Two passionate UMass students develop an app to support Amherst businesses

‘The Yerli’ helps students and local businesses

Courtesty+of+Avi+Benmayor+and+Kevin+Cutinella

Courtesty of Avi Benmayor and Kevin Cutinella

By Nicole Bates, Collegian Correspondent

Everyone has felt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in some way. The world is going through a collective trauma right now, including members of the Amherst and University of Massachusetts community who are feeling the weight of the pandemic sinking down on them.

For small businesses, the toll of the pandemic has been grave. Many are struggling to stay afloat amidst lockdowns, restrictions and the general fear of the coronavirus pressing on customers’ minds every time they step out of their house. Researchers have projected that at least 100,000 small businesses that have closed during COVID-19 shutdowns will not reopen.

Though the statistics sound bleak, there is hope. As individual members of the Amherst community, we have collective power to help these small businesses stay afloat. Two passionate UMass students have taken initiative to help support small businesses in the Amherst area.

 Avi Benmayor, a junior industrial engineering major, and Kevin Cutinella, a senior management major, have teamed up to create an app that helps connect users to small businesses in their area.

Their app “The Yerli” serves as a platform where consumers can easily find small businesses in their area. Cutinella pointed out that when most UMass students think of Amherst businesses, they strictly think of downtown Amherst, but he said that, “There’s so much more than that. There’s the Mill District in North Amherst, Atkins Farm in South Amherst, the Hangar area. There’s over 100 businesses [in Amherst].”

“The Yerli” will expose members of the Amherst community to the variety of small businesses in the area and it will introduce people to some cool spots they may not have otherwise known about. This app will mutually benefit consumers and small businesses.

Benmayor shared a story of how small businesses are so often overlooked:

“A woman moved to the Amherst area about a year and a half ago to head a nonprofit organization. She walked around downtown and she decided to try out a Tibetan restaurant called Momo. She loved it. When she went back to her office she asked her co-workers if any of them had ever been. No one had heard of it. Some of her co-workers had been living in the area for twenty-plus years and they had never even heard of the restaurant, only a few minutes from where they worked. People walk by it and see it every day and they don’t even recognize it when it comes up in conversation.”

Benmayor and Cutinella hope to remedy this problem with their app, so no small business goes overlooked. In addition, they will enrich UMass students’ experience by helping to connect these students to small businesses where they may potentially find their new favorite lunch spot or their new favorite salon.

What sets “The Yerli” apart from other apps of this kind is its attention to the story of the business owners. Under each description of a business on the app is essential information like address, contact info, business hours and key prices, but also “a word from the owner.” This feature allows the business owners to share their story. The app also includes if a business is minority owned, which is vital in helping to uplift marginalized communities. This app will help consumers shop locally and more conscientiously.

Benmayor and Cutinella already have ten local businesses signed up for the app and they are hoping to signed up more. The app is currently being approved by Apple and Android app stores, but they hope to launch it in the coming weeks. If you are interested in following the app, you can follow their social media accounts linked below:

Instagram: @theyerliapp

Facebook: The Yerli

Website: https://theyerli.com/

You can also “pre-sign up” for the app at this link, so as soon as it is released onto the app store you will be one of the first to know.

If you have any questions for Benmayor or Cutinella or if you would like to help, you can direct message the any of the social media accounts linked above or directly email them at:

Kevin Cutinella – [email protected]

Avi Benmayor – [email protected]  

Nicole Bates can be reached at [email protected]