Alexina McQuilkin: “COVID-19 has severely hurt small businesses and they need our help”


Credit: Courtesy of Alexina McQuilkin

Junior Alexina McQuilkin hopes to help local businesses as they fight through the struggles of the pandemic. McQuilkin came up with the idea of using an app to help promote local businesses. “I knew nothing about business or apps, but I was pretty passionate about this idea and I also had so much free time because of [COVID-19],” McQuilkin said. “I decided to see where this idea could go.”

When COVID-19 hit in the spring of 2020, many students’ once busy days were left empty. Current junior, Alexina McQuilkin found herself in said situation. McQuilkin, a three-sport athlete who is not used to unscheduled hours, knew that she wanted to use this time to make a difference. She saw that COVID-19 was causing a lot of small businesses to shut down and wanted to help.

With the help of her uncle, McQuilkin started creating an app with the hopes that it could help local businesses gain more exposure through treasure hunting. She wanted to create an app where local businesses can create a profile and “treasure chests” unique to their business. The treasure chests would be posted on a virtual map and when customers found them, they would unlock different discounts, gift cards and other rewards.

“I knew nothing about business or apps, but I was pretty passionate about this idea and I also had so much free time because of [COVID-19],” McQuilkin said. “I decided to see where this idea could go.”

McQuilkin had a design for the app in mind, but she was aware of the difficulties that came with creating an app. In December of 2020, McQuilkin took a business entrepreneurship class called Beta Bowl.

“In the class, I learned how to create a business plan, financial model and pitch deck,” McQuilkin said. “[The class] really helped me learn how to turn my app idea into a business.”

With the information she learned from the class, McQuilkin created a working prototype for the app. Her uncle put her in touch with an app developer who gave her advice and different resources to make a prototype.

“Making the prototype took a long time, and I had to change my original designs a little bit,” McQuilkin said. “ I created an Instagram account for my app to help me connect with my target audience, small business owners, so I could potentially use them for beta testing. Over the summer I beta tested with a couple of businesses and got positive feedback.”

McQuilkin has experimented with different strategies to promote her app. For the most part, her promotions come through different social media apps that allow her to interact with small businesses.

“In my financial model I have different marketing strategies planned out, like Google ads, influencer advertising and Facebook advertisements,” McQuilkin said. “A lot of small businesses promote their products on Instagram and in Facebook groups, so those platforms are a good place to find my target market. It is also good to make connections with people because you don’t know who can help you in the future.”

With school and sports back in full swing, McQuilkin hasn’t had as much time to work on her app, but her academics and extracurriculars haven’t stopped her from continuing to work hard. She is currently working with her uncle to further her prototype.

“It is hard to say [when the app will be done],” McQuilkin said. “Right now I have a working prototype that could serve as a [minimum valuable product]. However, I am thinking of getting professional help to develop it. When I work on my prototype, I am a bit of a perfectionist, [so] I am thinking of outsourcing some of the app work.”

If you are interested in learning more about McQuilkin’s app, feel free to check out her website: