Here is a summary of my thesis’ progress and final presentation of HelpLocalBiz prototype from last December.
For my thesis project, I’ve been exploring how to help NYC small businesses to thrive. After talking to several business owners in different neighborhoods, I learned that they all share similar problems.
Also, that being a small business owner can be very lonely.
NYC is a city of small businesses, and the owners of these mom and pop shops often work alone or with very few employees.
They usually don’t have anybody to talk to share their business problems or get feedback on new ideas.
What if business owners could share their challenges and exchange knowledge with other business owners? Since they can relate to each other problems more than anyone else?
So I asked myself:
How might we encourage small business owners to work together to solve their challenges?
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.
Owners of local retail, services, and food & beverage businesses that:
- Are independently owned
- Have a storefront space
- Have 10 or fewer employees
A business owner that is the leader type, he knows everyone in his block, he is aware of the challenges that NYC businesses are facing including his own challenges and he wants to do something about it.
A business owner that has challenges and may be struggling, and sees these group discussions as an opportunity to learn from others.
The organizer hears about an event either on a social media post or when browsing for networking events in Eventbrite.
He would then see the link of HelpLocalBiz website. On the website, he can see how it works, browse through previous projects, see previous ideas that were implemented in these group discussions and the outcomes of these ideas.
He then decides to reach out the organizer to learn more. The organizer invites him to a group discussion. He really enjoys the experience and decides he wants to be an organizer in his neighborhood.
He creates an account on the website. In his dashboard, he has access to guidelines on how to start and conduct the group discussions, learn strategies on how to invite people, start a new project, get access to a template of an invitation and other print materials for the group discussion.
He can download the templates and customize them to his needs, and either print or order the facilitation cards.
Facilitation cards that will guide the organizer throughout the group discussion.
Challenge cards for activity 1, these cards will help guide conversations for those who are stuck.
Idea cards for activity 2, brainstorm ideas, participants can go use previous ideas from HelpLocalBiz website as inspiration so that they don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time.
Worksheet for the last activity that helps participants to think how they could implement their idea and make a plan for next steps.
After the group discussion, the organizer invites everyone to meet again and to collaborate in pursuing the idea they had in the last activity and remind them of their plan of next steps.
Participants also receive a link to download the app, which is similar to a project management tool, where they can keep track of their tasks.
The organizer will assign tasks to each participant, based on their conversations from the last meeting.
Participants can see and assign tasks, and check off tasks they completed.
They can also write and receive messages from other users about the status and results of their work in progress.
I created product management and messaging features to keep people engaged and motivated to continue working towards the same goal.
Lastly, when they implemented their idea, the organizer can now close the project by sharing the outcomes in the HelpLocalBiz website.
And this idea will be available in the next edition of the idea cards.
Benefits & Possible Outcomes
- It is easy and convenient for them to meet up because they are near each other.
- They can learn from different experiences and backgrounds. They can ask questions that only other businesses owners in their neighborhood would know the answer to, like “should I open for lunch?”
- By implement ideas together, business owners can split the work, they will feel less overwhelmed and more motivated to complete their tasks.
- They can split costs on things like hiring a graphic designer to design flyers.
- They can cross promote each other businesses, by doing collaborations, events, discount programs, or simply recommend each other’s businesses which could bring them more customers and profit.