Social distancing and avoiding large crowds has become a way of life that everyone is confronting as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the innovation of University of Houston alumna Mae Woods and co-founder, Pan Khandtidhara, is giving many communities hope by making it easier for consumers to visit their favorite retail stores, banks, pharmacies, and restaurants.
Woods and Khandtidhara created the crowd-sourced platform Howbsy.com (how busy without the u) to navigate wait times. The idea came when Khantidhara's mom became frustrated with the long lines at a local grocery store. "Pan is a software engineer and called me with an idea to build a website that shows store wait times. It had been a crazy couple of weeks in March and we just wanted to do as much as we could to keep the momentum going and help as many people as possible,” said Woods who currently lives in Vancouver, Canada and works for a tech startup in marketing.
The booming website started with Vancouver and has expanded across Canada and Houston, TX. It has surpassed 100,000 users already with more cites being added continually. Howbsy.com is based on crowd-sourced data. Anyone can update their wait time in a matter of seconds. Users can either post their estimated wait times or the number of people they currently see standing in line. “The more people that know about it and use it, the better it is for the community,” said Woods.
Woods earned a B.S. in Finance and M.S. in Global Retailing, before launching a career in marketing. She had not imagined that she would be applying her skills and knowledge to tackle the issues related to a global pandemic. The intended side project evolved into a tremendous community resource. “Being an entrepreneur can be somewhat daunting. I am very grateful to have the encouragement and support of my former professors in the UH retailing and consumer science program, whom I’ve stayed connected to for the past five years,” she said.