When the Covid-19 lockdown was announced, Prof Jones-Evans spoke to Kate Methuen-Ley - founder of Tiger Stores Cardiff – about ways to support local businesses. Both had initially found it difficult when searching online to find out which brilliant independents were open, who was delivering, and who had stock available.
Fortunately, they had been working with Vicky Mann, a Pontypridd based entrepreneur and USW graduate who had already developed a potential solution to the problem via the NearMeNow app, which promotes high street businesses by digitally amplifying their shop window advertising.
With support from across the Welsh entrepreneurial network, iTown was born.
Launched yesterday, iTown is a free app for towns, villages, and high streets, which collates up-to-the-second information from all the businesses in each local area, which, during these unprecedented times, have had to adapt to the changing needs of the Covid-19 lockdown.
By creating a digital shop window, iTown enables consumers using the app to see which products are on offer in businesses such as corner shops, butchers, fruit and veg shops, bakers, and takeaway food outlets. They can then order and arrange delivery through a simple online messaging service and pay online. The first place to adopt iTown will be Treorchy in the South Wales Valleys, which was recently voted the best high street in the UK.
Prof Jones-Evans said: “At this difficult time for Welsh business, I felt it was important to try to get entrepreneurs together to do something collectively for the community we work in every day, especially given the important role USW plays in supporting civic society across South Wales.
“Thanks to Kate, Vicky and other entrepreneurs who are supporting the USW’s Start-Up Stiwdio incubator, we have now launched an app that will collate information from all the businesses in each local area in one place.
"This will mean that residents will now be able to go online to link directly to those shops and outlets remaining open in their high street and therefore support their local businesses at this critical time.”
Full details of how both businesses and consumers can register for the iTown app can be found at www.itown.net.