Student startup helps local businesses keep up with online competition

BYU students Braden Dredge, Savannah Knight, Brant Johnson and Chloe Badstubner are founders of BackLocal a company striving to make local businesses more accessible online. (Photo courtesy of Brant Johnson)

BYU students found startup company to help local small businesses become more visible on Google Search.

BackLocal is a Software as a Service company that integrates local businesses’ inventory onto Google Merchant and Google Shopping. This makes it so when someone searches for products, nearby stores will pop up rather than major retailers like Walmart or Amazon.

“At BackLocal we’re trying to get money into small towns by creating a movement with our brand to inspire people to shop local,” BYU design major and one of the founders, Chloe Badstubner said.

Research provided by BackLocal shows 82% of internet users used mobile devices in 2019 to shop. Plus, 60% of shoppers said they preferred online over physical stores during the holiday season in 2020.

Approximately 81% of shoppers surveyed confirmed they search inventory online before going into the store, and 75% of customers who find local information online are more likely to visit the store.

Business strategy major Brant Johnson was inspired to help his small hometown of Vernal, Utah, recover from the lasting effects of the 2008 market crash. 

A few years ago while interning for former governor of Utah Gary Herbert, Johnson questioned what could be done. After speaking with cabinet member Val Hale of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, Johnson turned to more entrepreneurial solutions. 

Johnson said he was frustrated at the idea something he had ordered on Amazon could’ve been in store down the street from where he lived, and he had no clue. “It made me feel sad because I was thinking the benefit of buying locally and supporting locally in my town that got hit so hard, would practically save my community,” Johnson said.

The idea of a more localized Amazon came to his mind. 

According to BYU strategy professor Jeff Dyer, “A localized Amazon creates more benefits to the local economy because it enriches the employees, managers, and owners of those local retailers; the more they are enriched the more money they spend within the local economy for example on homes, goods, services, which then enriches others in the local economy.”

After being accepted into Sandbox, an on-campus program that assists students in launching their own companies, Johnson pitched his idea. Badstubner, Braden Dredge and Savannah Knight joined his team. Through trial and error, they designed BackLocal. BackLocal is working on other integration platforms in the hopes of having a network with accurate business inventories throughout the country in order to better fulfill consumers’ needs.

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