Thesis Proof of Concept

Local Biz Collective toolkit

Juan is the owner of a petite Mexican restaurant in the West Village, who is barely making ends meet.

What inspired him to open his business was that every time he would go back from Mexico to visit his family, he would miss the authentic Mexican food that he couldn’t find anywhere else in New York City.


Challenges

Like many small business owners in NYC, Juan has many challenges.

He struggles to keep his business open because of the high cost of rent. He needs to save money, which means he wears many hats to run his business: he is the chef, the manager and does the bookkeeping.

Besides, Juan’s business suffers during the summer months because many of his regular customers are away on vacation. There are a lot of new people working on corporate buildings in his neighborhood, but they are not aware of his restaurant and he can’t afford to spend extra funds on marketing.

Running a business on his own can be very lonely. Juan doesn’t have a team with which he can share his challenges or from whom he can get feedback. In the past, he has tried to collaborate with other businesses in his neighborhood by doing events together, but it was difficult for him to keep meetings focused on a topic and everyone on track of their responsibilities.


Solution

To help small business owners like Juan, I created Local Biz Collective. It is a toolkit that helps business owners to build a supportive neighborhood community which empowers them how to apply design thinking methods to work together toward addressing their biggest challenges.


User Journey

Local Biz Collective Website

Juan goes to Local Biz Collective the website, on the homepage he can see how it works and past projects from other businesses who used the toolkit.

Homepage

He decides to get the tools. He can either download or order them. The website offers him guidelines on how to start.

The toolkit offers instructions on how to use the tools, meetings framework, templates, worksheets and cards to guide the discussions.

Local Biz Collective Toolkit

Juan invites business owners to a meeting

The first step is to find at least 2 business owners to join the meeting. Juan decides to invite, Peter, the owner of the coffee shop near him.

Photo: Unplash

He shares a brochure from Local Biz Collective to explain what’s the purpose and what to expect from this meeting. Peter says, “Yes! I look forward to this meeting.”

Juan also invites Laura, the vintage shop owner next door to him.

They find a date and time that works for all of them, which is during their slow business hours.

Photo: Unplash

Invitation

Juan creates an invitation using the template from the website to invite other businesses.

Juan facilitates the first meeting

Juan goes over the agenda and tells them what to expect from this meeting.

He uses the worksheet and the facilitation cards to guide the activities.

Activity 1: Shares challenges

Juan guides attendees to write their challenges in post-its, then share with the group.

He says participants can use the challenge cards if they feel stuck.

Juan share his challenges and listens to the group’s challenges

During the first activity, as attendees are sharing their challenges, Juan realizes that they all share similar challenges. Laura and Peter are also struggling with the lack of customers during the summer months.

The group brainstorm ideas together

During the second activity, participants brainstorm ideas for their challenges.

Juan tells participants they can use the idea cards as inspiration.

The group chooses one idea to work together next time they meet

In the final activity, they choose one idea they would like to work together next time they meet. Since the lack of customers during summer time was their main issue, they decided to pick the “Target corporate offices” idea. They exchange contact information and make a plan to meet next month to work further on this idea.

Juan facilitates the second meeting

During the second meeting, as a group, participants use the worksheet to elaborate further on the “Target Corporate Offices” idea.

The worksheet helps them to think of how this idea would work and make a plan of actionable steps to implement this idea.

Follow-up meetings

Participants continue to meet up for 1 hour on a monthly basis.

The toolkit helps them to stay on track and guides them to assign tasks and roles to each other.

They implement their idea

They create a coupon discount card listing of all their businesses to be distributed to local corporate offices, and by using their network they are able to find a contact person in most of these companies to spread the word.

Juan’s restaurant is very busy during summertime

As a result, Juan’s restaurant is very busy, even during summertime. Juan thinks, “I’m so happy to have this team in my neighborhood. I couldn’t have solved this challenge by myself.”

Photo: Unplash

Share results

Juan shares the results on the Local Biz Collective website. After a vetting process, his idea is posted on the website and it becomes part of the toolkit.

Share results page

Outcomes

  • Local Biz Collective allows business owners to build a supportive neighborhood community, making it easy and convenient to meet up because meetings happen near them.
  • 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?”
  • They can cross promote each other businesses, by doing collaborations, events, discount programs, or simply recommending each other’s businesses.
  • By implement ideas together, business owners can split the work and cost to implement these ideas, they will have a team to support them and feel less overwhelmed and more motivated to achieve their goals.