Our goal was to create a website where users could search for and add small businesses in their area to our site. Small businesses are the backbone of the American Economy, which is why we name our project “Project Backbone.” A recent article published by the Chicago Tribune showed that more than 60,000 small businesses closed permanently as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Pandemic has been negatively impacting small businesses across the U.S., and it will take the cooperation of community members in all corners of the United States to save them. That’s why we wanted to make it more convenient for consumers to find small businesses in their area.

What it does

We set out to create a Yelp-like service, but only for small businesses and without review capabilities. We planned to implement the functionality for users to add businesses themselves and to filter businesses by location, but we were not able to fully implement these designs within the Hackathon timeframe. We fully intend, however, to continue working on this project after HackGT. Our site currently supports searching by tag, viewing details of businesses (addresses, websites, descriptions, etc.), and browsing by type-of-business. Our free-to-use service is accessible by all modern browsers across desktop and mobile devices.

How we built it

We used Django and programmed mostly in HTML and Python, with some CSS mixed in. We used Django’s ‘startproject’ and ‘startapp’ functionalities to provide an organization scheme for our project. We also used Django’s template language to facilitate our HTML files with some additional capabilities, such as the creation of the cards on the search and subpages. Our templates can be found here: templates. In order to deploy our project to the web, we registered a domain using In addition, we used the provided Google Cloud credits to launch a virtual machine through Google Cloud Compute Engine. Within this virtual machine, a Django server was created from our project files. We ran this as a background process using the Linux terminal multiplexer screen. We pointed our domain towards the external IP of our Google Cloud instance, resulting in a functional and dynamic website. This website can be found here:

Challenges we ran into

Our challenges primarily consisted of scaling our app with feasibility. We originally planned to add a small character customization "minigame" as part of our web app to incentivize engagement with small businesses, but ultimately dropped this idea due to lack of artistic skill and time restrictions. Additionally, we planned to add QR code tagging of each business but were unable to implement this due to time restrictions.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

Coming into this project, only half of our team had experience with Javascript and that included only very basic programming. None of us had used Django and none of us ever deployed a website/web app, even on a local server. Therefore, we are proud of our efforts to learn all of this from the ground up and explore various frameworks/technologies to create a whole, functional product within a very limited timeframe. We are also proud that we have a working website that we can show to others, as this is something we have never done before.

What we learned

Through this project, we learned many technical skills in a variety of programming languages and frameworks. Above that, we also developed our understanding of group dynamics in project organization and the importance of planning in time-sensitive situations, especially in how to efficiently divide tasks in an area where too many cooks might spoil the broth.

What's next for Project Backbone

While we are satisfied with our creation during this Hackathon, the Project Backbone team has many ideas for future development. We hope to add the capability for users to tag their own local businesses, enable QR code identification to promote user engagement with businesses, and filtering businesses by location proximity. Lastly, we hope to spread the word about our product and help local businesses in this time of need along the way!

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