Christy Laurence was living a normal life as a successful Marketing and Advertising career, but it was during a life transition (and illness) when she had an idea for her own startup that kept her up every night. She had a app idea, but was wondering “where do I even start?”
Unable to stop dreaming and knowing she would regret not following it through, she put everything on hold, and even refinanced her mortgage to take a huge risk into building her DREAM app. She flipped her life upside down to create an Instagram business tool that is getting noticed around the word. Plann, a revolutionary new Instagram visual planner and scheduler for iOS and Android.
Have An App Idea And Wondering Where to Start? Christy Laurence from Plann Shares How She Did It:
Hey Christy! Tell us about Plann
Plann is a beautifully simplistic new productivity tool that helps users visualize, plan, draft and schedule Instagram posts in advance! I really wanted to create it for everyone serious about their Instagram feed, Plann lets users drag & drop images in a custom gallery to visually control how their profile will look amongst 500M monthly users.
Unlike other Instagram scheduling tools, Plann doesn’t charge monthly fees or have any image upload or scheduling restrictions, once you’ve purchased – you’re all set! Being able to visualise your brand colours cues, cohesive colour schemes and optimise white space makes it easier to entice new followers – and in turn convert into customers (and cash for you!).
It also takes the stress away of what to post next, ensuring you can draft your captions and save your commonly used hashtags days, weeks or months in advance. Plann has been Voted as ‘Startup of the year 2016 for AU/NZ’ by Startup Daily, and celebrating 1000 users in it’s first week. We’re also a current nominee for ‘Best Summer Social/Lifestyle App’ with Best Mobile App Awards. Plann recently soft-launched with new features already being rolled out, including integrating the Instagram API, Multiple feeds, Video capability and hashtag management.
How did you get started?
I was getting SO frustrated trying to plan out my instagram feed, there didn’t seem to be anyone that understood that to plan for a visual platform, you needed a visual tool. I sat down and designed, wireframed and sketched up all the features I knew I would need – I shared it with those who I knew already saw the benefit of using Instagram for business and then went crazy hunting for referrals for the best tech partners.
This is actually much harder than it sounds, developers speak a completely different language, and they’re definitely NOT creative! I churned through contacts looking for the team understood that the design of the app was going to be one of the most important aspects and then we got going.
What inspired you to get started?
I actually got really sick! I got a nasty flu which spread into my brain (I know, what?!) and ruined my entire vestibular function which left me dizzy, unbalanced, unable to focus my eyes or walk properly – for about two years. I definitely became a hermit. For someone especially hyperactive, a promising Advertising career, playing semi-professional sport and had just snagged myself a hot new husband – I didn’t really know what to do with myself. After brain scans revealed nothing major, the doctors all told me that people that they’ve seen like this never recover.
In short, they told me that my life was over at 28 and I’d need someone to look after me (at this point my new hubs was helping me in-and-out of the shower) and that I probably wasn’t going to work again either. As you can imagine, even with the most optimistic of streaks this type of news can break you – and believe me, it did. I was barely able to walk through the house, cooking in 6m swells was impossible and all I could bring myself to do was lay on the floor and return to my first love, illustrating. To get out of my darkest moments I would paint and draw, the creative trance really can do wonders and for a few hours at a time I would forget my life.
Posting daily on Instagram held me accountable, and of course my advertising brain was still fully functioning and after people started offering to buy my artwork – this idea starting building. It was true, the better my feed looked, the more money people would offer. And after almost 2 years of not really being able to leave the house, it was a nice surprise to see that I was going to be able to bootstrap the software myself.
How do you stay motivated?
I’ve given this everything I’ve got, or should I say ‘everything we’ve got’ even though my beautiful husband had no say hahaha. Hearing from the users how much better their engagement rate is, or that they’re inspired to get back onto Instagram again or how much time I’m giving them back not worrying about what to post next — it’s definitely feedback from the users that keep me going. I also don’t want any regrets, if it doesn’t work, I want to know I gave Plann EVERYTHING that I possibly could have to get it going so there won’t ever be a time I could say to myself ‘you should’ve done that’ or ‘you could’ve done more’.
What makes you different from the rest?
The biggest factor that makes me different is that I have a very strong understanding of marketing and advertising, social media and the importance of creative execution. I also moonlight as an artist and was using Instagram as a small business tool myself so I truly understand the struggles everyone has on the platform.
3 things that someone who wants to be a start in the same path as you should keep at top of mind:
1. Once you’ve committed – give it everything! There’s nothing in the world that is going to prepare you for what happens with new software! Jump in and when you start learning about all the curveballs, the real test is how you continually pick yourself up and just keep going!
2. Get some amazing mentors Speak to people who share your audience and understand how you’re trying to help them – or have gone down your path before who can prepare you for a few of the mistakes you’re bound to make.
3. Save as much money as you can. Plann has cost triple what I originally budgeted! Not only do you have to make the product, you’ve got Apple and Android also changing their platforms, and I’ve also got Instagram changing all the time, and there is a lot of regular upkeep the users have no idea about!
Software is FREAKING expensive, and even though you work two jobs, 120hrs a week, sacrifice all of your free time, and eat 2 minute noodles for more meals than you’d like to admit to – everyone is going to ask why they have to pay for your app(!). It’s heartbreaking but it comes down to playing a strong mental game.
Moving from advertising to then needing to understand the way software works and tech architecture was a complete learning experience! The biggest learning curve was definitely being able to speak ‘developer language’, and understand the libraries the tech is built with, and how to solve problems etc.
I’m still no expert but with a year of building Plann under my belt I’m definitely way better than I used to be!
Tell us a point in your life when you didn’t ever think you would make it.
Ahhh! Many times!! The biggest upset was when I discovered that iOS users are notorious for hoarding images! I thought I was ready for launch way back in March, but when the app got into the hands of my target market, we found that because they had between 10,000 and 50,000 images stored on their phone, the app would crash!
It was absolutely heartbreaking to learn I had to spend another 4 months in development and rebuild a whole section of the app to be able to deal with iOS hoarders, then go back into testing. (Refer to tip 3: save money! 4 months of extra development costs almost broke me – and threatened my marriage!)
If you could break down how you got to where you are in 5 major steps, what would those steps be?
1. Knowing the problem you’re solving, and who it’s for.
2. Making a community who will also want that same problem solved
3. Back yourself, keep pushing
4. Attitude – startups are one heck of a mental game, if you are focusing on everything going wrong you’re not moving forwards.
5. Sacrifice – If I mentioned all of the things I’ve missed this year and how many hours sleep I get, most people say ‘Stuff that’.
Who told you no?
No one actually! I surrounded myself with supportive people and people who I knew who were going to ‘get it’ from day one. Also – my friends and colleagues already knew me as a crazy inventor and go-getter so I don’t think anyone was surprised to learn I was out there chasing my dreams.
What was your turn-around point?
When we started getting a loyal fan base and won our first award was a definite turn-around moment for me. We hadn’t even launched yet and the overwhelming support for the problem we were solving earned us ‘Peoples Choice – Startup of the Year Australia/New Zealand, 2016’ with Startup Daily. Blew my mind!
Did you always have a dream to become what you are now?
Yes. Always! There was never any doubt I was going to create something.
What are three personality traits + skills that you have that let you know you were perfect for this:
1. Resilience – if I sat and told you everything that had gone wrong in this last year you would be here all day!
2. Creating a community – I am a big networker and naturally love helping others get the word out about their businesses.
3. I’ve always been a closet nerd, I love learning and could spend all day reading + up skilling which has been so important.
What was your yes supply moment?
“I wouldn’t wish boring on anyone.” I have my chance to have the life I’ve always wanted and I’m not letting it get away!
Where can we keep up with you?
Have an app idea that you want some feedback on? Leave a comment below and we’ll respond.