Written by Joe Armstrong, Content Specialist, Marketing, Downtown Main Library
We insist on being a library for all. All minds. All modes. All needs. More than 2.4 million visits are made to the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library each year from customers living in and working in our diverse, vibrant, and unique neighborhoods. Our series “Meet a Library Customer, opens a new window” shares the stories that minds of all kinds have each day at CHPL.
Many investors and pundits circle Silicon Valley searching for the next big thing, but they should be focusing on an incubator of ideas and innovation that’s right around the corner: the Library! At the Forest Park Branch Library, opens a new window, they'd find a mother-son duo launching their own healthcare app, drawing the attention of healthcare providers across the region.
Creating a Better Way to Connect to Care
Ashley Barrow and her son, Aaron Bess, came to the Library with an idea in mind. “I wanted to develop a way that resources could be at the fingertips of clinicians, case managers, and individuals in need of medical care,” Ashley said.
They used powerful research databases, opens a new window, available free with a library card, to do market research and competitor analysis.
Over time, the idea came to life as RE-Assist, opens a new window, an app for referral management. It’s a way of “letting clinicians, social workers, and vendors come together,” Aaron explained. The app solves a frustrating problem for healthcare providers and patients by creating a digital space for referrals and information typically shared via paper lists that are often inaccurate and hard to update.
Growing Their Small Business
As RE-Assist was taking shape, Ashley and Aaron used other free Library resources to draw investors and funding. With help from CHPL’s Grant Resource Librarian, opens a new window, they were able to look into ways of self-funding the platform and research grants and accelerators that may apply to them.
They also used the Library’s free printing service, opens a new window to make presentations and print documents throughout the app’s development.
Providing Guidance and Support
"The Library has been absolutely great for us,” Ashley says, as she often brings her family to the Library while she works on RE-Assist. Her children read in the Library’s welcoming environment, create at the mini-MakerSpaces, opens a new window, and get tech-savvy themselves on the Library’s computers. Library staff have been so helpful all along the way, Ashley says.
Peter Bour is a Library Customer Advisor and one of the Library staff who often assisted Ashley and Aaron while they were developing the app. “Small businesses often operate on a shoestring,” Peter says, “To be able to make presentations that look great using Library resources, and being able to gain knowledge and expertise from the people that work at the Library are absolutely essential to do really well with your concept.”
What’s next for RE-Assist? Aaron and Ashley have launched their website, recently participated in a SoCap Accelerate cohort, and are releasing an updated version of the app later this year.
“It means a lot to grow as a business and grow as a family together,” Aaron says.
Do you want to start your own business? Check out the free small business resources, opens a new window available at CHPL.