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Davis, California

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Nytch Inc. helps local businesses beat out large online stores

New app connects shoppers with desired products at local businesses in Yolo County

Born and raised in Woodland, Grant Lea saw a problem in his local community, one that is also reflected in the rest of the world: Local businesses, offering unique merchandise and personal interactions, struggle to survive against major online retailers, like Amazon. Due to the high cost and logistics involved, these small businesses cannot sustain websites, but Lea saw a fix to this problem. 

In July 2019, with the help of fellow Yolo County native, Chase Kellison, Lea founded Nytch Inc. in Woodland and subsequently launched an app. Nytch, the app, connects small businesses’ offline inventory and expertise with shoppers in Yolo County. Already, 60 restaurants, retail stores and other local shops are registered on the app. The app’s current customer base reaches around 1,000 users, with ages ranging from 18 to 70+. Kellison is the company’s chief operating officer and Lea is the chief executive officer. 

“These small businesses are being beaten up by large online retailers and it’s difficult for them to compete because they can’t function at the same level that these giants can,” Kellison said.

The app is available on iPhones and Androids and can be downloaded on the Apple App Store or Google Play. Interested customers can also visit www.nytch.me

To use the app, a customer submits a request of what they want to purchase. They can include a description, pictures, the size and the color of what they desire. Any business registered through Nytch can respond to the customer with what they have to offer that is similar to the request. Businesses can send their price and pictures of the recommended product. If customers like the product, they can purchase it through the app or put the item on hold and then pick it up. Currently, no delivery service is offered, but they are working on it, Kellison said. 

“It is one point of access to 60 businesses,” Lea said. “We describe ourselves as a platform that connects communities to the unconnected.”

Customers should use Nytch because it supports local businesses, is environmentally sustainable and is the easiest way to find desired products, Lea said. 

“We’ve created the pathway for shoppers to connect with businesses in their communities in a way no other platform has before,” Kellison said. “There are no other apps like Nytch nor other apps that can do what we do. We’re one of a kind.” 

Shopping locally can benefit customers because they get to receive expert knowledge from store workers, which is lacking in online shopping, Lea said. These knowledgeable workers can connect customers to the right products without a single phone call or Google search.

“The businesses that you shop in offer more than just their inventory,” Lea said. “They offer customer service, knowledge and good experience. They know how to solve problems that their customers have, which you cannot do online.”

Noemi Gregorio, a third-year communication major and intern for Nytch, helps the company manage its social media presence and reach out to new businesses. As a shopper herself, Gregorio was drawn to Nytch as a new way to find clothes from local businesses. 

“I am always thinking of different outfits in my head,” Gregorio said. “I can just think of something, google it and send in the request to local businesses. I like it because I don’t have to go out to a bunch of different stores to look for one thing.”

Gregorio also appreciates the ability to shop locally while still having the convenience of online shopping. By shopping at small businesses, the money stays local and Davis community members invest in their city.

“What is Amazon going to give back to the people of Davis?” Gregorio asked. 

So far, Kellison said mostly older individuals use Nytch, but the company hopes to expand its user base to a younger audience. Kellison thinks that students would really enjoy the shopping convenience the app provides.

For UC Davis students, using Nytch can benefit the town that supports their university. A thriving downtown makes UC Davis a more desirable university to attend. Nytch allows for students to explore the businesses around them, Lea said. 

“When you are applying to UC Davis, we couldn’t boast about any of the stores or businesses downtown if they weren’t there,” Lea said. “We can talk about the unique shops, farmers markets and businesses that make these towns special places.”

Nytch originally launched its platform only in Yolo County because of the strong community emphasis the county has and the connections both Lea and Grant have from growing up there. 

“Both [Lea] and I thought the communities would really appreciate something like this,” Kellison said. “It’s a really special city and county to live in because it’s so community-centered.”

To recruit new businesses for the app, Lea and Kellison originally went door-to-door to businesses and spread the idea through word of mouth. 

“The businesses like what they hear,” Lea said. “It connects them to their communities in ways that they aren’t.”

The SPCA Yolo County Thrift Store joined Nytch to help them reach a wider customer base, said store manager Darci Soiu via email. After connecting with Nytch, they have received many new, regular customers from other towns. 

“We appreciate the wide variety of people [the app] reaches and the advertisement this company gives us,” Soiu said. 

Another business, Shu Shu’s LLC, has grown through Nytch. Via email, owner Shu Shu Hanjani said it helps her focus on customer relationships instead of other issues. 

“It really helped me avoid all the stress […] of figuring out what to put online, how to put it online, and everything else that goes with that,” Hanjani said. 

In the future, Nytch wants to expand its range beyond Yolo County. As of now, however, Nytch wants to focus its efforts on providing the best results for customers and businesses in this smaller region, Lea said. 

“We want to deliver on expectations,” Lea said. “We are delivering on what our people expect and once we do that, we will focus on how to save other local businesses across the country.”

Currently, businesses get to use Nytch for free with no strings attached, Kellison said. This stems from founders’ love of the Yolo County community. Once Nytch launches elsewhere, the company will charge a 10% fee on each sale made, however, companies in Davis and Woodland will never have to pay this fee. As the home county Nytch stems from, Yolo County businesses will always be able to use the app for free. 

Through Nytch, Lea hopes that small businesses in Yolo County and beyond can survive and thrive while up against large online companies. 

“Nytch makes it possible for small businesses to actually compete,” Lea said. 

Written by: Margo Rosenbaum — science@theaggie.org 


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