An App For The Times

Last year I went to a networking event for local business owners in Derby, it was an informal event with a relaxed atmosphere where we could all talk about our business ventures and learn about the services on offer. One man, John Whitbread who grew up on the Leicestershire-Derbyshire border had a remarkably interesting venture in the pipeline, he was developing an app that could turn out to be one of the best business directories on the market.

When I met John in 2019, he was very passionate about his app and the fact that it would be fair for all business owners who listed on the directory and a useful tool for consumers that is simple to use, the app was still in development and not yet on the market. Over I year later, I caught up with John to find out more about his app and how things are going. Due to the current situation with covid-19 it was unsafe to meet in person, so we decided to catch up via Zoom.

John’s has been busy since I last saw him in September 2019 and In January 2020 after a painstaking year making sure this app not only works but works perfectly I believe he has created an app that seems to have been made just in time for when people need a lifeline due to the unforeseen circumstances bought about by Covid-19.

Many people have had to self-isolate and certain essential items became unobtainable in the super markets and online delivery slots were hard to come by, so amongst the fear and confusion people turned to their local, independent shops such as butchers, bakery’s and green grocers for these essential items. John and I spoke about this and agree it’s bought back a nostalgic community vibe that seemed lost due to big supermarkets and online shopping outlets taking over by offering a convenience, but as the government imposed a lock-down for the nation even these supermarkets and online outlets couldn’t keep up with the demand and people have once again come to rely on their local, independent retailer and some of these businesses manged to adapt to make their product and services available to all.

Johns believes that small owners should have a fair chance at showcasing what products and services they have on offer, he explained to me how google and other search engines worked when it comes to advertising your business, product or service and it comes down to two things: Money and algorithms so, if I were to search for a product of service on Google it would give me a list of businesses and their services but some of these business listed at the top can be at least 30 miles away, when in fact there are services closer to home, but because some companies can invest in advertising, top-notch webs services and AdWords, local businesses tend to get overlooked and those who have paid to be at the top get listed first. I had never really understood or thought much about how Google and other search engines worked until John kindly explained it to me. He also told me how his app works and that it’s based on fairness not how much a person invests in advertising, web design or other webs services, the cost is the same for all businesses who list on the app a mere 99 pence a month and it lists the services that at closer to your location at the top first giving local businesses a fair chance to build a customer base and encourage people to shop locally.

Not only has John now developed this seamless app, he’s also built up local communities on Facebook such has Spotted: Derby, which was instrumental in helping to find a missing vulnerable adult in the area a couple of weeks ago, the people who used this page were so kind and helpful, some even offered to get out on foot and look for the missing person. There were lots of sighting and leads were coming in fast from the community, and the family could build a picture of where this person was going and pass the information on to the police which really help in tracking her down and getting her home safe. The family are very thankful to all who offered words of kindness and valuable leads and to John for building such a great, responsive online community. John has currently created 12 Spotted Facebook pages across the East Midlands and is expanding nationally at the current time, and once a week business owners can advertise their products and services via the community page at no cost.

John also hosts business networking events online via zoom, where local business owners can learn about each other’s products and services and support each other with their ventures. I’ve been to one of these events and hope to participate in more I’m a little shy and have little confidence when interacting with large groups of people, but John assured I would be fine. I have been to a couple of different networking events previously and felt overwhelmed but the format of John’s events are fair and inclusive and John invites a different expert guest speaker to take part and tell us about a different subject each week, he also give each participant a chance to introduce themselves and tell us about what they do and holds break out room sessions where we are put in to smaller groups then the one-to-one meetings, kind of like speed dating but for business owners to make connections and get a more in depth insight into what services and products their paired partner can offer and how you could help each other out.

John’s app is truly an app for the times, giving business owners a fair chance to get their products and services to the local market and gives the local community the opportunity to shop local, which I think we should all be doing as supporting local businesses supports the local economy and also keeps that good old community interaction alive in a digital age, his Spotted pages on Facebook are helping local people to communicate and find product and services, especially during the tough times brought about by Covid-19 and his networking events are helping local business owners connect and support each other and is the best b2b event I’ve been to so far. All three of these services encourage people and businesses to shop locally and support each other in a fair way so if you want to support your local businesses and build a better community in your area check the app, the local Facebook communities he’s built or join one of his b2b networking events I think you’ll be just as impressed as I am.

Written by Lisa Varty for The D-Paper ©

Check out The Spotted: App for Yourself at:

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