Many business owners have to endure systemic racism and sexism, and generational wealth gaps that often prohibit them from accessing the same capital as their privileged counterparts. We wanted to bridge this gap while offering an opportunity for users to manage their finances.
What it does
Budget Forward combines these missions by functioning as a user-friendly budgeting app that recommends online women and minority-owned businesses to users based on their proposed budgets, needs, and priorities.
How we built it
The back end was developed using Python, with the Flask framework. The front end consists of HTML. We used BeautifulSoup API and various Python libraries to web scrape for these businesses in order to form a dataset to pull recommendations from. The scraper was used on articles containing hyperlinks to a variety of women and minority-owned online shops, and it pulled external links specifically and were subsequently filtered for relevance. The data, along with user data, is stored in a MySQL database, connected to the back end using the MySQL Python API. We wrote a short additional python script to populate the database with the business information. It is being hosted through Amazon Web Services, using the RDS and EC2 services to maintain a secure, RSA-encrypted connection.
Challenges we ran into
Because of the inconsistency of the HTML formatting across websites, we came across some limitations on our web scraping. We realized we would only have time to either pursue a method that prioritized scraping external links and filtering them (as opposed to internal ones, which would make the list inaccurate) or one that would require a lot more scrutinizing when we had a lot of functionality to cover. We also did not have enough time to finish implementing a planned data visualization function--we can visualize the data separately, but not through the app.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
For two of our four team members, it was their very first hackathon! One had no experience with Python or development and by the end became very familiar with Python, API integration, and the command line! Another had no experience with SQL and little with back end development, and learned a lot about MySQL and database functionality. Even the more experienced members learned a lot, tackling front end integration, advanced web scraping, and streamlined configuration of databases and cloud services.
What we learned
Python, SQL, and advanced web scraping!
We also learned a lot about the types of budgeting and finance apps that are in high demand, and further researched some of the nuances of inequality in business.
What's next for Budget Forward
Connect the app to users’ bank accounts Connect to other money-saving services (e.g. goodrx) More initial options (are you budgeting with a partner, does your income vary from month to month, enter custom amounts for total/categories, etc) Provide monthly budget reports/data visualizations More filters on product search (by price, etc) Update display in real time Fix data visualization