Welcome to episode 137 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork talks with Trey George about building, developing, and managing apps.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork interviewed Raquel Smith about how optimize search results on Google and Pinterest. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
One Million App Downloads in One Year
Building an app can be an exciting addition to your online business, and Trey is a pro at managing apps at A Color Story.
Trey has had a hand in building four apps for the A Beautiful Mess brand (the A Beautiful Mess app, Party Party, A Color Story, and A Design Kit), and he has quickly learned what works, what doesn’t, and what’s important to consider when building an app. If you’ve ever thought about building an app for your blog, this episode is for you!
In this episode, Trey shares:
- How he got started managing the A Beautiful Mess app
- How to charge more for your work
- How the A Beautiful Mess app was self-promoting
- Why hashtags were important for growth
- What to look for in an agency
- How to find an app developer
- His experience with in-app purchases
- SEO Site Checkup Alt Test
- How to Write Great Pinterest Image Descriptions
- How to Craft Alt Text for Images
- 121: How to Overcome Your Failures and Find Success with Emma Chapman
- A Beautiful Mess App
- A Color Story
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].
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Thanks to our Reviewer of the Week, Anushree from Simmer to Slimmer! If you’d like to be featured, leave a review for us on iTunes and include your name and blog name in the review.
If you’d like to jump to the comments section, click here.
Bjork Ostrom: In this episode I’m going to be talking about a super simple tool that you can use for checking your alt text and, bonus, it’s free. Then, we’re going to be talking about apps and how you as a blogger might consider apps for building your online business.
Hey there, everybody. This is Bjork Ostrom, and you are listening to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, which is brought to you by WP Tasty. WP Tasty is the ultimate go to place for anybody that is building a WordPress site, especially if you are building a food or recipe website. We have two plugins right now. One is called Tasty Recipes, and that is for anybody that has a recipe site. It marks up your content, your recipe, in a way that Google recognizes it and Pinterest recognizes it. It’s super simple, super clean, and it’s really well-maintained. And the other plugin is called Tasty Pins. And Tasty Pins allows you to create an optimized Pinterest text, as well as an optimized alt text.
We’ve talked about the alt text before in the podcast, so I’m not going to go into it. I’m not going to dive deep into how that works. But I do want to share for today’s Tasty Tip, a really fun way, and I say fun because it’s easy, a really fun way for you to check a certain post on your blog to make sure that it includes the alt text. And I actually ran this for the Pinch of Yum homepage and realized that we have a ton of images that don’t include our alt text, or don’t include alt text for that specific image. And we’ve done a really good job of optimizing the posts, because we use WP Tasty’s Tasty Pins for that, and we’ve gone through and made sure every one of our posts is updated. But we haven’t done a good job of doing that on the homepage.
So how did we figure that out? What tool did we use? It’s a tool called SEO Site Checkup, and it’s free if you don’t use it a lot. And what is a lot? Well, it allows you to run one page every hour through this alt text tester. We’ll link to this in the show notes, but you can get there by going to SEOSiteCheckup.com/tools/image-alt-test. And you could also do a search in Google, SEO Site Checkup Alt Test. What happens is, it’s a really simple tool that you just put a URL into, and that will look through all of the images on that URL, on that page, and it will tell you which images don’t include an alt text.
Now, what we’ve done is we’ve started the process of making sure that all of those images on Pinch of Yum are updated so they have an alt text, or on the homepage. And that’s what you would do as well. You want to make sure that your images have an alt text. If you haven’t yet heard of Tasty Pins, one way that that’s going to improve your images is it allows you to do both the alt text and a Pinterest text. It allows you to create both of those for your image, so you can properly create the alt text, and you can properly create the Pinterest text. If you don’t know what that means or how that works, what I’ll do is, in the show notes, which you can get to by either looking at the podcast app if you’re listening to this on your phone, or you can get to by going to foodbloggerpro.com/137. What I’ll do is include the two articles that we have on WP Tasty that talks about how to do the correct alt text and how to do the correct Pinterest text.
The worst-case scenario would be if you don’t have any alt text at all, which we learned the hard way by using this tool. So we’re going through the process and updating that for the Pinch of Yum homepage. And that’s today’s Tasty Tip.
In this episode we’re going to be chatting with Trey George. Trey runs an app company called A Color Story. If you’ve been following along with the Food Blogger Pro podcast, you know that we chatted with Trey’s wife, Emma, in episode number 121, and she talked about how she came to run a successful blog, A Beautiful Mess, with her sister, and what her journey was like, what her path was like as she went through that process. And Trey, today is going to talk about another part of their business. And the business is all about apps. He’s going to talk about the successful app launch of A Beautiful Mess, and then the other apps that they’ve come out after that, some of the successes they’ve had and why he thinks those were successful, as well as some of the failures that they had and what they learned from those. He’s also going to talk about how much they spent when they built the apps, how many downloads they have, and some of the marketing strategies that they have when it comes to building their app business.
It’s a really fun interview. That’s a little bit outside of the blogging interviews we do, which I think is really important, because it’s not just about blogging. It’s all about building an online business. So I can’t wait to share this interview with you. Trey, welcome to the podcast.
Trey George: Hey, thanks for having me.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, we … I almost had to hold myself back when we were talking before this, because we started to get into stuff that I’m so excited to talk about on the podcast. It’s going to be a really fresh perspective on building a business online, on the internet. But before we get there, and before we jump into that, I want to hear a little bit about your story. I love hearing stories of how people got to where they are. So if you could rewind the tape a little bit and share a little bit about how you got to where you are right now?
Trey George: Yeah. I’ll try not to be too long-winded about it. Because I got … it’s a little bit of a strange path how I got here. I mean, it’s just management. But when I got out of college I started working for ad agencies, and that was a little bit of what I was doing. So just kind of managing projects and seeing all sorts of things that would come through. Then, I met my now wife, Emma. We got together, and I kind of was … And Emma’s from A Beautiful Mess, and so they’ve had a whole lot of success with their blog and everything there.
And so I was kind of watching what was going on with their blog, and they were talking to me a lot about the sponsors and programs that they were doing, the sponsorships, and I was hearing how little money they were charging for things. And I just kept kind of butting in and saying, “Hey, what about this? I feel like you could get way more money for that. What about that?” Because when I was hearing about the impressions they were getting I was like, “That’s out of this world. I mean, in our space I know how much we would pay for that.”
So they’re like, “Do you want to just work here?” And I’m just like, “Kinda.” So they-
Bjork Ostrom: Kind of one of those formal business arrangements?
Trey George: Exactly. I think we had, like, a … And I was terrified a little bit. I think my dad tried to tell me it’s a scary move, but maybe go for it. Then, yeah, they hired me on. Then, that took off. So I was running their sponsorship program. Then, kind of while I was doing that, they got to work on their A Beautiful Mess app, which is the first app that came out in like 2013. And keep in mind, I’d come from the agency world where I could swear every other week I was talking my client out of trying to make some stupid app, that I was just like, “It’s not going to take. Apps fail. Like, we have insight after insight that says, ”Nobody wants to download your stupid app. Stop trying to push this.“.”
So I’m telling them. I’m like, “Nah, this is a bad idea.” They’re like, “You’re talking about, like, and M&Ms app. Yeah, maybe nobody wants some grocery store app or something. But I think this idea’s going to take. People are always asking.” And the A Beautiful Mess app, it was kind of like a design app of sorts. Like, you could add cute doodles, and things like that that you could recolor and put on your photos. And people are always asking Elsie how she puts text and drawings on her photos that she puts on Instagram, and so this would just give them a faster way to do it.
And I was just like, “Yeah, sure. It is a good idea. It could work. But just … ” And the whole time I’m trying to soften their expectations. Then, toward the end of it I’m starting to help test. And it kind of becomes another similar thing of like, “Do you want to just start taking this over?” And I’m like, “Well, kinda.”
Anyway, the app launches, and I think it hit number one in the paid store before we could even announce it. It did so, so well for us. And so I was proved vehemently wrong, just could not have been more incorrect about what I thought that would do. I was preparing them, just like, “Well, you know, just be satisfied if you get a few thousand downloads. Be happy with that.” And, yeah, they did a lot better than that.
Bjork Ostrom: Do you remember what those numbers were initially?
Trey George: Oh, gosh. Honestly, off the top of my head I couldn’t … I do know that in the first year they saw like 1.2 million installs. I can tell you that. I can’t tell you what it was in the first month though, off the top of my head.
Bjork Ostrom: So one of the things that … there’s a few things I want to pull out from your story that are really interesting. One of them is going back, actually, to talk about when you’re at the ad agency, and kind of weighing into what was happening at A Beautiful Mess. Side note: interviewed Emma in episode 121. So for those that want to listen to that interview and Emma’s story, we talked about kind of this idea of her journey, and her path, and overcoming some failures in order to find some massive success, one of which you just talked about. So you can go to foodbloggerpro.com/121 to listen to that.
But to go back to the ad agencies, talking about that and weighing into A Beautiful Mess, it sounds like what you were seeing was, “Hey, on the brand side of things, they’re coming to us and they’re spending X amount of dollars.” X amount probably being quite a bit. And then saying, “Okay, I see that you’re working with these brands and not charging enough based on what we see from the ad agency side.” Is that, in a very simple way, is that what was happening?
Trey George: That’s exactly what was happening.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, so with that, I would be interested to hear you talk more about that, and maybe speak to the people that are in that position right now and don’t feel fully empowered to ask a lot. And I say that knowing that we came from that place. Lindsey was a teacher. I worked at a nonprofit. Like, the idea of asking for as much as we make in a month for a sponsored post felt, like, so uncomfortable for us.
Trey George: Oh, definitely.
Bjork Ostrom: So can you speak to those people?
Trey George: Yes, absolutely. My favorite thing to bring up to people as far as the wild money that gets spent out there is, one of the agencies that I worked for was a shopper marketing agency. So what that means is this agency did nothing but … they didn’t do any of the ads you’d see on TV, or anything when you think of advertising. What they did was in-store marketing. So when you go to Walmart and you see a sausage brand promoted on an end cap, that’s something that was negotiated by the sales team, and the brand completely pays for all of that signage, and make sure that it goes up.
So one of my favorite things to bring up when it comes to the kind of money that these brands are spending, is those little sample carts. So anytime you go to a grocery store and somebody is handing you a sausage on a stick, if you want full store coverage, like, if you want to have one of those in every single store, it’s not Walmart that’s paying for that. It’s not going to be Kroger that’s paying for that. It’s the brand. And for one day, to have a little old lady say, “Hey, do you want a sausage?” And then for you to say, “No, please leave me alone.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, or, “Yes, I’ll take one,” in my case.
Trey George: Or, “Yes, give me all of them, please.” It’s $500,000. And that was the rate seven years ago. So a half a million dollars is getting spent on one day for a lady to stand at a cart and hand you something. And it makes sense whenever you think about it from a logistical standpoint. But also you’re like, “Whoa, that’s a lot of budget.”
Another silly thing, like, there’s all those coupons that are stuffed in the back of a newspaper, like a Sunday newspaper. Nobody reads this stuff. Nobody sees it. Yet, they’re spending upwards of $60,000 to $100,000 on every single insertion of that. And this is something that’s just getting wildly ignored. But because it does have a traceable metric to it, which is the coupon, because they can see, “Okay, whenever I spend this, I know this many people … I can at least tell you how many people I got to buy our product from it.” It’s something that they just keep spending money on.
I do think, again, that was a few years back, and so I would hope that that spending has come down a little bit by a lot of brands. But those coupons still exist, and I have no doubt that that price has gone down anytime soon. So those are just two … I’m not even talking Super Bowl ads, or even primetime ads. We’re talking about things that are getting largely ignored. But because they have that metric, and they have that traceability, brands are spending a whole bunch of money on it.
So that’s whenever … then I’m looking at A Beautiful Mess, and I’m seeing, you know, this is nothing but metrics. You have all of this data that you can share. You can show that you’re actually getting impressions, and it can be something that’s actually going to get click throughs. We had to do a QR code that I know … We spent $40,000 building a website that got seen by $3,000 people total.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And this was at the ad agency?
Trey George: This is at the ad agency.
Bjork Ostrom: Isn’t that crazy?
Trey George: Yeah. Meanwhile, you have all of this traffic on a blog, and you’re just like, “I mean, guys, this comes together.” So then, whenever I was hearing about … it was the early days of sponsored content at the time, and I was hearing about some of the sponsorships that they were doing, and how low these PR agencies were haggling bloggers. I was just like, “Guys, value your … You’ve got something valuable here, so just kind of raise that up. I mean, if you need to put a metric to it, like, figure out exactly how many paid views, and put a reasonable CPM on that, but still, you’ve got something here.”
Bjork Ostrom: How did you break through the … It sounds like for you maybe you had that mindset going into it, and then it was maybe instilling that within, you know, whether it was for Emma, or Elsie, or whoever it was for, but how would people do that on a … Is it just like, “Hey, double your price.”? Is it putting a metric around things? How do people actually go from not charging as much to charging more?
Trey George: Well, the answer is, unfortunately, you want to pace it, so slowly. Because at the end of the day, especially if this is a steady income for yourself, and it’s money that you count on, you can’t just up your rates on everybody. I was there. I was in the business development position at A Beautiful Mess for a year before we were charging prices that I was comfortable with. So first of all, it’s that.
But as far as how you get to those numbers, something that I did that not everybody does, but what made the most sense to me was to look at how many page views a post is actually getting, and making sure I have a way to see that, and not just the individual link, but everything. So when it comes to sponsored content, for example, we want to see all of the page views that this is going to get. And at the time, A Beautiful Mess was kind of the classic blog format, where the homepage was just, you know, you just kind of scroll through, like, what you guys call the blog view on Pinch of Yum. Actually, we do the same thing. So it was just this scroller. And so you need to make sure that you’re not just tracking the traffic of your individual link, but you also want to track the traffic of that homepage view.
Anyway, kind of figure out what those page views are. Then, I build out a CPM, and something that’s pretty reasonable. And in my brain, anywhere … like, I see people charge anywhere from a $35 CPM all the way up to a $200 CPM for sponsored content. And CPM, cost per thousand, or RPM as they’re calling it now, too. So something like that. So if you how 1,000 page views on a post, charge $200 for it, if you’re going to do a $200 CPM. Then, multiply that up as far as how it goes. Back in-
Bjork Ostrom: Sorry. Go ahead.
Trey George: Go ahead.
Bjork Ostrom: No, you go, you go.
Trey George: Okay. In my brain, backing into numbers always makes it easier to explain to a potential sponsor, and then you can kind of really justify yourself from there. However, sometimes it can just be … I mean, the sad truth of business and marketing, a lot of times it’s just, like, if you ask for it, you’d be surprised what they’ll be comfortable with, because their budgets are quite large.
Bjork Ostrom: I think, essentially, I was going to say the same thing that you were, which is, it’s nice to have those numbers that then you can communicate to the brand, or whoever it is that you’re working with, “Here’s the justification for it.” And to really concretely say, “Okay, we look for this CPM,” whatever it be: $30, $200, somewhere in that range maybe, and saying, “Okay, I’m going to use that and say, not my page views overall, but on an average piece of content, maybe including the homepage as well, how many times will this get an impression for somebody?” And then using that as a multiplier. It’s industry language. People will understand that are part of ad agencies or PR companies. And it allows you then to feel comfortable flexing on that if you need to. So I think those are some great takeaways.
Trey George: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Exactly right.
Bjork Ostrom: Obviously not the focus of the interview, but it’s something that we get questions about all the time, and people always want to know, like, “What’s your rate? How much do you charge?” And I think the basic thing is, be attentive to it, and also know that as an individual creator, the numbers that you are thinking about are so different than the numbers that an ad agency, or PR company, or a brand is exposed to. As much as possible, I feel like it’s beneficial to have conversations around closing that gap for the people that listen to this podcast.
Trey George: Absolutely.
Bjork Ostrom: So over a million downloads for this application that you launched. I want to talk about that. Because for people that listen to this podcast, I think we, first and foremost, myself included, think about creating content and creating things on a blog. It’s called the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, right? But it’s so much more than that that exists in terms of building a brand, building a business. So when you look at that first app that you launched, A Beautiful Mess, back in 2013, extremely successful. If you were to do kind of a post op on it and say, “Well, here’s why we think it was successful,” what were some of the elements that led into that initial success?
Trey George: Well, a handful of things. So, having A Beautiful Mess as a launch platform is incredibly valuable. I mean, it was whenever the notion of influencer was becoming a word at all. Back then, I think everybody was still just saying blogger. But it was whenever that whole concept … So having A Beautiful Mess as a platform was very helpful. And it was also the first app that we did, so the following was particularly behind it. And I’ll talk a little bit about our followup app, which is called Party Party, which was not as successful. It still did okay, but not as successful. But I’ll talk about that in a bit.
But as far as what made A Beautiful Mess so successful, I think being the first app, and then also having a … I think the other piece of it that was big was it had a very self-promotional element to it. It was really obvious if somebody was using this app. And at the time, people weren’t taking their Instagram grids quite as seriously as they’re taking them now. So they’d just kind of post anything. So everybody was willing to post about it in their main feed. And then whenever you post about it, it’s like its own little advertisement, because, like I said, it would add doodles that were very clearly from one source. It wasn’t like, “Oh, that could have come from anywhere.” It’s like, “Oh, what app did you use to do this?” And that’s how it would be. So it was a very self-promoting app, which was nice.
Then, beyond that, the App Store was a slightly different landscape at the time, or the way that the App Store laid out was a little bit different, because it would prioritize the top charts really well. It would be like, the middle one, they don’t prioritize it nearly as much as they do. But a lot of people would be surprised to find out how it doesn’t take as many downloads as you would think to get yourself to number one in paid. So we were able to get ourselves up to number one in paid, and then we could stay there, and then that became its own piece of marketing as well.
Bjork Ostrom: It kind of becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, where you’re number one because you’re number one.
Trey George: Exactly, yes.
Bjork Ostrom: So A Beautiful Mess launches, and obviously there is the app, and then there’s the brand and the blog. And the brand and the blog, the influencer side of things, allows you to launch the app. But what did it look like to promote it? Do you send out an email? Do you talk about it once? How did you get the momentum started with it when you first initially launched it?
Trey George: So, with this, embarrassingly enough, we didn’t even have our email list going. I think we started it maybe a few months after we launched A Beautiful Mess. So we didn’t have that. It was all … we did a teaser post on the blog, and then Elsie and Emma, using their personal Instagram accounts, because we didn’t even have a business A Beautiful Mess account yet, and they were just talking about it on their Instagram accounts leading up to it. Then, the other big piece of it, and something, again, I recommend as much as possible, was the networking element.
So Elsie in general has always been fantastic at networking, and finding like minds, and people who do what she does online, and they kind of get together, and they become friends, and then they grow together. So throughout the years she’s kind of had that going for her. And we had this pretty long physical mailing list of people that we sent just little packages that were little promote … Like, it had, like, candy, and an iTunes gift card, and then a little blurb about the A Beautiful Mess app. And we sent that out.
So in addition to people using the app and showing it that way, we had a handful of larger Instagrammers that were getting these packages, and then taking a look at what was inside, and then taking a picture of that, and posting that picture online. Then, that also helped us out a lot.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. One of the things I’ve been thinking about with the work that we’re doing, is it sounds so obvious, but nobody knows what you’re doing unless you tell them. And I think so often we live in our own head, and we are heads down, doing work, it’s good work, but we’re not telling anybody about it, whether it’s my parents, or the people that we have on an email list. You really need to be intentional about thinking about creative ways. You don’t want to spam people. But how do you creatively communicate what you’re doing in a way that’s engaging and fun, and also helpful? And I feel like that’s a great example. It’s solving a problem, the first half you did, it’s something that you knew people wanted. And so how do you creatively think about ways to let people know about that. A physical package being one that not many people would think about. It’s a lot of work too, right, that goes into that? But a creative way to engage people.
One of the things that you had talked about was there was kind of a self-promotional element with the app. And I know that, especially for platforms, there’s this really important concept called the viral coefficient. Are you familiar with that?
Trey George: I’ve heard the expression, but-
Bjork Ostrom: Okay. It’s essentially exactly what you were talking about. It comes from Eric Ries, I think is his name. I don’t know how you pronounce his last name. And he wrote a book called The Lean Startup. And he talks about how it’s important for platforms to have an element of … or a viral coefficient greater than one. Meaning that for every person that comes on, they bring more than one other person onto the platform. I’m wondering with A Beautiful Mess, that first app that you launched, you talked about kind of the natural self-promotional element where people saw it, and then other people were like, “Hey, what are you using?” And then downloading it. Are there other ways that you leveraged your creators becoming your promoters?
Trey George: Hashtags were always such a big thing. And it sounds obvious, but with that app … Instagram has since changed up their API, so it’s not so easy to do this anymore, but we were able to auto populate #ABeautifulMess in with everything that would be posted. So that was another thing that really helped bring people on board. What was funny is that you can kind of almost see when Instagram changed their API, because you see that drop off. You’ll see kind of the drop off in the hashtag. But it blew up to well over a million in the hashtag very quickly, just because we were able to incorporate something like that. So it sucks I’m using an outdated API.
Bjork Ostrom: Well, yeah, but it’s part of the story. Yeah.
Trey George: But it’s, like, something like that is what we always look for. And honestly, anytime we’re creating an app, we always consider the hashtag. So whenever we’re creating a new product, we check the hashtag to see if it’s something that … if it’s something that’s not very used, so then we know that we can start populating it, and we can take it over. That was why we did, I mean, A Color Story, the reason why we chose “A Color Story” versus “Color Story” was, one, it was initially just because we could get all the domains, we could get the hashtag, we could get all the social accounts. We made sure that we were able to do that out of the gate.
Then, the other piece of it was obviously it kind of families with A Beautiful Mess. But, initially, we weren’t planning on sticking with the whole, you know, that “A this this”. That wasn’t our initial plan, but it worked out as such. Like, "Well, actually, if we just put an A in front of it, the hashtag, it’s completely clean.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s funny. This is related/unrelated. But Lindsey will often do hashtags for when we do a trip or a vacation, or just, like, we have a dog, and our dog’s name is Sage, so she does #SageintheWild. And she’s always … And it’s not like other people are doing, it’s just Lindsey. But it’s always this sad moment where, like, for some odd reason, somebody uses this super specific hashtag. So it’s like these pictures of our dog, and then this family of six in Orlando. And we’re like, “Oh, no. Somebody is using this thinking it’s something else.”
Trey George: Oh, we ran into the exact same thing with our wedding hashtag, because we did #Tremma. Because it was just kind of a funny thing that my sister would always call us. And we were just like, “Yeah, that’s good.” And it wasn’t taken at the time. And since, there have been at least two other weddings. One of them I think was, like, one of the newer Power Rangers. It was some couple from that. So, just, like, if we want to see our wedding photos, we’re scrolling way down before we find them.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, through theirs. So in 2013 you were launching this app. I’m guessing you don’t have a lot of experience with it. Your experience with the sponsored content at this point, you have a little bit of a background at your ad agency with companies that come to you as the ad agency and say, “Hey, we want to launch an app,” and you’re kind of trying to convince them not to do it. But now, you don’t have the backing of a team of an ad agency. It’s the scrappy startup mode.
So how did you go about doing it? And for those that would be interested in doing it, is it a realistic thing for somebody who’s not technical, who’s not an app developer, to get into the App Store and to start their own app, or build their own app?
Trey George: Short answer: yes. Long answer: yes, but. So, as far as how we got started, it’s funny that you mention an agency. We actually, just through a friend of a friend, there are some people that used to live in our hometown of Springfield that had all moved down to Austin to startup their own little app agency. So it’s kind of like an ad agency that does nothing but make apps. So it’s kind of the thing I would imagine shouldn’t exist if you would have asked me in 2010. So all they did was make apps.
So what we did was we essentially found a team. We didn’t have a team, and we just hired one, contract. And what was good about that pairing, like, we ran into some frustrations and some challenges with them for sure, but they were small, too. So they were able to kind of work with us. We later tried to work with a larger agency, and it was a disaster. We had to cancel the whole thing. It was very frustrating. They were price gouging us at every … they were just nickel and diming us at every corner, and just playing a lot of the old agency … And I think the old account service person in me flared up, and I’m like, “I know exactly what you’re doing, an this annoys me.”
But with the smaller agency, they were like us, so they were a good mirror to us, and they really understood our budget. And A Beautiful Mess was, like, they were big, but they hadn’t gotten the business down yet. They were still kind of tightening things up and trying to grow this into that. Like I said, it took me a year before I was even able to get the sponsored program even close to where I wanted it to be.
So Emma was just like, “Okay, let me put together what a payment plan would be to make this app happen. So worst-case scenario, we’ll still be okay. It’ll hurt. It’ll definitely ding us. But we’ll be okay.” And just to give you guys a frame of reference there, I mean, I believe for the first A Beautiful Mess app we spent $40,000, all in on that. Which is steep, and a little bit of a scary price for sure. But, like I said, they were willing to work with us on payments and all that kind of stuff, and figuring out that payment plan.
So Emma’s always about taking risks, and diving in, but she never wants to take a risk without a parachute. So she always looks at what the worst-case scenario’s going to be before she’ll jump, and make sure that she can handle that. But really hope that that doesn’t happen.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So for those that are thinking about getting into it, are like, “Hey, I’m kind of interested in playing around in this space,” probably the first place you’re going to go if you’re not somebody who’s going to jump in and actually program the app yourself, which it totally doable, but a huge, huge thing to take on, how would you look for an agency? What are the things that were great about this? What were some of the good things with this smaller agency that you worked with, some of the positives? Then, you also talked about some things that were difficult about that, and also some difficult things about working with a really big app agency. What should people look for when they’re doing their interviewing and sourcing for an agency, specifically for app development?
Trey George: It kind of depends on what your budget is. I would recommend if somebody’s entering this for the very first time, for the very first time, and they have no experience with the space at all, to go the agency route. So not only can they get their product built, but they can learn the process in the meantime. And agencies are really good about holding your hand through the process and really explaining that to you.
I will say though, once you do have that know how, I highly recommend going freelance. It can be so much more cost effective. And so just trying to find your own freelancers, like, find a free … because functionally, full-time, one developer build the A Beautiful Mess app, per platform. So on iOS, we had one developer. On Android, we had one developer who was making that. There were multiple developers that did work on it, but when it comes to the lion’s share of the work, like, one guy can do it. So that’s what I definitely recommend, once you have an understanding of the process.
But to answer your question more directly as far as what’s the best way to go about it, I mean, for us it was an introduction, and that’s how we landed on this. There was no rhyme or reason to it. They didn’t have any experience with what we were doing. Afterward, like, once I started searching agencies out on my own, very much just Google searching “app agencies”, and then just going down the list, looking through their portfolio, look to see if they’ve done an app remotely similar to what you want to do. And think about it, not necessarily they’ve done the exact same app as you. Like, we don’t necessarily … when I’m looking, I’m not looking for somebody who’s made a photo editing app that adds doodles to your … I’m not getting that specific. I’m just looking for somebody who has experience with image processing at all. Like, they’ve got some app where filters are an offshoot process, or something like that. So I’m just looking for any sort of experience in my space.
Then, I highly recommend small. As far as the pros of the small team, like I said, they’re in it with you. They want it to succeed, too. They’re taking a gamble on you. They’re trying to get their business going. It’s all of these things. And so there’s just so many good things to say about working with a small team. The agency we worked with, they’re such nice guys, we’re still friends with them to this day, even with the challenges that we had, and we had to part ways and all that kind of stuff; still friends with them to this day. They’re wonderful guys.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. One of the things that, and you kind of touched on this a little bit in telling your story, but I think it’s important to point out, and that I appreciate about your story, is that a lot of what could happen in podcast interviews like this, or with people that are, even like courses, online internet courses, is people will have success, they’ll move through something, and then they’ll look back and tell the story of how they got to the point of where they are. But so often, it’s not that you need to follow that exact path in order to find that success. It’s just, like, “We started, and we stumbled through, and took this turn, and then this turn, and then this turn, and this turn, and this turn, and now we’re here. And we’re experiencing success, whatever that might look like.”
And it’s easy to look back at that and said, “Okay, what are the exact turns and twists along the way, because I need to follow those,” but it’s not necessarily true. We don’t have to follow that exact same path.
Trey George: Exactly right.
Bjork Ostrom: Before, we were talking about … before we pressed record on this. And you had kind of shared a similar idea with that. And specifically kind of tying it back into school, and schooling, and kind of having this mindset of right of wrong. And I think that’s such a cool concept. Can you talk a little bit about that and how you apply that to the work that you do?
Trey George: Oh, definitely. I think, especially grade school, like, K–12, but college, I mean, for my gen eds also, school instills this idea of a correct way to do something. You think about … and I sense it with a lot of people today, like, whenever they ask what I do they’ll be like, “Oh, so what was your major?” They want to hear that I majored in app development, or app development management. They want to hear that I had gone through this process to figure everything out and I have the right answers. But the truth is, I mean, the more I think about it, and it’s a theory I have, but by the time something has a right and wrong process that is able to be quantified into schooling, it’s going to be a pretty saturated market, and it’s going to be harder to break into.
And the industries where you kind of fumble around, and you’re Googling your way to figure it out, that tends to be kind of where you’re … you’re breaking new ground if you’re having to figure it out yourself, I think. Or, you’re just more likely to be. And so that’s why I highly encourage, just, like, figure it out. Any time that you’re worried about something, don’t ever beat yourself up because you don’t have a degree in it, or because you didn’t study it. Like, just learn it yourself. Figure it out. Teach yourself these things. And you’ll probably be more on the cutting edge by doing that.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, especially as it relates to the niche of anything online, whether that be apps, or website development. Everything is developing, and changing, and moving so quickly that by the time it gets into that structured format there’s bleeding edge stuff that’s happening that is going to be more beneficial to learn that can’t be distilled down into a structured chapter book as easily. Obviously, exceptions in different fields, whether that be medical, or engineering, or what have you.
Trey George: Absolutely.
Bjork Ostrom: But specifically for the people that we’re talking to and the type of entrepreneurship that we’re talking about, so, so, so relevant. And in doing that, you’ll be able to experience things, like successes, as you had with A Beautiful Mess, and the app. But also, you’ll learn from the things that don’t go as well. And you had mentioned an app called Party Party. I want to hear about the reasoning for deciding to launch another app, and then we can get into some specifics around that and how you kind of exit out of that as well.
Trey George: Sure. So A Beautiful Mess was incredibly successful. We had all of this. We did a pretty sizable update to it. And we spent almost twice what we spent developing it initially to update it and to create an Android version. So a pretty sizable investment to get ourselves to that place. However, because we had the success of the initial launch, we had some budget, and we had the padding to try to invest a lot of that back into the product. And it just didn’t really return. It’s not that it didn’t ever … I mean, the app was still doing okay, but we didn’t experience the big explosion that we had from the initial launch. And so we’re seeing, “Well, people aren’t as excited about this right now. So when you launch new products, that’s when they’ll do it.”
So that’s when we kind of got into this mindset of, “Okay, we need to create a new product here.” And not to say that that’s always the solution. Like, A Color Story is a good example of something there we’ve created a really good business structure out of consistently updating, and growing, and all that. But at the time, this was our only understanding. So we set out to create Party Party. And it started as a photo booth app idea. Basically, all of the photo booth apps that existed were really old, and they weren’t really conducive to Instagram. And we thought, “Well, that’s interesting. This seems like an opportunity nobody … ” because the photo booth apps, they would make strips that you could save on your phone, and then do nothing with. So we though, “Hey, let’s do it where it’ll be a photo booth, but it’ll lay it out in a grid of four, so then you can post that on Instagram.”
Then, from there we got the idea of, “Well, what if we stack these photos that it takes on top of each other, and it’ll create kind of like an animated gif?” This was before Boomerang, or before Phhhoto, however you pronounce that. And we’re just like, “So it’ll be kind of a fun little animation.” And whenever we launched A Beautiful Mess, a lot of people complained about how we had in-app purchases, and it hurt our reviews. And so we’re just like, “Well, what if we try to do this one with just no in-app purchases, and we’ll just put that out there and see how it goes?”
So it was a handful of experiments. And, ultimately, it was a neat idea. I still really liked the idea. And this is a perfect example of, like, here’s a great idea, but it was just harder for people to think of times when they could use it. With the A Beautiful Mess app, any photo, you could just drop some text on, or a doodle, or a border, or whatever, and it just works. But with Party Party, it was very much, like, an experiential app. When we launched, you couldn’t import, and so you would have to take photos right then. And it would work like a photo booth.
And so it did well. We had a good initial launch. It ultimately paid back its initial investment, but not much more beyond that. And so whenever we saw it kind of stall out, we realized, “We can’t actually afford to continue investing in this.” Because at the time we were still, like, all of our developers were still paying contract. So with Party Party, that was actually the first time we ventured into all freelance. So we ended up being able to be much more cost effective with development, because we hired a designer, freelance, like, independently, and we hired a developer, freelance, independently, who I found just through, again, Google searches.
I was, like, looking … I would try to … Just a fun little trick if you’re ever looking for a developer, especially for an app, is to look in the category that you’re looking for, and then kind of scroll through and look to see … then you can see the developers. And if it’s a person’s name as the developer of the app, you can pretty much bank that it’s an individual putting it out, and almost never is the individual putting it out a developer. They’ve usually hired somebody freelance. So then you can go and try to hire the guy that developed that app. Which, that’s exactly what we did for Party Party. There was an app called Mextures that’s a really strong app, super good, created by this very talented photographer. And we just kind of read through a blog post, and he linked out a freelance developer that he found. And then I’m just like, “Oh, wow.”
Bjork Ostrom: “Here we go.”
Trey George: So I emailed him, and I’m like, “Hey, are you busy?” He’s like, “Not really.” I’m like, “Great. Let’s work.”
Bjork Ostrom: So, just to make sure people understand that, you’re talking about when you’re looking through the App Store what you’ll see is you’ll see the name of the app, and then you’ll also see underneath it the app developer, and you can click on that app developer, and then that can lead you to the other apps that they’ve developed. So, for instance, if I click on A Color Story the app in the App Store, it shows me that it’s produced by A Color Story LLC. So, in house, you own that. In this example, if I wanted to search a little bit more, I’d like for A Color Story website, and see, “Hey, do they mention anything about a freelance developer they worked with?”
Trey George: Exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: Or maybe even reach out to a certain company and say, “Hey, did you develop this in-house? Did you work with an agency? Did you like them?” Obviously a lot of people won’t respond. But that’s kind of the name of the game, is like, digging, researching, communicating, doing what you can to kind of hustle and make that connection.
Trey George: Totally. Yeah, I mean, that’s really what it was. I mean, I emailed a lot of people that didn’t respond. We reached out to one company that did respond, and they took a meeting with us, and they’re like, “Nah, we’re too big for you. Sorry. We’re not interested in doing that. We only want to make our own products.” And we ran into a lot of people like that. Just a tip on that is, like, whenever you click on a developer and you realize that they have a whole bunch of apps, chances are they’re a pretty large organization, and so I wouldn’t mess with it.
But yeah, we found this, and it was the same way we found our first developer for A Color Story. He’s this guy based out of Manchester. He and a friend do this side business called Simple Simple. They created a really great app called Landcam. It was similar to A Beautiful Mess, but the functionality was, honestly, stronger. Like, from a development standpoint, it as built better. But the app never really took off. That’s another little piece of insight, is don’t look at … Like, go to the category, and don’t look at the top 10 necessarily, but maybe look at the top 50, or, I would honestly look at the top 150. Scroll all the way down. Because if something is only … Like, especially on the paid side, if it’s past 100, that means it’s probably only getting a few hundred installs a day, which is not paying anybody’s salary with that.
So if you see that that’s the only app that they have out, then that person has a full-time job. So you look for the people that are clearly relying on freelancers, and it’s just like there’s a bunch of little views like that, where you can … That was how we found our developer for A Color Story. And he was freaking phenomenal. Like, just so, so good. That was who built it initially before we built up our staff and everything.
Bjork Ostrom: Do you have on your team now staff and developers? Or do you continue to work with freelancers at this point?
Trey George: Yes, and yes. We’ve hired some full-time … we have one full-time developer, we’re looking to hire a second right now. Then, we continue to supplement the extra work to other freelancers that we’ve made contact with throughout the years. And what’s great too, is once you get connected with one freelancer, they’ve always got a friend. They’ve always got somebody else. Then, you just get more and more connected. Like, right now I have a fleet of freelancers I could reach out to at any given point for any need that we have, because of just this process. But when we started A Color Story, I mean, I was spending 30 hours a week. That sounds daunting, but I was really, like, I was just hunting, and searching, and doing everything I could to try to find that right person.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. They say that the role of a CEO as you grow a company, and this is relevant, even for people that are solopreneurs, because there’ll be a point where you have to decide, “Do I want to be the maker, or the manager?” And there’s no harm in being the maker. But you have to be okay, in some sense, staying where you are. And, again, not a bad thing at all. But if you want to continue to grow and scale, there has to be that point where you switch to manager. And that means the role of CEO and recruiter. And they say with CEOs, as your company’s growing, 1/4 to 1/3 of your time should be spent thinking about building your team, and recruiting, and adding people to that.
So if you are somebody, and you’re listening to this, that’s a little bit later on. Obviously that’s kind of intimidating if you’re in the early stages. You’re like, “I’m just trying to grow this thing initially.” But eventually, if you stick with it, you will get to that point. And it might be two years, and it might be five years, and it might be eight years. But I think it’s important to hear that, because that is work. It’s just a different type of work than you’re used to doing as the maker.
So you have this team now. What is the team at for A Color Story?
Trey George: So, officially, we are one, two, three people strong. About to be four, and possibly five.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it.
Trey George: We’re looking to make … once the design kit launches, it’s going to give us a really clear picture of our business, and exactly where it is. Because I’ve worked for companies that lay people off like crazy, so we are very careful about every hire that we make, so we can sustain them for as long as possible.
Bjork Ostrom: Absolutely.
Trey George: Oh, go ahead.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Well, and I was going to say, ask some questions specifically about the business side of things. But before I do that, I want to make sure that you get a chance to say what you were going to say.
Trey George: Oh, that was about it. I did want to say, like, one little kind of piece of encouragement, or one little nugget of truth that I’ve also observed by people who might be a little bit overwhelmed by the initial cost of an app: another path to go that we do know works is to be able to try to find a developer that really believes in your project, and will just take ownership as payment. I’ve seen that happen … Actually, the developer we used to make Party Party I connected to a friend who was working on a gadget that had an app to it. And he just accepted ownership with them, because he was so excited about the project. The app Rhonna Designs, I don’t want to speak everything to it, but I know that she partnered up with a developer from the start, and it was just … I think it was just her and a guy. And they kind of put the whole thing together. Afterlight was a similar story. It was this guy Simon just met up with a really talented developer, and they partnered.
So partnerships also, like, if you’re just able to find … if you’ve got a really good idea, and it’s something you think you can sell a developer on, don’t underestimate the power of your idea. Because if it is something strong, it’s also a very likely situation that you would be able to bring in some developer for just ownership. And then that way you’re not having to front thousands of dollars to get it off the ground.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I remember hearing the founder of Mint.com, which is a personal finance site, talking about his first engineer hire, paid a salary, but it was somebody just out of college. So he was like, “They kind of still had that scrappy college mentality of sleeping on a friend’s couch,” but exchanged that low salary with an equity percentage of the company. So even though that person had to eat ramen noodles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, there was this idea they were passionate about, it wasn’t a huge lifestyle change for them, and there was this upside potential of like, “Hey, if this becomes something … ” Which it did. And it was purchased by QuickBooks, or the company that does QuickBooks, "Then there’s upside potential for that.
So one more thing I actually want to hit before we talk about kind of some of the business side of things. Party Party, there came a point where you said, “This isn’t worth doing anymore.” How do you know when that point is? And how do you know when to wind it down?
Trey George: You really start to … you feel it off an update, and the excitement that comes from the update, honestly. Because with the App Store you have really clear metrics, kind of ongoing. You can always see exactly how well something’s doing. So whenever you’ve put a substantial amount of money into this update, and you don’t have any other ways to … I mean, in Party Party’s case, the only way we could monetize was by people buying the app more. And so if we noticed that there was just a big drop off in excitement, and we just kind of watched the numbers decline, and we’re just like, “Oh, okay.” You can see a pattern. Again, with anything digital, you can really see that decline go down. And not to say that maybe a more confident businessman could have taken a look at that and turned it into something amazing. But I was looking at it, and I was just like, “I think this is winding down.”
So once we got to a few hundred installs a day, and you do the math, it just doesn’t add up, we’re just like, “Okay, cool. We’re going to just kind of let that ride out, and then move onto the next thing.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And just logistically, does that look like, hey, setting a date, and this is when it goes out of the App Store? And do you have to make an announcement to people about it? Are people angry that they paid for it and then it’s not updated? Was there anything in terms of the communication side of things that was an issue or that was hard to do?
Trey George: Well, it’s a hard thing to … I mean, it was a very organic process for us. It was like, interest winded down, you could see in the hashtag people weren’t really using it as much, and there wasn’t really … like I said, and the downloads were declining. So, whenever it comes to the App Store, I mean, once you install something, you have it. Anybody who has installed Party Party still has it on their phone if they want to use it. And we supported it for, I believe, a year. So when I think about spending a dollar, and the idea that, like-
Bjork Ostrom: Isn’t that the absurdity of apps?
Trey George: Oh my God. I can’t tell you have many times we have that conversation. Like, “You spend double this on a cup of coffee all of the time. And I can guarantee you have never expected your cup of coffee to last you a year.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. If the barista spills it on you while they’re giving it to you, you’re like, “Not a big deal.” Like, you paid $3.50 to get your hand scalded.
Trey George: Yeah. So it’s just the strangest thing. But because of that, there wasn’t really much pushback. I mean, there were definitely some users that were disappointed. I mean, it still had a decent amount of active users that wished that it could have gone on forever. But it’s the reality of business. Like, this is a $1 product. We can’t update that indefinitely. And quite frankly, it wasn’t getting enough use, and we didn’t think to make any rhyme or reason of including in-app purchases. So we’re just like, “Let’s just call it good. We made this thing. It’s out there. It paid for itself. And now it’s, you know, you enjoyed it for a while, and now you don’t.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yep. For sure. That makes sense. So in-app purchases. That brings me to the next and kind of final conversation piece that I wanted to have, which is the business side of things. For bloggers, we think about SEO, and we think about social media followers, and maybe we think about ads, and that’s kind of the mindset that we live in. But for apps, you think about things like purchase price, or in-app purchases. From a business side, does it make sense to have a paid app? Does it make sense to only go in-app purchases? And maybe just in general, can you talk about the business strategy with apps, and how they’re different than a blogging mindset?
Trey George: For sure. Apps have been an experiment for us from day one. I mean, like I said, A Color Story is now incorporated as its own company, and it’s still an experiment every day. I mean, you mentioned lean startup, it is that whole, like, that’s the mentality. You’re just trying stuff, see if people like it, and then bring it back. Then, you fix it if they don’t like it, and then you cut it off if it doesn’t work. So it’s all that kind of thinking.
So with in-app purchase, like, with a free app versus a paid app, a paid app really made a lot of sense for A Beautiful Mess, but what it meant from a business standpoint is we had an enormous spike in the beginning, and then we never saw that spike again. With A Color Story, we actually have really steady months, and we have really steady up and down. I mean, we still had a really, really big spike in the beginning, of course. But we’ve since had months where we’ve had more downloads than our first month. Our second year we actually doubled … we made twice the money we made in our first year.
Bjork Ostrom: Does that come from increased downloads? Or do you attribute that to the strategy involved with the in-app purchases?
Trey George: Increased downloads is a big, big thing. But then, also, in-app purchase strategy. So, A Color Story took longer to make as much money as A Beautiful Mess made. It has since passed that, but it took longer for it to do that, because every install … I mean, depending on location, but every US install is only worth so much money to us. So we’d have to kind of quantify exactly what that is. Whereas, you know, A Beautiful Mess, it’s much more straightforward how much an install is worth. Whereas, with in-app purchases you kind of have to look at how much money you’ve made over a given time period, divide that by how many installs you’ve gotten, and then kind of get a rough number of how much you can make per user.
So the pros to doing a paid app obviously is that you get money right upfront, and the people who buy that app I think are a little bit more invested in it, because they have paid for it, and so they’re going to try harder at it. They’re going to try harder to like it. They’re going to use it more. You get a little bit more engagement out of a paid app than you do … because a free app, it’s disposable. You can install it, like, click, tap-
Trey George: Yeah. Realize, “Oh, this sucks. I don’t want it.” Get rid of it. So free apps ultimately can be more disposable, so you need way more users to get your return. So it’s a much bigger game. I would recommend somebody, if you don’t have a clear, large launch path, paid apps are a great way to go. But the first thing you have to check is, “What category am I in, and what’s the standard for that category?” Trying to launch a paid social media app, for example, is probably not going to work. And it’s the unfortunate reality of it.
And as you know, running platforms, it’s very expensive to keep something like a social network going. So that’s why … it’s like, we kind of shy away from social networks altogether, because they’re just such a scary … social media is such a scary space to try to enter. It’s so competitive, and it’s so expensive, because you have to have all of that server space. So, anyway, look at your category, see what’s standard for it. And, like, the photo category is really nice. It has, like, and even split of paid and free. So people are very willing to pay for apps in the photo category, but they also are willing to make an effort. And there’s some really good, established business models on the in-app purchase side.
So A Color Story was where we wanted to venture into the free side and see how that worked out. Actually, with this new app, A Design Kit, we are going to make that paid out the gate. So you’re going to get more with your download than you would with A Color Story. So we’re going to kind of see what those two look like when they’re paired together. We know A Design Kit’s not going to get nearly as many installs as A Color Story, but we know that we’ll make more per user. And theoretically, we could have a more engaged user. So maybe that gives us something that we can work with for a little bit more long-term.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. So you had mentioned server space. And for people that have a blog, they think about WordPress as the content management system, and we have different hosts that we use. What is the equivalent for an app? Do you build it on a certain system? What would your recommendation be for that back end server, or the place where you build it? I’m guessing you’ve looked at a lot of different options, and have talked to different freelancers and developers. Are all of your apps built on the same stack, as we would call it? Or is it different for each one of them?
Trey George: Knowing how well you know the headache of hosting, I’m so excited to tell you that, depending on what app it is, you don’t have to deal with hosting, hardly at all. Because Apple actually hosts your software. Apple and Google both. So you create a package, you deliver it to the App Store, and then Apple hosts it, and they download it from the App Store. So unless you have some sort of web-based element to your application … Like, A Beautiful Mess, for example, didn’t have any web-based element to it. We just put it in the App Store, and then we didn’t have to worry about hosting at all.
A Color Story has a really, really lightweight web-based component where we can add new filter packs whenever we make new additions, like filter or effects packs. So we want to be able to add those dynamically. So we host on a really basic, managed, dedicated server. But because it’s so lightweight, it doesn’t matter, and it can handle the traffic no problem. So the hosting can be very minimal.
If you were to do something like a social network, then you’re talking about a stack. Then you’re talking about getting a scalable situation with AWS, or whatever the Microsoft version of that’s called.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And for people that follow along closely with what we do, you’ll know that this was maybe two years ago, podcast listeners will know that I talked about playing around in the space of apps and social networks with an app called PlateView for recipe videos. And we pressed pause on that; the biggest issue being exactly what you’re describing, is the scalability and the cost associated with it, especially with video. Video is the extreme example of costly-
Trey George: Oh my gosh. Yeah, I could only imagine.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So that’s something I’m still interested in. And this is one of the many reasons why this conversation was so interesting, and is interesting, is because there’s so much potential for apps, and it’s such a great avenue for creators. But also, it’s an entirely different avenue. You’re not walking down the same path as you are with building a blog or building a website.
So if somebody’s listening to this and they say, “Hey, this kind of actually sounds interesting to me. This is something that I would want to do,” what would your one piece of advice be for them, Trey, in terms of taking that first step into pursuing their idea, whether it be an iOS or an Android app?
Trey George: I would say try to have a really clear launch path. And maybe not necessarily all the way a path to profitability, but really, really think about how you’re going to get your money back. Because I think we see movies like the Social Network, or something like that, and we think, “Oh, I’m just going to go get venture capital.” It’s just, like, venture capital firms invest in, like, what? 1,500 companies a year total of the thousands and thousands of companies that exist. It’s very unlikely that you’re going to end up in that space.
So have a very clear idea of how you’re going to pay for it, and how you’re going to make your money. Because if you don’t have that idea … there are mediocre ideas that have a really good business plan that flourish wildly. But a fantastic idea with a terrible business plan will fail every time. So just really think through the business piece of it. And don’t get me wrong, have a great idea that’s very valuable, but that’s one side of it. And the business side, having a clear launch plan and a clear path to money is just so, so important.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s great. Because I think oftentimes we do think of apps as the Social Network, and, “Oh, we’re going to build this thing. A lot of people are going to use it. Then, maybe somebody would be interested in buying it.” Or that piece of the Facebook story that people so often will think about is the venture capital part, where it’s like, they had these millions and millions of dollars that were coming into the company-
Trey George: So much money, yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Before it was profitable, and the stress that’s related to that. Not that you can’t do that, but it’s just a very different path than kind of a bootstrapped profit-first approach.
Trey George: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: So we talked about a couple of different apps. But I want to give you a chance to do a little bit of a shout out to those, and for people that want to download those. I’ve downloaded both of those apps. Where can they do that? Then, also talk a little bit about A Design Kit and what’s to come.
Trey George: Absolutely. So we have A Color Story. A Color Story is kind of our flagship product at the moment, and it is a photo editing app, kind of at its highest level. But the point of difference that we wanted to create was we saw a certain look, specifically in kind of the blogger world and everything that we’re doing that was just a brighter, bolder, more colorful look to photography that we felt like wasn’t really reflected in a lot of the really popular apps out there, or really any apps that we could find. So we set out to make something that, just to create this very, very colorful vibe with our filters. And so that’s the filter piece of it, which is probably our number one kind of selling point.
Then, after that, Elsie really wanted to create … she really wanted to be able to add light effects to photos, but all of the apps out there that add light effects, it’s kind of a fixed position. And a light effect being like a light leak, or a light flare, something like that. And it’s a fixed position when you drop it on your photo. She wanted something you could drag around with your finger. So technologically, this is actually one of the more impressive pieces of our app, because what those light effects are is several layers of color that blend with your photo in different modes, so overlay, in screen, and normal, whatever. And every time you tap it with your finger to move it, it kind of lifts it up and unblends it. Then, whenever you drop it, it blends, so it becomes truly part of your photo whenever it does it. But again, it’s a very specific niche who wants that. But I’m just technologically really proud of how well it works.
Then, our tools, we just try to have pretty robust tools. But the big feature in our tools is that we have curves that you can use really easily with your finger. Then, last, we make it so you can kind of create the equivalent of a Photoshop action with our Saved section. So if you have an edit that you really like, you could save that edit, and store it, and that way you can run that edit over and over again on any others. Then, with this new update that we just put out that we’re still kind of managing through right now, we added Instagram grid planning and batch editing. So now you can preview what your photo will look like in the context of your grid before you publish it to Instagram.
Bjork Ostrom: Oh, that’s great. And like you said in the middle of the podcast, like, that’s such an important thing. Right? “How does the grid look?”
Trey George: Yes. Oh my gosh. So much. I mean, it’s so, so useful. I’m using it. Because right now I’ve got a pretty close watch on the A Design Kit Instagram as we’re getting that launched, and we use it exclusively for, actually both, all of our Instagram feeds, we always drop it in to see how it looks, and all that kind of stuff. So it’s pretty great.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. Yeah, go ahead.
Trey George: Then, A Design Kit’s the new app that we’re coming out with. It actually comes out tomorrow. I don’t know when this is going to be airing.
Bjork Ostrom: So it’ll be live when this airs. Yep.
Trey George: There we go. It’ll be live. And hopefully it went really well. Anyway, it’s a design companion app to A Color Story. So we set out thinking we were going to try to update A Beautiful Mess. But, ultimately, we just had a completely different vision on the kind of designs that we wanted to create, and the kind of experience that we wanted to create, and it just ended up being way too different from A Beautiful Mess where we felt like if we were to give people this as an update to A Beautiful Mess, they would just be upset because we took away all of their functionality that they might have liked.
So with this, the big feature is that we have realistic brushes that are kind of modeled after pencils, and paintbrushes, and markers and things. So it was a big piece to get that element right. But not only can you draw in color, but you can also draw in texture. So if you wanted to do a paint streak of gold leaf, or of marble, or of a gradient, or something like that, you’re able to do that in real time. So as you draw, you just see kind of the gold revealed on your photo.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. Great. When this goes live, we’ll be sure to link to those in the show notes, too. So if you listen on your phone to this podcast, the nice thing is, you can go in, and click on those links, and that will direct you right over to the App Store so you’ll be able to check those out. And if not, you can just search, I would guess, any of the names on the app stores, and those will pull up.
Trey George: Yep.
Bjork Ostrom: Cool. Thanks so much for coming on the podcast.
Trey George: Oh, happy to do it.
Bjork Ostrom: Really great to talk to you. And it’s a niche in an area that we haven’t had a lot of time to talk about on the podcast. So I know people will take a lot away from it.
Trey George: Yeah, definitely. Thanks for having me.
Bjork Ostrom: Thanks a lot.
Alexa Peduzzi: Hey, beautiful people. Alexa here, bringing you an announcement, and the reviewer of the week. So first, the announcement. You guys are probably familiar with our WP Tasty brand right now. It’s the brand where we sell WordPress plugins to food bloggers, like Tasty Recipes, which is a recipe plugin, and Tasty Pins, which is a plugin that helps you with your Pinterest descriptions. So this brand is growing rapidly. So we are looking for a customer success agent who will help us support our customers and keep track of feature requests for our products. We’re looking for someone who’s patient, a self-starter, someone who has a passion for customer service, and someone who is just a really good communicator to help our customers out. So if this sounds like you, or maybe you know of someone who would be the perfect fit for us, you can go to WPTasty.com/job, and find out more information, and then submit your application.
And if you’re interested, be sure to hop over there sooner rather than later, because the application deadline is this Sunday, February 18th, 2018. And now, it’s time for our reviewer of the week. And this one comes from Anushree from SimmertoSlimmer.com. This blog is amazing. She has so many wonderful, beautiful photographs, and she has a ton of really delicious-looking Indian recipes that I can’t wait to try in my own kitchen. And she says, “I just got done listening to Bjork and Casey chat about SEO. I am blown away with all of the wealth of information that was shared, and for free. This podcast is the best way to keep yourself up to date on the latest and greatest that is happening in the food blogging world. Thanks a ton, Bjork. Keep up the good work.” Thank you so much for listening, Anushree, and thank you so much for your wonderful review.
And if you guys want to check out that interview with Casey, it’s one of my favorite episodes. You can find it at foodbloggerpro.com/133. All right, friends, signing off here. We really appreciate you listening and tuning in every week. You are the best. From all of us here at FBP HQ, make it a great week.