From design challenge team member to quasi-CTO: my exciting journey with Crown Town Compost
Reflecting on seven years supporting an incredible team of environmentally-conscious entrepreneurs
Problem worth solving
Charlotte and its suburbs don’t offer any dedicated food waste collection services:
- Food waste mistakenly gets routed to landfills
- Citizens are less incentivized to start or maintain community gardens
- A potentially life-saving loop of ‘food waste to food supply’ remains closed
Five ways I helped them grow their business
- Website re-design
- Customer-facing application MVP
- Daily pick-up route optimization and management
- Consolidation and automation of several key tasks during customer acquisition
- Lead generation and tracking
Check address for pick-up service
Local business showcase and lead generation
Customer-facing mobile app prototype
The founder wanted to build a mobile app that increased customer loyalty, commercial customer acquisition, and number of referrals.
The critical feature of this app was to present customers with a map featuring markers for each commercial customer and corresponding coupons to redeem each week or month.
Early ideas, sketches and wireframes
Videos for each prototype iteration
Flows from the latest iteration
Try the prototype now: https://rmion.com/compost
Daily pick-up route optimization and management
Several times throughout the prototyping process, I watched the team’s operational lead manage each day’s route.
Each evening, she reviewed the following day’s spreadsheet:
- Account for new customers
- Determine which day they fit best in
- Add them to the weekly text reminder for that day
- Email them a welcome message with onboarding instructions
- Add them to the correct day’s spreadsheet representing the route
- Re-order the rows in each spreadsheet based on a hunch as to the best route given the locations of each pick-up
- Send a batch text reminder to the day’s group members
- Check if any members opt to skip the route that week
- Update the spreadsheet’s order accordingly
With a fuller understanding of each manual step — and how error-prone this process already was — I set out to make life easier for her, the drivers, and the whole team as a result.
Route optimization API
Consolidated Google Sheet
Google Sheet CRUD wrapper API
The mobile app for drivers
As seen in the third screen, each action is one tap away:
- Next or previous stop
- Get directions
- Mark complete
- Flag the address in case the current one is incorrect
- Call the customer
- Skip to the middle of the route (in case two drivers split it)
- Return to most recent stop (if driver has chosen to use the scrubber to preview the route)
- End the route (get directions to the warehouse)
Consolidation and automation of several key tasks during customer acquisition
When a new recurring plan is created in MoonClerk, our checkout form vendor…
- Add a row to the spreadsheet
- Assign several values to their respective columns
- Update certain columns based on another column’s value
When customer’s respond to our SMS messages the night before…
- Update the correct row to indicate whether to exclude that customer from tomorrow’s route
Once each Sunday morning…
- Reset the values in the column indicating whether to skip a customer
Lead generation and tracking
- Drivers on route click a button to generate an optimized route for the day
- Potential customers are checking their address on the website
- Existing customers are potentially referring their friends and family members
It is of utmost importance that we track each daily occurrence of these events so that we can improve, follow-up and perform targeted marketing.
Tracking generated routes
Tracking addresses checked
How a design challenge blossomed into an opportunity to prepare the company’s operations for any scale
When I met the founders as part of the nighttime design program, I was early in my User Experience Design career.
During that program, my team prototyped the first iteration of a customer portal.
A few years later — upon reconnecting with the founders — I was prepared and excited to help them better market and communicate their value to potential customers via their website.
A year later, I met with the CEO to reconnect again and discuss his short- and long-term strategy for the business. This helped me learn about his priority for building the rewards-based customer portal.
After making several prototypes and improving it through several rounds of user testing, it was proving usable and useful…but the timing didn’t seem right to build and launch it.
Instead, I proposed to the team that they hire me part-time as CTO: the member of their team who would act as lead developer for custom applications, and as someone who could recommend which technologies to buy or build to support our operations as we scale.
They accepted my offer.
I immediately started work on the driver’s app and optimizing routes.
In the months since, each driver has helped me improve upon and expand the mobile app’s capabilities and user interface to better support their needs.
Each day, as people visit the website and hopefully purchase a recurring plan, the proper databases and spreadsheets are updated. The next morning when the driver starts her route, the app shows exactly the right stops…in the right order…with the right information to help the driver know what to bring and where to go.
Thank you for reading!