Founders of the York-created mobile phone app, Connected-York, are celebrating their first full year as a business despite the many knock-backs brought about by Covid-19 which has ravaged the high-street and seen plummeting visitor numbers.
The app, which helps businesses communicate and advertise with residents and visitors in real-time with adverts, promotions and exclusive offers, was launched in 2019 after many months of research and development – but Covid-19 threatened to curtail the app’s growth.
However, to continue to support the bricks and mortar businesses of York during the Covid restrictions, founders Andrew Stark and Melissa Magson evolved and adapted the app to better support the businesses and residents of York as their needs changed.
The app was developed to enable businesses to create better connections with residents – adding categories such as ‘home delivery’, ‘open for business’ and more recently, promoting those organisations taking part in the government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme.
With over 300 local businesses now on the app, user download numbers are continuing on an upward trajectory.
Andrew Stark, co-founder:
“Covid-19 knocked all businesses sideways, and we were no exception. Lockdown delivered a horrible reality for us and many other organisations too – we can only count ourselves as lucky as we were able to be quite dynamic and change our model quickly to continue to champion our local retailers.”
Melissa Magson added:
“Things slowed with Covid-19 initially, then the pace of app downloads began to increase dramatically as residents have looked for up to date and timely information, and retailers have looked for more ways to communicate. This form of real-time digital connection between retailers and residents and the high-street has resonated with many.”
The app was originally built on the concept that physical retail needs technology to help it evolve, and it can be used as an enabler to support physical retail, and not to detract and replace it. As York is the app’s hometown, it’s no surprise that the focus is on local, however in the longer-term there are plans for growth further afield.
To help with business growth and development, Melissa and Andrew both highlight the positive results from the support mechanisms they’ve used. With Make It York putting them in contact with the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to help with training, support and funding opportunities, they’ve also become Federation of Small Business (FSB) members and have recently begun to work with Ad:Venture – a European Regional Development organisation.
However, the icing on the cake came when they became a Northern Powerhouse Partner in July. The Northern Powerhouse is about boosting the local economy by investing in skills, innovation, transport and culture – with members being organisations such as KPMG, LNER, Yorkshire Building Society and Make It York.
“We’re possibly one of the smallest Northern Powerhouse members however our aspirations and passion for the North, particularly Yorkshire, remain just as strong. We’re thrilled to be part of this, and for us it also represents a great support and networking opportunity with some fantastic organisations we can learn so much from.”
With retail and city centres in general beginning to pick up in terms of footfall, and with Yorkshire Day approaching, Connected-York is optimistic – reporting increased activity not just in the food and drink sector, but in the arts and entertainment too.
“We’ve taken a few knocks, but we’re made of strong Yorkshire stuff and we’ve got so much more to come. We’re proudly flying the flag for the small businesses, the independent retailers – and plenty of the larger, more characterful ones too – for York and the North of England!”
Connected-York will be celebrating Yorkshire Day with plenty of tea, locally made cake and perhaps a regional ale. Or two.