We were inspired by the growing community and individual initiatives to help small businesses heavily affected by the current COVID-19 pandemic, which has closed nearly a quarter of small businesses last year with overall revenue down for many. After looking at these solutions, which relied heavily on word-of-mouth and individual donors, we wanted to create a more sustainable solution that would help those small businesses without the manpower and time to help build out their digital toolsets / knowledge base and give them a fighting chance to be competitive. We were heavily inspired by Send Chinatown Love and the Little Tokyo Service Center.
What It Does
Local Allies is built on three prongs. The first is being a knowledge center for small businesses in need - the website helps market our message out that we are seeking small businesses to help and will eventually house resources that any small business can utilize from digital marketing templates and video tutorials.
The second prong is a small business hub. Here, once we officially are partnering with a small business, we'll help them build out a free space on our portal which they can utilize to showcase their small business photos, links to relevant sites, and a gift voucher donation tool (100% of which goes back to the small business). We'll both market any of these businesses on our own marketing channels as well as giving the small business a hub to link back to, especially if they don't have a web presence to begin with.
The last prong is free consultations. We want to teach small businesses how to be digitally sustainable, so we will have a team of digital marketers, translators, and web developers taking each small business through virtual, free sit-down meetings to walk them through tools like Google Ads to content marketing. The goal would be to have Local Allies work as a portal to communicate with small businesses; become a legitimate portal which small businesses can trust; and eventually build the small business' digital knowledge enough where they would not have to continue relying on our services.
Accomplishments That We're Proud Of / How We Built It & What We Learned
We accomplished a lot during the 10-day span of rapid development. We boostrapped a new Gatsby project with many features and technologies. Here are a few of our highlights:
- Learned how to develop and deploy a Gatsby JAMstack complete website
- Learned to set up, design, and use a Content Management System (CMS) with a WYSIWYG user interface (UI) in a JAMstack context (netlify-cms)
- Learned to implement multilanguage support, including unicode typography (Chinese Simplified) into an entire website
- Improved our React development skills
- Familiarized ourselves with Bulma CSS Framework and Fontawesome libraries
- Further developed our skills in working with design, product, and engineering team members
- Gained additional experience in full-cycle software development
- Gained additional experience in build and deployment of a website onto a IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) provider (Netlify)
- Created a brand new name and logo / design that functioned well using Figma
Challenges We Ran Into
One of the early challenges we ran into was the name of the project. We were trying to make sure we didn't overlap with existing community initiatives as well as be distinctive and memorable. We started with the idea LocAllies which was a play on Local Allies and localize which were two of our goals with the project. However, after sitting on the name fora bit and sharing early designs, we found that we were seeing 'Local Lies' much more in the forefront than 'LocAllies'. We then switched over to 'Local Allies' in full for better clarity. One other challenge we ran into was some of the stretch goal scopes that included more different language integration and integrating the Square functionality.
What's Next for Local Allies
We will continue to build out the feature sets that were out of our scope during the hackathon. This includes: fully integrating Simplified / Traditional Chinese translations throughout the whole site; integrating Square into our donation portal for small businesses to utilize; including more resources for our knowledge center for small businesses to utilize; and scoping for additional languages and business tools to integrate into our small business hub.
We will then be looking to test this in real-time in the Los Angeles and Orange County, CA markets with a few test small businesses with a few interested in trying out the portal. If that test goes well, we would like to continually expand this region by region and expand our team in turn with more web developers, marketers, accountants, and translators.