This post originally appeared on Northeastern Global News. It was published by Beth Treffeisen.
Walking down a beach in Hawaii about two years ago, Shaan Arora, a fourth-year Northeastern University student studying computer science and business, came across a woman selling bracelets.
Out of curiosity, he asked her how they were made. In response, the woman said that every morning she goes out to the beach, picks up plastic debris that washes ashore and uses those materials to produce her bracelets.
Her story inspired Arora to buy bracelets for himself and his entire family.
“And now when I wear that bracelet or my mom wears that bracelet, we think of that woman, and we think of her story, and we think of what she does every single morning to produce these bracelets,” says Arora, a co-founder of Alia. “For us, that's very impactful, and the bracelet has so much meaning to me.”
However, the woman told Arora she was unsuccessful in taking her business online. Her story got lost in an ecosystem with so much content to compete with.
That's where Alia steps in, Arora says.
“We try to solve the problem of how small businesses compete online and build relationships,” Arora says.
The software company builds a loyalty program featured on small business websites. The widget rewards users through store discounts for learning about the company in small, easy-to-take quizzes.
Most other widgets that pop up on retail websites are transactional, Arora says. But these are about making an emotional connection to the owner.