It started as a hashtag on Twitter for oddities of the city. Now Only in Denton has expanded from a social media trend into a website created by a Denton man to list and promote local businesses.
The site aims to help locally owned businesses and independent contractors develop a greater Web presence and attract more customers, said Scott Ballard, the website founder. Unlike other listing services, this is free and allows businesses to create their own description. It also sorts them by category and features them on an interactive map on the website homepage.
“The heart behind the site is I just love local business,” Ballard said. “I’m a Web guy myself and I have a burden for the little guy, I guess, and I thought I could use some of my knowledge to promote local business.”
After spending years in the city, he realized a lot of the places he and his wife frequented had little to no Web presence. Many said they had Facebook pages, but were inactive and didn’t attract the large population of college students.
When he buckled down to begin planning the website in early October, he and his wife started with a core list of businesses they frequented, and talked with friends and other businesses to help develop the content before the launch. More than 40 businesses were listed on the site when it launched, and the list has grown to about 220.
A mutual friend introduced Ballard to Rachel Aughtry, co-owner of the DIME Store, which was one of the first businesses listed on the website.
“It’s been a lot of fun, especially knowing about it before it was a public thing and to see how well it was promoted, how many people liked it on Facebook and were sharing the page,” Aughtry said. “It was really exciting to see this little idea grow into a really big thing.”
The DIME Store sells Only in Denton bumper stickers to help promote the site. Funds generated from branding and selling the products will be used to maintain the website and the rest will go to local charities. Currently, proceeds are going to Serve Denton, Ballard said.
“We just want to give back,” he said. “I don’t believe I’m going to be rich off of this deal and any money we do make we want to share it and give it back.”
With the website, he hopes to help grow the local economy to keep money, jobs and graduating students in the city.
“I don’t hate big box stores and I’m not trying to rail against the man,” Ballard said. “I just think if we spend more money locally, it will be a huge benefit to our city.”
Kim Phillips, vice president of the Denton Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Ballard’s mission resonates with her and the bureau’s goal to promote and help the city, but brings a new message other local websites don’t necessarily focus on.
“His whole purpose is to focus our attention, as citizens in Denton, on the importance of spending our money locally,” she said. “Because of that emphasis and purpose, he’s making a light-hearted plea to Dentonites to think local, and I think that’s different.”
Another aspect that is slightly different and useful is how the site will list independent contractors, Aughtry said.
“One thing I think will be really valuable is looking for services — I know where I want to shop and eat and get recommendations from friends — but finding a new doctor or dentist or plumber, all of that is still a mystery to me,” she said.
In the coming months, Ballard hopes to keep promoting the site and adding new merchandise, like coffee cups, to become a larger resource to help promote local business.
“The response has been great, and we’re kind of in the phase of wanting to get the word out about what we’re doing,” he said. “We want the directory to be solid, so when people come to look for these things, they can find them.”
JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.