighborhood.
The group discussions are designed as a co-design workshop specific to local businesses in gentrified neighborhoods to increase community engagement.
Owners of local small businesses with storefront spaces in NYC and with 10 or fewer employees.
I believe if small businesses owners have an opportunity to meet other business owners to share challenges and brainstorm ideas together they will have better opportunities to solve their businesses’ biggest challenges.
To test this hypothesis I created a co-design workshop specific to local businesses owners.
Iteration 1: Invitations
As you can see the first invitation on the left was very basic. To entice more people to come in the second and third events I included testimonials from the first event and also possible outcomes to the invitation.
For the second West Village group discussion, the same participants wanted to participate again, and with their permission, I included their names in the third invitation, and this gave more credibility to the event.
I also created an Eventbrite invitation for the second and third group discussions which also helped to get more exposure.
With these changes, I received more RSVPs for the last event, compared to the first one. It was about 13 RSVPs, 3 new people showed, and some people wrote me back saying they couldn’t make it, but they would like to be invited for the next one.
Group Discussion flow
As participants walked in, I asked them to:
- Sign in the sign-in sheet
- Use and write their name on a name tag
- To set up the tone of the conversation, I asked participants to write their challenges on the board as they walk in.
I then, introduce myself and go over the agenda and let them know the activities were timed.
Iteration 2: Agenda & Activity Challenges
In the first and second events, I noticed that participants started talking about their challenges right in the beginning during their introductions so I changed the flow of the meeting, instead of asking them to write challenges after their introduction to save time, as they walk in I asked them to write their challenges in a post-it note and put on the board, and share these challenges when they introduce themselves.
Activity 1: Brainstorm ideas
During the first activity, I asked participants to brainstorm ideas for the challenges they shared.
NEW | Activity 2: Elaborate an idea
From my first workshop, I learned that although it was successful because the discussion was relevant and productive, participants didn’t take any actionable steps after that.
For this reason, I created this worksheet for them to explore how their idea would work in real life and what actionable steps they could take to implement it.
On the left, it is the first worksheet I created and the one in the right I used in the last workshop.
I revised it because I felt that the participants needed to go through these questions to understand the root of the problem in order to create a feasible idea that could address their problem. And make a real plan for their next steps.
NEW: Thank you note and surveys
Besides telling participants to take their worksheets home, I gave them a thank you note to stay in touch, and possibly find people interested in organizing the next meeting.
And also wrote a thank you email, share photos of the event and asked to fill out a survey.
- They gave each other advice based on their different knowledge and experiences.
- They left with a plan to implement the ideas they created on the
- They are all interested in meeting again for another group discussion.
- Guide people back to the topic, for instance, when I asked each person to introduce themselves and share a challenge, some would already talk back with an idea, and the introduction part took longer than expected.
- Enticing people to become organizers of the next group discussion.
- Design facilitation cards and instructions for an organizer.
- I’ve been the one facilitating the group discussions, so I’m planning to meet with some of these local owners one-on-one to test the instructions and facilitation cards of how to run workshop.
- Think about the website where the tools and guidelines will be available.
- Think about creating an app with activities for organizers to use during group discussions.