(Photo by Flickr user Sister72, used under a Creative Commons license)
After witnessing local brick-and-mortar businesses suffer from the Great Recession, Barry C. Mohr knew he had to help his community. So he quit his lucrative financial job to build a software platform.
Then, just as some of those businesses got back on their feet, they were knocked down by Hurricane Irene. Some fought back again and were then knocked out by Superstorm Sandy.
“I realized that every time small businesses faced tragedies no one was really there to help them,” said Mohr, cofounder and CEO of MallHawk, Inc. “Someone had to create a resource for them not just to survive, but to thrive in today’s age of mobile shopping.”
Mohr wanted to create an app that would connect local businesses with mobile shoppers. So early this year he built I Wanna — an app that uses proprietary algorithms with merchant-facing tools to help engage local consumers.
It’s a web-driven product meant to help local mom-and-pops.
When asked how I Wanna competes with online sellers Mohr responded, “We are not competing with Amazon Prime at all. We are creating an exchange that allows consumers to find services and experiences in their community. The things you will find through our app cannot be sent through the mail. Ice cream, mini golf, theaters, a haircut and other experiences will be found through our app.”
Mohr says he raised about $1 million a year ago and is currently seeking new investors, both individual and institutional, to provide MallHawk with the financial resources to execute its proof of concept stage. The company’s initial target market is Monmouth County, N.J.
At last count, I Wanna had approximately 343 active users on the app, all acquired via grassroots marketing efforts (aka, no media spend), Mohr said.
“We expect to double our current growth rate by month-end,” he said. “There are approximately 200 merchants on the platform.”
Features on the horizon include the ability to search for a specific merchant or experience, verified user reviews, a more efficient curation process, a shopping cart feature to purchase multiple items with a single check-out process and a significant ramp-up in the number of merchants per category. The company makes money through a 10 percent cut of every I Wanna transaction.
For the skeptics out there wondering why another shopping app matters, Mohr had this to say:
Our model reconnects local businesses with the consumers who live in the area, who may have forgotten those businesses exist because they are shopping and exploring online. We tell consumers, ‘Go ahead, shop mobile, keep doing what you like to do, just buy local.’ Consumers can now find and pay for the services they want, wherever they are, all in-app.
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