"When I moved back to Chattanooga in March 2012, I went to PetSmart to buy dog food, and the light bulb went off that there had to be some independent, locally owned pet stores that would have dog food at the same price," Hunter said via email.
So he started searching online but couldn't find a website that aggregated and promoted locally owned businesses.
Now, he's launched Nooga First to meet the need. The website provides a directory of locally owned businesses—no franchises.
It's free for business owners to join and be featured on the site. But Hunter asks that members help promote Nooga First via social media and sign up for the business newsletter.
Business leaders who want to join can visit the site and register. Then, they will get an email and video tutorial about how to set up a profile, he said.
"Our goal is to build a resource for people living here and moving here that want to support locally owned business," he said. "We already have a great community here; we just want to strengthen it."
Nooga Labs provides credit card processing and website design. Hunter had the Web design skills needed to create Nooga First. He spoke with others who wanted to create similar projects but who were held up by a lack of Web design skills, he said.
"My passion is small business," he said. "I love hearing the stories of how they got started, how they're growing, and, most of all, the willingness to help out other business owners."
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