Inspiration

After seeing the movement for Black lives and particularly the movement to support Black-owned businesses, we felt inspired to create a solution that would encourage everyday investment into the livelihood of Black business owners. Since there is a surplus of businesses like these selling great products, our team decided to take on the challenge of redirecting attention from popular sellers to smaller companies that could use the support. On social media there's lots of lists of Black Owned businesses going around, but it can be hard to remember them in the moment you're searching for a product, and this is the problem our project wants to fix.

What it does

When a user goes onto Amazon and searches for a product, our Google Chrome extension pops up and suggests the user with alternative sellers by reading from a database of Black-owned businesses to buy from based on the product they were looking for.

How we built it

The team started with brainstorming the general structure of the extension, including a draft of UI elements. Then we split into teams to build the respective pieces of our chrome extension: the front end and actual packaging of the extension was done with HTML, CSS and Javascript; the back end database of Black-owned businesses was built using AWS. For backend, we used the rainforest api that takes a url and returns a list of product categories based on Amazon categories. We search our AWS DynamoDB database for these categories and return a JSON array of all the matching database options that has a Business name, url, description, and image.

Challenges we ran into

One major challenge was that our initial approach was to collect information from various Black-owned business websites automatically using a web-scraping tool (Selenium), but we were not able to access the information we were looking for with that method, so we pivoted rapidly to a more traditional database that we populated manually for the purposes of this hackathon.

Another struggle was that for most of our team, this was their first hackathon, so the format of learning on the fly was a new challenge that we had to adapt to in order to remain productive across long sessions of coding.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

Having a working demo that we can expand on in the future!

We learned a lot of AWS functionalities (DynamoDB, API Gateway, and Lambda functions) and we're really proud of being able to set up a properly working web app.

Working as a team to put together something functional rapidly in order to display our idea was an exciting process, and we all maintained a healthy attitude towards our project even when we were feeling lost.

We all persevered through our lack of knowledge to put together the demo, and throughout our time working together we discovered new ways to collaborate virtually, including a website that allows for live cooperation on a file.

What we learned

All of us gained experience with building Chrome extensions and how they interact with remote databases. We learned a lot about AWS and configuring APIs with lambda functions. Most of us with little experience with Javascript also had a crash course in asynchronous programming!

What's next for Black Owned Business Chrome Extension

In the future, we would like to change our database structure to automatically collect data from Black-owned business websites that offer alternative products automatically rather than needing manual data entry. We’d also like to work on matching the Black-owned business’ categories of products to Amazon’s categories through a process of synonymous word matching rather than manually changing the Black-owned business’ category to an Amazon category.

We also tried to use AWS CloudSearch to search for keywords (in the name or description) instead of just categories so that our search would be more precise, but we couldn't get it to work in time so that is something for the future.

Another goal for us is to look at broadening our scale so that our extension works on websites beyond Amazon!

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