Ana Peralta brings her tech experience to FLIT, an online platform designed to connect Austinites with local community vendors.
By Tess Harmon, Photos courtesy of Ana Peralta
When Ana Peralta moved to Austin for work in 2015, she found that a great way to transition to a new city was supporting small and locally owned businesses. While visiting local markets and breweries, she noticed that there were often pop-ups and tabling. But she found it difficult to reconnect with vendors later and follow their schedules.
Peralta has been working in tech for the past 10 years as a product designer, exploring different industries, from hospitality, to finance, to IT to real estate. So, when approaching the challenges facing the support of small businesses, Peralta had a unique perspective and the skill set to see how technology could be used to bridge the gap between the consumer and nomadic vendors. Given her experience with software, Peralta visualized how she could create a platform to aid small businesses in remaining connected with local customers and went about designing it herself.
Enter, FLIT: an online platform featuring a map that publicizes mobile vendors’ events with location, details and profiles. FLIT allows vendors to promote their events and information, while helping consumers connect and follow local businesses. It gives those businesses with irregular schedules and locations a greater online presence and their customers the chance to follow and engage.
Peralta started toying with the idea for the platform in 2020 and now hopes to launch it later this fall. She not only plans for FLIT to make small businesses’ information easily accessible, but for it to be a streamlined way to help connect and build loyalty between consumers and local vendors.
“The way I see it, FLIT is an online platform that’s serving as a visual locator that spotlights local, transient vendors in the Austin area and their locations through a map that I built on the homepage, in hopes to encourage supporting and shopping within our own communities,” Peralta says. “The best part is that it refreshes daily. So that the information that you see displayed is what’s happening locally and in real time. I’ve also added neat features for the consumer so they can opt-in to notifications and be able to track future events or future locations to people they’ve expressed interest in. It keeps money and support within our neighborhoods. What I’m aiming to do is support local consumerism and the community economy.”
Peralta’s vision for FLIT also comes to light as small businesses adapt to Austin’s growth over the past decade. While social media is one of the main outlets in which businesses connect with customers, Peralta believes it does not fully meet the needs of pop-ups.
“I’ve noticed that, compared to when I first visited [Austin], there are astronomically more vendors and markets,” she says. “So, there’s now a lot more going on on any given day. There are multiple markets happening in one day easily. Vendors are plentiful, so to stand out and connect with folks is more difficult. I have seen some vendors who at one point had a lease and a storefront. Then due to rising costs in rents and the difficulties in keeping a business lease, going nomadic and being a pop-up is more feasible for them.
“Some people you could reach before who had an address and fixed hours, that’s no longer the case. There are a lot more challenges in keeping up with someone who is here today and gone tomorrow. Technology is probably the best way to connect vendors and clients and continue their relationship.”
As the sole member of FLIT, Peralta also sees how she is able to work with local businesses as the founder of a small company herself.
“We understand each other in the sense of our bandwidth, or resourcing. How much we juggle in a day,” she says. “I do continue working my full-time job. So when I meet my vendors and the clients I’m trying to help, we relate in a lot of ways. What it’s like to have a lot of priorities and aspirations and ambitions in a day. What I think I’ve been able to do for them is that I’m coming at it from the client side. I’m a small business supporter, and I’ve been in positions where I want to support more. But there’s some issues in the way, and there’s some gaps that prevent me from doing this more frequently. I’ve been able to bring my client’s perspective to my vendors. We’ve had great conversations that have helped me build what I have now.”
With FLIT’s launch approaching, Peralta hopes vendors will reach out to her with questions, ideas or information requests. In addition, she wants vendors to know that behind the screen, she is a real person supporting local businesses.
“I identify as a woman. I’m Latin. So, I’ve grown up around strong women in general. I’ve been supported by the female founders community here in town. Many of the small businesses and the pop-up vendors that I see when I go to markets are women too. I’m super proud of what they’ve made. I think it matters to people when they ask about my service and what I’m delivering that it’s coming from me as a real person.”