Homegrown AppsJul 25, 2019 12:05PM ● By Anthony Flott
Everyone knows “There’s an app for that.” After all, with 2.1 million apps and counting available at Google Play Store, every conceivable idea should be covered.
But as Carina Glover and Kate Shannon have discovered, there is not an app for everything. Rather, there’s still room to make money in the ever-expanding industry that, in 2016, generated $88.3 billion in revenue (per market and consumer data company Statista).
Glover’s offering is Her Headquarters, created for women who own brands in the fashion, beauty, entertainment, event planning, and PR industries to grow their businesses through collaborations with other women.
“It helps women entrepreneurs with problems they are facing,” Glover said. “Not only does it help them secure partnerships, but I also like that it helps them to secure allies. The journey of being an entrepreneur can be lonely sometimes and it can be frustrating. It’s a platform of women who are open to partnering.”
Shannon’s app, Stur, helps users create and manage events and activities via invitations, chat spaces, planning, photo and video shares, and more. The events span everything from a grand gala to a birthday bash.
“People have this inherent need to feel connected and embrace the shared experience, and feel they are a part of something,” Shannon said. “The invite services that exist today and event platforms, they don’t wrap everything into a little bow for you. It’s all disorganized and disconnected.”
Stur, she said, “Creates space that allows you to really engage.”
Consumers, it appears, remain ready to engage with new apps. According to Statista, consumers downloaded 178.1 billion apps in 2017, and that number is projected to grow to 258.2 billion in 2022.
Her Headquarters and Stur were both created in Omaha. While the inspiration for each came in something of a flash, getting the product to market was anything but.
Glover previously owned an event planning business. She was considering her next career move and wanted to focus on business partnerships among women. The Marian High and University of Nebraska at Omaha graduate said the idea for an app came to her at 3 in the morning.
“I couldn’t sleep and the idea came to me out of nowhere,” Glover said. That was in summer 2017. Her Headquarters went public in May 2019.
Shannon’s partners are artist Jon Tvrdik and developer Jason McEvoy, who she knew previously. She said the idea for Stur came to Tvrdik about two-and-a-half years ago. The app launched in March this year (it’s free only in Apple’s App Store).
Neither women had experience building an app. “I went from being an expert in one arena to literally being the epitome of an amateur in a completely different industry,” Glover said.
They both had help. Tvrdik, an Omaha businessman, turned to Shannon, an advertising copywriter and content strategist, to help put meat on the skeleton of his idea. McEvoy handled the technical construct.
“We take our different knowledge and backgrounds to sort of mesh our skills together,” Shannon said. “We’ve learned a lot and grown a lot.”
In Glover’s case, assistance came in a unique Omaha offering—the Omaha Chamber’s Startup Collaborative, an accelerator program that helps entrepreneurs build software-centric companies.
Before approaching the Startup Collaborative, though, Glover said she did everything backward.
“All I had was an idea,” Glover said. “I didn’t have any tech experience, no relationships or connections with people in the tech world, designer, or developer. And I didn’t have any money.”
That didn’t stop her from creating a pitch and seeking investors. The response?
“I basically had six months of ignored emails and rejections,” Glover said.
The Startup Collaborative had her start anew by first proving a need for her product. Glover’s research and surveys confirmed that need, one large enough that she charges $8.99 for the app (a limited version is free).
Glover was next connected with a designer, then a developer to build the app. That was followed by user testing, feedback, and adjustments. A beta version was released in mid-May and a full version a couple weeks later. Only then did she secure an investment of $50,000.
Early downloads encouraged both women, though neither shared specific numbers. A prelaunch limited to Omaha, Los Angeles, New York City, and Miami generated Her Headquarters downloads from women in all five industries the app targets. “It got a lot of traction in LA, which was really interesting to me because we didn’t do any marketing or advertising in LA compared to the other cities,” Glover said.
Shannon, an Omaha native and Central High grad, said Stur also started strong.
“We hit our goals really quickly,” said Shannon, who marketed mostly via press releases, social media posts, and direct touches with potential users. “Within the first three days we hit a goal that was four or five months out.”
Their work, though, is far from over, said Zac Fowler, director of IT outreach for UNO’s College of Information Science & Technology. He also manages the college’s Attic, a group of tech-savvy UNO students who have helped individuals and companies build apps since 2006.
Fowler said app creators too often focus on the start but then falter.
“The biggest mistake people make when planning for an app is to discount the need for maintenance,” Fowler said. “Google and Apple update their tooling and add features frequently. To remain listed in the stores after major updates, developers may have to spend significant time updating code in their apps.”
Glover and Shannon grasp post-launch challenges.
Shannon said, “We want to be able to react as soon as possible while still playing a slow game to make sure we have all the systems in place so that it won’t break.” That includes building an Android version this year.
Glover also advised “taking it slow.”
“There are so many directions we know we want this to go and so many features we know it needs to have, but we want to be smart about building.”
Glover’s already tried the backward approach.
Now, she and Shannon are looking forward.
Visit herheadquarters.app for more information about that app. Stur can be found on the App Store.This article was printed in the August/September 2019 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.