I don’t know about you, but about once a week I have an occurrence where I think up an app idea. I usually google it and find out that it’s already been invented. Although in the case of Ritual, I totally thought up that idea while bored in a Starbucks line, but never went and implemented it. Now they are uberly successful. No pun intended.
One thing that often stops us from going ahead and designing our own app is it just seems SO far out of reach. Like, that’s only for people in Silicon Valley. Well not really. As soon as I found out that Julie had created her own app, I wanted to hear all about it. She took us through what it takes to build an app, bring it to an agency, and see it go from idea to fruition. She did it all on her own. So, Never miss out on a good app idea ever again!
Julie, Tell us about yourself:
My name is Julie Berard Dando, I’m a 34 year-old French entrepreneur living in Hong Kong. Prior to LadyPlans, I have been a Customer Relationship/Marketing consultant at BearingPoint for 8 years in Paris and London. I developed a strong experience in project management and business requirements in IT-related Marketing and Sales projects. I’m the mother of 2 lovely boys (2 and 4 years old). As I believe living abroad is an amazing opportunity to grow personally, I have lived in a lot of different cities (New York, London, Paris, Beijing, Copenhagen and Manila when I was a child) and I’m really happy to share this experience with my own family now in Hong Kong.
Tell us about your app.
Ladyplans is a women organizer app that empowers us to anticipate and plan our priorities from daily tasks to life-changing events. It is a time and task management app with women-centric content and design. It is particularly useful for working women who plan a lot, for themselves and their loved ones. Based on lists and links between events and checklists, it allows us to anticipate more and to save time typing less.
LadyPlans offers 4 key features:
Event Makers to quickly add ‘one shot’ events into our calendar (e.g.: doctor booking, shop groceries, etc.)
Planners to anticipate and plan events requiring preparation with an intuitive backward approach (e.g.: birthday, Christmas, Father’s day, Valentine’s day, Baby shower, etc.)
Checklists to track items and that can be linked to the calendar’s events
Calendar that can be synced with iCloud, Outlook exchange and Google calendar
The app is available worldwide, exclusively through the App Store, in the Productivity category. It is free the first couple of months following the app launch and then it will available in Premium version for less than $2
What made you begin your app?
The project is based on my own experience as a busy working mom of 2. I was planning a lot for myself and for my children during down times (morning commute, watching TV after dinner, etc.). Realizing that most of the time I was planning the same type of events (birthdays, holidays, Christmas…), I thought I should store this organization-related knowledge somewhere instead of reinventing the year all the time.
Plus, I frequently retyped my checklists as events in my calendar to turn my to-do lists into action. I got frustrated because all of this wasn’t really efficient and I hate to waste time on planning/organization. Currently, most of the productivity apps are empty so we spend a lot of time customizing them. The idea is to offer some relevant women-centric content in a productivity app that will serve as a basis to be customized by each user.
How did you get started?
I did some market research on the App Store to get an overview of the market on productivity apps, family organizers, apps for women (baby development tracker, breastfeeding, women things…). I also checked a lot of blogs (mom blogs, tech mom blogs, and organization blogs) to collect some insight on what women plan and how they plan (e.g.: cross-checking different examples of checklists) so I could check my personal assumptions.
I tested the concept with some friends and collected their feedback. Then I started creating some mockups to make things more tangible and see how the concept could actually be implemented in an app.
How did you plan how to make the app?
I applied what I used in my consulting job in terms of project management:
• Define a high level roadmap
• Write down my vision and the project objectives
While I was doing this, I also spent quite a lot of time on app developer blogs to learn from them: what are the key steps in development? What are the common pitfalls? How to choose the app name? How does marketing work in the app world? What is ASO (App store Search Optimization)?
There are a lot of things to keep in mind like how to design a screen: what info, where on the screen, what is the objective (information, workflow), color, shape, balance on the screen
How did you find developers?
I didn’t have many contacts among mobile app developers. My criteria were: French-speaking developers to make communication easier during the IT developments, an agency with previous experience in similar projects (either productivity apps or women-focused apps) and a quotation meeting my budget. I pre-selected 4 mobile app agencies online to which I sent my brief, compared the offers and selected one to work with.
Did you have to get funding?
No, I self-funded the company with my husband.
What keeps you going?
I learn a lot and I’m interested in what I learn. I feel like I’m growing both personally and professionally. I really enjoy being part of each step of the creation process and being responsible for the decisions I make for the company. I meet interesting people that want to change things and make a positive impact, which is very stimulating.
How do you stay motivated?
Entrepreneurship can be a lonely path so every day I need to connect with as many relevant people as possible: potential app users though Facebook groups or blogs to get their feedback, other entrepreneurs at network events to get inspired by their stories, bloggers interested in similar fields. At the beginning, I was a bit shy talking about my project, but after getting some positive and enthusiastic feedback, it really helped me stay motivated and I wanted to share more every day.
What was the hardest part?
Waiting for the IT developments to be completed. Once the app was released on the App Store, the project became real.
3 things that a woman who wants to start her own app should keep at top of mind:
- Start connecting with like-minded people as soon as possible (app developers, women entrepreneurs, bloggers) to learn from them, get support and build a network that you can leverage when your project is being launched
- Articulate your pitch as simple and clear as possible: what is the problem you are trying to solve? For who? How is the solution you want to put on the market different from what already exists? It seems very simple but it took me quite a long time to get able to articulate it in a way that is understandable by a lot of people (not just me!)
- Join a startup bootcamp to get the basics from experienced people on idea validation, pitching and product development… This experience can be challenging when you have an early stage startup because people may tell you that you haven’t done this or that, but it will also allow you to clarify your priorities and connect with other startups at the same stage
What are some struggles that made it difficult?
First, I didn’t have connections with the mobile app ecosystem so I had and still have to build them, especially with mobile developers. Second, I had to get familiar with some mobile app jargon (ASO, navbar, etc.). Third, I built the website myself, which I had never done before, and which was sometimes quite challenging.
I wanted to create something that I would be responsible for and I wanted to get involved in every part of it. As a consultant, I was usually assigned on the same kind of projects and I really wanted and needed to experience new things (such as mobile app development, social media strategy, and operations).
What inspired you to start on this journey?
Some friends launching their own business when they turned 30 and the support of my husband to start something new and risky.
What was your yes supply moment?
The IT developments were taking longer than expected, so the app launch was being delayed. Sometimes I was doubting about the whole project. That’s when I decided to engage with some bloggers to get their feedback on the project. Some were very enthusiastic and it drove me to push things further.
Do you use any productivity apps?
Trello for LadyPlans project management
Slack with the FrenchTech community in Hong Kong
CamCard for business card scanning (Business category in the App Store)
Google Sheets to access my files on my phone
Wunderlist or the iPhone list app for to-do lists
Do you have any morning rituals?
Check my emails and FB groups notifications, test the app, check Google Analytics for the website and the app
How can we keep up with you online and on social media?