Empower PHLY

Helping experienced business owners give back to their community.

Visual Designs done by team member  Austin Davis

Visual Designs done by team member Austin Davis

Project Setup

The goal was to utilize data sets from OpenDataPhilly to develop a solution that uses entrepreneurship as a tool to help reduce poverty in Philadelphia.

As a Team

Generate idea of a possible solution


Develop the idea further through wireframes


Have a team member create visual design.

The Challenge

I joined the project during the middle phase. Therefore, my team had already developed an idea --a micro loan service to start businesses in up and coming areas of the city. I only had a week to create wireframes before the visual design phase was to begin. 

Evaluating the Design Process

I talked with the team to understand how they developed their idea. Though their research was thorough, the steps taken were not done in the most effective order. The data set and idea were decided on before conducting research to find a problem to solve. As a result, the research was biased and fulfilled what the designers wanted to create instead of solving a problem which was found. As a result, I was not confident in the idea.  

Switching Directions

After expressing my concerns to the team, they supported my decision to do additional research using their interview script as a starting point. To eliminate their risk of missing deadlines they moved forward with their micro loan idea while I explored developing an additional idea.

Digging for the Problem

Recruiting interview participants.

Recruiting interview participants.

Within 36 hours I managed to interview 8 participants about their experiences and aspirations towards entrepreneurship.


4 Experienced Entrepreneurs

2 from an impoverished background

2 from a middle class background

4 Aspiring Entrepreneurs  

3 from an impoverished background

1 from a middle class background


Because I did not know what I would problem I would find I let the conversation go in whichever direction in naturally went.  I left my questions very general and open ended. I began to see trends.


50% of all participants

said that having the right mindset and discipline are key starting your own business.

50% of experienced entrepreneurs

received education related to starting a business but it did not include discussion of financial aspects.

75% of experienced entrepreneurs 

Had an idea and just executed it with minimal preparation or experience. 



of the experienced entrepreneurs initially took out any loans.


of the participants knew what micro loans were or how to get them.


 of the aspiring entrepreneurs had clear plans on how they should get started.

Based on this I decided to solve a problem regarding entrepreneurship that starts way before any discussion of finances ever begins.

My solution would focus on educating people in impoverished areas about entrepreneurship and encouraging them to start businesses in their own neighborhoods.


I went through many of the data sets from OpenDataPhilly to see if there were any I could use together to support an idea for educating people in poverty about entrepreneurship. 

I came across the following two:

Recreation Centers and Activities Schedule

Searchable database of recreation centers and activities. Users can search for an area recreation center and set parameters for activity types (indoor/outdoor, art, music, sport/game), and day(s) activity is offered. Additionally, users can click on map visualization with area labels to yield larger search result groupings.

Empowerment Zones

Data includes commercial and industrial zones, i.e. areas with specific federal-granted special amenities (tax incentives, loans/grants) meant to attract and support businesses in blighted areas. Blighted areas are defined as meeting one of seven city mandated criteria, including unsafe, unsanitary and inadequate conditions; economically or socially undesirable land use; and faulty street and lot layout.

Proposed Idea

Allow experienced entrepreneurs to find recreation centers in empowerment zones where they can hold workshops to teach the people in these areas what it takes to start businesses of their own.


Given recreation centers are run by the city and are community based usually it costs little to nothing to use their space to run an activity.

Designing the Solution

I created the layout using wireframing tools in Axure. I chose a one page design as there was only one primary function. Experienced entrepreneurs would use a data visualization to see opportunities for places they could teach. It would also facilitate the start of the conversation to book a space. A secondary function is to educate people about upcoming sessions. I imagine this would be done primarily through other mediums. 

When complete, I collaborated with a team member for the visual design needs of the project. I explained the purpose of the tool I was designing and the needs of the two user groups. 

Wireframes and Visual Design

Testing the Solution

I asked a few participants to tell me their thoughts on the wireframe and visual designs. I found that some users thought the visual design felt more like a poster than a website. It was not immediately apparent which items were interactive and clickable. Users understood the purpose of the website and the intended audience but the interactions with the two call to actions were confusing.


What I Learned

Have the courage to challenge ideas if you have good reasons to back it up. In this project I deviated from the assignment but in the end my solution turned out more effective than if I didn't take the time to truly understand and take a step back. 



“Talisha is very creative and dedicated, and always puts her best effort into her work. In team projects, she always contributed well, and improved the experience for other students involved in the class ”

— Sean Boyle, professor at RIT, founder & Game Designer