Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses, and I do it for an audience of entrepreneurs. I was speaking at an event, it must have been about a year and a half ago at this point.
Christy: Maybe like two years.
Andrew: Maybe two years.
Andrew: I can’t believe how much you’ve done in those two years. So I get off the stage and this woman is telling me that she has a software called Plann for Instagram management. And what it does is . . . And I didn’t even know this was possible at the time. She said, “You know, people really like the grid to look good. I let them edit what the grid looks like by moving pictures around and making it look nice. I let them schedule their posts.” And I said, “I had no idea this existed.” And she go, “Oh, yeah, yeah, this existed. People spend a long time doing it. My software makes it easy.” I said, “That’s exciting. That’s great.” And then I like to find out what people’s problems are to get a sense of what their frustrations are. And she says, “My thumb’s hurt.” I go, “That’s kind of new. What do you mean? Why are your thumb’s hurt?” She goes, “Andrew, I do tech support.” I go, “Well, don’t you create all these shortcuts and stuff?” She goes, “I do it in DM.” “Wait. Instagram DM?” She goes, “That’s my main support channel.” I had no idea that was even a thing.
Christy: I remember this conversation now. It’s all coming back.
Andrew: You opened my eyes to so much. I love doing conferences because being on stage then gives people an excuse to come and talk to me afterwards and show me the stuff that they’re doing that I never would have known about. There’s another person who’s doing something interesting in the Echo space with the speaker, but they were way early and they hadn’t figured out what the power was. And frankly, we’re a couple of years later and we still don’t know what the power is of that. But for Instagram, you’ve figured it out and your business is growing tremendously.
The person whose voice you just heard is Christy Laurence. She is the founder, the CEO, in some way she was like the CTO even of Plann. I invited her here to talk about how she went from being an artist to being an entrepreneur. I want to find out how she got her app code even though she is not a developer and kept screwing up the development process, how she sold anything to do with Instagram and then how she converted people from just one-time payments in the app store to recurring revenue payment customers. There’s so much more that she did that’s amazing.
We’re going to do it all thanks to two phenomenal sponsors. The first, if you’re starting a business, if you’ve got a business, you need a website, you got to go to HostGator, hostgator.com/mixergy will hook you up. And the second, wait till you hear Christy’s problems with development, if you need a great developer, really, the best of the best, go to toptal.com/mixergy. I’ll tell you about those later, but first, Christy, revenue-wise, where are you now?
Christy: Hi, good morning. I would say we’re in the multiple millions now. So Plann has been alive for four years and it’s completely bootstrapped. And we’ve grown a team to over 30 in 10 different countries and just multiple millions now.
Andrew: Are you pulling in a profit yet, Christy?
Andrew: More than a million in profit?
Andrew: Wow-wee, look at this. Two years ago when we met up where were you? Do you have a sense?
Christy: I would have had . . . I reckon two years ago I would have had about 100,000 users, maybe I would have been able to support myself and maybe two developers maximum. So maybe 40K MRR. Yeah.
Andrew: Forty thousand monthly recurring revenues, about $0.5 million a . . .
Christy: I reckon it would have been there.
Andrew: Half a million. Look at how far you’ve come. All right.
Christy: It has been quick.
Andrew: I want to get an example of what this software does through the eyes of a user. How about this woman, Jenna Kutcher?
Andrew: What was Jenna Kutcher doing? What did your software do for her? And then where did she end up because of it?
Christy: So when I was a Community Manager of Plann, I would obviously meet people through DMs and messaging because the trick with social media is to make friends on the internet. Sorry, mom. So I met this one lady called Jenna who was killing it. So she had online courses for photographers. So she had taken her business from, like, I’m really good at photography, how can I scale my time? So she had gone from photography in person and doing all the editing to then building a team and creating an online course for anything.
So what ended up happening is, yes, she had her wedding photographer courses, but her social media started to really blow up, because with Plann, and I introduced her to the platform through Instagram. She then could get a team to organize her social media for her, but inside the platforms also got a strategist. So you can really understand what themes you’re talking about.
So for example, we know that the best things are vulnerability, community, inspiration, education, so those are the types of things that people need in their brand and you have to know which one of those things works for your audience. So Jenna was able to figure that really early, and then she was able to scale herself and her team, do all of it, editing, scheduling, and hashtag research within Plann and schedule it.
And since then, I’ve seen her grow to multiple revenue streams. She now has business masterminds, she runs Instagram courses using Plann, and, like, showing other people how they can do it too, she rents houses in Hawaii and only been in the space for two years. And she’s grown her own personal brand as well with her own personal account. So she’s got two, a business and personal account now and now sells massive advertising space with almost 1 million followers. And I think I would have met her at 30,000.
Andrew: She had 30,000. She has about 1 million followers on one account or both together?
Christy: I’d say on one account. She’s running it as a personal brand now. I think she merged them. So she worked out that one worked better than two and just merged them.
Andrew: And so it’s not just about scheduling posts, it’s also about knowing what to post.
Christy: And when to post and why to post.
Andrew: And giving analytics on posts. How do you know when to post? Based on her individual reactions when she’s getting . . .
Christy: On her individual. So we have two metrics. So we have based on her actual previous time she’s posted. So we have a look at her historical data and we can make it and let everybody know this is when your best time has been to post. And then we can also pull the data of when your followers are most active online and show you that time.
Andrew: That’s fantastic.
Christy: You get two options. So the best thing about marketing is that it’s about testing and optimizing and learning. And I know that because my background has been marketing forever before I did Plann. So I was like, “How can I bring this to more people and make it really easy?” So software it was.
Andrew: What were you doing? You were doing marketing for AIG or where?
Christy: Yes. Yeah, that’s right.
Andrew: Oh, IAG?
Christy: IAG, close.
Andrew: What’s IAG? AIG is the insurance company? What’s IAG?
Christy: It’s also an insurance company. So an insurance company that has five different brands inside Australia and New Zealand and I was responsible for their TV, their socials, their print and radio, and the entire strategy through to creative execution. And prior to that, I was working in an agency in creative.
Andrew: Okay. And so, as I . . . I’m looking at your Instagram. It’s Christy Lady Laurence. Am I right?
Andrew: So what I did is I started scrolling back in time to see what you did.
Christy: Yeah, all the way back.
Andrew: If I go further back, what I see is a bunch of drawings. It seems like what you used to do is post your drawings on Instagram.
Christy: Yeah. So I’ve left them there for a reason. I’m still embarrassed to this day, but I’ve left them there because people do like to scroll back and see what I used to do. But I used to sell paintings and artwork. So I have a very particular style. And I used to . . . Well, I used to come home from work every single day and draw one thing and post on Instagram. And that’s another story in itself. And then I started selling artwork through Instagram. And I started making more money doing that than my day job. So I was doing these really specific line drawings with digital art and then the rest of it was just kind of playtime, but it was very messy . . .
Andrew: It was digital art? It wasn’t paint on canvas?
Christy: It was a mix.
Andrew: It was a mix.
Christy: Yeah, I had the mixture.
Andrew: So I’m looking at this one . . .
Christy: But what I worked out. Yeah.
Andrew: This is one of . . . Is this you sitting outside? I’m kind of holding up my iPad for you to see.
Christy: No, no. That’s someone that I used to really look up to.
Andrew: Got it. Okay. But then in that case, this is your drawing, right? Is this representative of what you did?
Andrew: It is. Okay. So it’s line art. You would draw it, post a new one every day and then people would buy this?
Andrew: For how much?
Christy: Sometimes up to 2,000. So just to give you . . .
Andrew: Two-thousand dollars they would pay for that?
Christy: Some of them. Yeah.
Christy: So, as an example, I don’t know if you can see this, but this is where I kind of ended up with these black professionally line drawings and people would pay up to $2,000 for some of these because they would be customizable . . .
Andrew: So let me describe for people who are listening. Obviously, everyone is listening. It’s a line drawing of a woman, very minimal, and then the earrings are where the action is in this color. Same thing on this next one that you showed me. So would you draw these, people would pay you for them because of what? Why would they buy it from you?
Christy: So a lot of people would want illustrations of themselves as fashionistas or they want avatars or icons or people want them for their walls in their office. And, like, I had people like, “Can I please have . . . Can I pay you $2,000 for black and white Charlie Chapman?” And things like that. And that would only take me a few hours because my lines are so minimal.
Christy: And they’re very specific. And it’s a skill that I’ve been doing for myself since I was five. This is not something that happened overnight. And so what I learned, though, was the more I posted, the more minimal and the more niche that I became, the faster my Instagram grew, the faster my orders came, and I learned organically how to use Instagram for myself, but because I have an artist in my brain and I have like a senior marketer in my brain, I was able to put the two together. But my friends started saying like, “What are you doing and how are you doing this? I want to do this.”
Andrew: Wait. Before we get to your friend, you said that as a kid, as a girl, you would do these drawings all the time and this was just an evolution of it and Instagram got attention for it. The other thing I heard, as a girl, you would steal grapefruit.
Andrew: It’s a long time ago. I think it’s okay to talk about. What did you do with grapefruit?
Christy: Absolutely. So my mom and dad are both really entrepreneurial and I came from an entrepreneurial family where you sit at the dinner table and talk about the sales of the day like that. That was very normal.
Andrew: What did your parents do? My parents did that too. What did your parents do?
Christy: Yeah. My dad used to import cars from Japan and sell them wholesale and my mom had a mixture of crafted [salami 00:10:13] businesses.
Andrew: Okay. All right. And so you’d sit at the dinner table talk about how he sold, what he’s sold, right?
Christy: And how he picks cars and his thesis for making money. Because you would overhear your mom and dad talking because, you know, kids are quiet at the table and there were four of us sitting there, like, throwing food at each other and mom and dad kind of talking about work. So you’d overhear, like, really, like, serious business conversation. So I kind of got . . . I was kind of lucky that way. And we had to work for our money. So my mom and dad taught us the value of $1 very, very early and I was like, “Oh, there’s got to be a better way than this.” Like, very early, “There’s got to be a better way.”
So I would take my go-cart and go down the road to where the school was and I would in the weekend, shake all the grapefruit out of the trees and climb them and get the best ones at the top, bag them in bags of 10 and then sell them outside my house or at my dad’s car yard. And because I’d learned about wholesale from my dad, people would come in and be like, “All right. Well, I’ll sell you all 10 bags for $100 and just like, you can just pay.”
Andrew: Instead of selling them one at a time or a bag of three for their family. And so you would sell in wholesale.
Andrew: Okay. So this . . .
Christy: And I learnt very early.
Andrew: This was definitely . . . This entrepreneurial expression was definitely in you early on. When you say you were making more money from selling these drawings than you did working at IAG, how much are we talking about when it was just you drawing on Instagram and these photos that I saw?
Christy: I mean, I could make $8,000 a week, but . . .
Andrew: Eight thousand a week?
Christy: One week I did. So one week Red Bull asked me to . . .
Andrew: What’s typical? Oh, I’m sorry. Red Bull.
Christy: It’d be. Yeah, Red Bull approached me and asked me to do some drawings for them.
Christy: And this thing about Instagram, like, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, it doesn’t matter. The opportunities are crazy. And I would say it would be a few thousand a week because I was charging between 1,000 and 3,000 a drawing.
Andrew: Okay. A few thousand a week. And that’s just because you were drawing. Were you doing anything to get attention for it? Like, I’m listening to Gary Vaynerchuk today and on his podcast, he keeps saying, “I want you to DM 400 people asking them to talk to you. And all 400 people are going to ignore you. You’re going to say Gary Vaynerchuk misled me and he didn’t lie, and he didn’t direct me in the right place, but then I do it again.” And then after you do it three or four times, meaning reach 400 people, someone’s going to contact you and something good could happen. Did you do that? Is that the Instagram? That’s where you live?
Andrew: What did you do to get attention? How did they pay attention to you?
Christy: So that would the . . . I would call that the spray and pray approach and not the approach that I would take. So I would look at people that like my certain style of artwork, and because I knew what my brand was, I knew that the people that liked my art probably like West Elm or they probably liked other shops or clothing brands, or they probably followed Vogue magazine, right?
Andrew: Okay. I am.
Christy: So I would go to those . . . I would go to their feeds and I’m looking at their top engaged followers. So I just look at their last few posts and see who’s chatting, and then literally strike up conversations with those people and ask them questions. You always got to lead with a question.
Christy: And it’s not just emojis or this is amazing or anything like that. It’s like, “Oh, hey, how did you do that? How many hours is that? Have you got any tips for me?” And actually having a conversation . . .
Andrew: And sit and respond and respond and respond all . . .
Christy: And respond and respond and respond and respond all day.
Andrew: All day. You can’t even do it on a computer. You can’t DM on a computer. No. So it would just be you sitting . . .
Christy: So this was public. So you can actually do it on the desktop. You can do it on Instagram just on their wall. So I was doing that.
Andrew: Got it. You weren’t DM’ing. Got it.
Christy: No. I wouldn’t DM that. So it would be public because then other people could join in the conversation and also helps the rest. Yeah.
Andrew: Yeah. It is easier than . . .
Christy: And then when you create these friendships, so for example, when I was first making Plann, I don’t know if I’m jumping ahead here, that I’ve figured out who the people were. So I figured out my target audience and I figured out who they would listen to, which now is influencer marketing, but back then what I would do is go and turn on all their post notifications. So, when they posted at anytime of the day or night, I would go and write messages on their wall, like, literally publicly on their grid photos and have a conversation and it was very public. Every post.
Andrew: Just so people know.
Christy: And so after six months so I got to know who I was.
Andrew: Every post you’d . . . Just so people understand. It’s not like she’s got . . . I thought you’d have like 200,000 followers, that’s why you sold. You have . . . Excuse me. Not 200,000 followers, 2,102 followers. So we’re not talking about a lot of posts or a lot of followers, we’re talking about a lot of work. That’s what you were doing. You were starting to say then that you made more money from this than you did from your job, and as a result you did what? People started coming to you and saying, “I want . . . ”
Christy: Yeah. How are you doing . . . My friends in real life started to say that I was so happy. I was at home painting all day. And they’re like, “I want to do this.” So I started with my artist friends, and then I started kind of widening the net when other people would say my engagement rate. I mean, yeah, I get 2,000 followers, but I get 100 comments almost. If you scroll through my posts is between 70 and 100 comments most of them.
And it’s not about collecting followers, it’s about having conversations and making real . . . So when people use the word influencer these days, I feel like it’s being used as kind of a dirty word. But for me, it’s like, are you actually listening to the person and are they a person of influence? And in my life, I post about roller-skating because I love roller-skating and since I’ve got, like, 20 friends who have messaged and said, “I bought roller-skates.” So I’m like, “Okay. So my influence does actually work here.” And that’s what got the attention of people. So I became now what’s known as a micro-influencer.
And then I figured out that when I was helping people, they were asking me for help and I was repeating myself a lot. Like, you have to figure out . . . Like, for example, the one thing that I would say the most over and over is that your grid is your shopfront and no one scrolling . . . Thank you for scrolling that far back, but nobody is doing that on the normal thing. You’ve got one or two scrolls and that is representative of who you are and what you stand for. And if you aren’t able to show that visually in two seconds in a way that connects with someone, then they’re gone. And your bio needs to match those images. So, for me, if you don’t have total control of that, you’re letting your entire shopfront be led by someone else or you’re a whim. So I was like, “I want . . . ”
Andrew: This is something that you told me when we met in person. You said . . .
Christy: Probably, yeah.
Andrew: Yeah. Your grid is your storefront. You said people are looking . . . When they tap your face, what do you want them to see? I always thought the grid is just whatever you happen to post, post whatever goes into the feed. The feed is what matters. The grid is like an afterthought. You flip it. You say, “No. The grid . . . ” You’re shaking like you’re uncomfortable of me even saying this. So the grid is people coming . . . It’s like the old web page. It’s the storefront. And so I still want to be in the feed. Does that mean that I keep my grid pure and then every once in a while I shove something? How do I post up in the feed without ruining my grid?
Christy: Yeah. So with Plann, you can upload images and you can edit them. So brand consistency. So, if you have a fashion brand or if you have a brand that’s really focused on visuals, you would want to have the same editing across all of them, so there’s that consistency, so that if you follow me and then I start scrolling in the grid, even if I haven’t seen your name, I know who it is. And it’s that consistency that we hope with. So that’s one part of it. And then depending on who you are, so for example, your podcast, Mixergy.
Christy: You are the focus and who you are interviewing. So it might be like you every seventh picture or you every sixth picture and it’s jumbled up so that it looks even and cohesive. And you might find that you learned something off of entrepreneurs. You might have a photo of them with a quote. So it depends on how you run your company and the things that . . .
Andrew: But when I think about what I post, I’m thinking about what ends up in the grid and how it looks in the grid more so than I am about how it looks in the feed or I have to think both?
Christy: You have to kind of think both, but for me, the most important thing is that if you’re wanting to connect with people and find the followers because once someone follows you, they technically become a warm lead. They’re interested in what you do and they’ll eventually if they’ve followed you, you’re going to be serving them more nurturing content to move them along your marketing funnel. I’m a marketer so my brain thinks in funnels.
Andrew: I like that good. I don’t want the art.
Christy: So when you come to somebody’s Instagram grid, your mind goes, “Am I interested in seeing more of this?” And you either follow in a heartbeat or not. And if you follow, then you’re generally become a warm lead.
Andrew: Okay. And so people were asking you this, asking you this, asking you this. You were selling . . . First you were helping for free, then you are charging. Am I right?
Andrew: And then eventually you said, “I need to create software.”
Christy: So the biggest thing was . . . The one thing that I said the most was, “Have a think about how your images sit next to each other so you wouldn’t have a mid-shot next to a mid-shot or a flat lay next to flat lay.” If you have a look at the really successful Instagram feeds, the perspective of photos that sit next to each other are never the same. So you wouldn’t have a scented next to a scented unless all of the photos were scented because it will drive that white space out. Or is it too busy? Or have you got too much white space? So the only way that you can plan it . . . So I would be talking to people and I’d say, “I use Photoshop grids or I put it in Paint or I have a private account and I practice there first before I use it on my real grid.” And the worst thing that people would do is post a picture, see it didn’t work on the grid, and then delete it, which then ruins the algorithm because they’re not . . . It’s just one of those algorithm pieces on Instagram that it’s not a great thing to do. So . . .
Andrew: Why? Okay. I guess that would be too detailed of a conversation.
Christy: It’s a long study, let’s put it that way. It’s a very full five-year-long study of when you post like Instagram rewards consistency and if people turn on post notifications, you get this deleted, and then what’s happening is that you start posting three or four times in a day, it’s showing Instagram that it’s not quality because there’s no engagement and then you delete it.
Christy: Yeah. So these are . . . Anyway, all top, but yeah.
Andrew: So you started doing . . . You started teaching, you were thinking about software . . . Let’s take a moment, we’re going to come back to that. My first sponsor is HostGator for hosting websites. You’ve got a website for your business. Why is there also a christy-laurence.com site? This could be a good lead-in into my ad. Why do you have a personal site?
Christy: So I only started that about six months ago because I keep being asked to speak at events and I didn’t have any . . . So, as a founder, you have the brand itself and my personal brand was being lost in with Plann, so I decided to pull it out. So, if one-day Plann is sold or Plann doesn’t exist, then my brand still exists. And that’s the purpose of that.
Andrew: Let me give you another reason why I think people . . . First of all, that’s a big reason why if someone listening to us doesn’t have a personal page, they need it. Here’s another one. You get one easy page to control what people see and when they try to understand who you are. So one of the first things I did was I went to your business site and I looked at that. And then another thing I did was I said, “Does she have a website? Can I find out a little bit more about her?” And sure enough, you linked it from Plann. What’s the full site for Plann?
Andrew: Plannthat.com. I followed the link over to your website, and then I read a little bit more about you and I got a sense of who you were apart from the business. I think these are easy gimmies everybody who’s listening to us should have at least a personal website even if you’re not an influencer and not a social media person, even if you think that it’s too arrogant to have it. Guess what? You’re hiring? People want to know who you are. You’re doing business with someone. You’re calling a stranger. They want to know who you are. Right?
Christy: And just to be honest, like, this is a crazy story, but Vogue called me out of nowhere. And the thing about five-year-old Christy drawing fashion illustrations, always wanting to be in Vogue. Vogue calls me and says, “Will you keynote speak at our events? We just want to know more about you. Do you have a website?” I’m like, “Oh, shit.” And I just went home and made a website.
Andrew: And that’s what got you to do it.
Christy: And I was like, “Here you go.”
Andrew: Great. That’s the thing to do. And I’ll tell you this. If whoever’s listening to us doesn’t have one now, maybe doesn’t need one now, five years from now you might. The fact that it’s been there for five years gives you and the site more credibility.
Here’s what you need to do. Easy peasy way to get started, go to hostgator.com/mixergy. HostGator has been around forever. When you go to HostGator, one of the things that you’re going to do is be able to pick what software you want to manage your site. I like WordPress. Super easy. About a third of all websites are hosted on WordPress. One-click install you get WordPress. You pick a theme that’s a personal brand theme. You put your content up there. Keep it super simple. I’m talking about even one page is enough. If you go more than three pages, just go have a drink, relax, you’re going overboard. Don’t even do a blog. Just have a simple page on there and you’re good to go and then move on with the rest of your life. And if you want to come back and improve it, you’ve got a thing to improve, but don’t overthink the beginning of it.
Hostgator.com/mixergy will make it super easy, they’ll take good care of you, and especially if you want a personal brand site, I can’t imagine that there’s a better way to get started. And since it’s WordPress, if you don’t like them, if you say a year from now, “Andrew was wrong,” you pick up your site, you make an easy transition to whatever other hosting company you want to be with. But I love them. I’ve been with them now for years. Hostgator.com/mixergy. And thank you to everyone who’s using that URL. You’re supporting the good interviews that we do here.
All right. First thing you did when you decided to create software was what?
Christy: Well, having the idea, obviously. I sat on it for a couple of months because I thought, “Maybe. It’s not really my background.” I didn’t really know anyone. And then it kept waking me up at night. And there was this one moment that I literally had my very first panic attack ever. I was walking through a shop looking for a wine decanter, and I’d always worked in service because marketing and insurance is all service-based. I never had a physical tangible product. So I was always like, “I really want something I can photograph.” And, yeah, I just was like, “Okay. I’m going to do it.”
In my head I’m having this panic attack in a shop and my husband looks at me and he goes, “What is going on?” I was like, “I’m going to build this app. I’m going to build it.” He’s like, “Don’t you have to know how to build an app?” I’m like, “No. There’s 2 million in the App Store. It can’t be that hard.” He’s like, “Okay. Well, there you go then.” And that was kind of the first, it was acknowledging I am all in because if you are not all in, then for me personally, you are never going to get there.
Andrew: Did you quit your job at that point?
Andrew: You did.
Andrew: So you really were all in?
Christy: I was all in.
Andrew: And then you went to where to get your developer?
Christy: So, first of all, I needed to teach myself what an app looks like and how to . . . And I’ve been in enough agencies to know what wireframing looks like. So I wireframed what I thought the entire app was and I went on to like Upwork or Freelancer or one of those websites, because I think the first thing . . . And I already knew that you can’t hide your idea. You have to talk about it. And having that mentality for me of, “I can’t share it because someone will steal it,” is the opposite way that you need to think when you’re starting a company because the more people you tell, the more people that will help and come out of the woodwork. And no one has your passion, no one is going to execute it like you are, so you need to really just tell the world.
So I jumped on to Upwork and said, “I want to build an app and just put it out into the world.” And I got about 10 different hits that came back and said, “Christy, if this is a scope of work, this is a joke. This is what you’re missing.” And they would give me a list . . .
Andrew: They said that to you the people who responded?
Andrew: What were you asking for the app to have and what did they say was missing?
Christy: I would have sent my four screens and a scope of work that would have been like, “This screen I want to drag and drop and this screen I want to this.” And they came back and they’re like, “Okay. Do you want an animation? What size file? What type of image library picker do you want? And this screen is missing. These 10 screens are missing. These popups are missing.” So I was getting . . . I literally got a list of what I needed to make and learning along the way of what was . . . Because I had 10 different kind of opinions, I was able to then build it out.
And then while I was waiting for feedback, I was watching YouTube videos until my eyes bled on how to do UI/UX or best practices or how to do App Store ASO, which is App Store Optimization. So trying to teach myself, “Okay. So, once I have it, what happens next? And then I built my very first website was on Squarespace and it was a one-pager to collect emails. And I started learning how to do an email list so that people that would sign up I would send weekly Instagram tips to and just started nurturing . . . So I did this all in the background while I was learning from the app developers what was missing.
And then it was a couple of months before I had a final scope, of final designs, final everything. And I had learned probably more so in those three months that I have in my life. And then realized that when I got quoted that Plann was going to cost me $100,000 to build because it was a custom native app. But I didn’t have $100,000. And so . . .
Andrew: And this was someone on Upwork quoted you $100,000?
Christy: No. So I got the full scope and then I went and looked around the world. I went and downloaded the apps that I liked and looked up who developed them and I started sending my scope to those people.
Andrew: Okay. And so . . .
Christy: And then when I got quotes back for 100, I was like, “Well, that’s a bit steep. So I decided to hustle my way around Sydney because I live in Sydney here in Australia, and said, “Hey, web and app agency, if you build this tech product for me, I’ll do your advertising and social for free for you and your clients.” So I ended up one of them said yes. So I had a full-time job again, but working for free. They would build my tech. So that was how I was able to get the 100,000.
Andrew: Oh, I misunderstood that. I didn’t realize is what it was. You said, “I’m going to work for free. You build my first version.”
Andrew: And how good was that first version?
Christy: Absolutely, terrible. I worked for 10 months, I dragged out, they . . . My time, again, I probably wouldn’t have done it, but I don’t know how I would have got the 100,000. But because I wasn’t considered a paying client, I was kind of left to the side, different people would pick it up. The code was terrible. But after 10 months, we just launched it into the App Store. And because I’d spent that 10 months during the pre-launch marketing, so I’ve got emails running, I’m doing my own social media, I’m doing community management, I’m doing, I think I said email marketing, no paid, all organic writing blog. So I started SEO as well. And I was probably getting 10,000 hits a week to my blog at this point. And so when I launched the app, I made $10,000 in my first week.
Andrew: Community management how? What’s the community that you’re engaged with?
Christy: So the people that followed me on socials and Facebook groups and then my nurturing of my emails, and then the responses back and forth to communities. So because I was reaching out to influencers, they would send people my way and I would have to manage, like, they’re saying, “Hey, talk to Christy. She knows what she’s talking about.” So I’d have to make sure I’m doing good by them. And so there’s a lot of back and forth of chatting. So, when I first launched, I think I had 50 influencers talking about my app on the first day for free.
Andrew: Wow. What was the price in the App Store?
Christy: It was about $10, $20.
Andrew: And you got 10 . . .
Christy: Because everyone . . .
Andrew: So you get $10,000 about 500 to 1,000 customers day one. Boom.
Christy: Yeah, first week.
Andrew: And you didn’t even have a trial period?
Andrew: Okay. All right. That’s got to feel phenomenal.
Christy: Yeah. So what I learned back then was there was no product doing what I did other than SaaS products that charge $200 a year. So if I put one app out there for $20 and got money upfront, they never have to pay again. Then I got income and then I could reduce it and turn it into a SaaS later once I had enough revenue to come in to gather up all the team.
Andrew: You knew you were going to go SaaS.
Christy: I hadn’t yet because there’s no way it was going to be sustainable.
Andrew: With a one-time fee. What did the app do?
Christy: So the app had one screen, it was a drag and drop, and one scheduling page and that was it.
Andrew: And the drag and drop is so that people could have the grid look the way they wanted.
Christy: Yes. Like, visually design how that looks.
Andrew: How does that work when . . .
Christy: It was literally it.
Andrew: With Instagram, you can’t drag and drop the images on your grid on your profile page, can you?
Christy: No. So Plann has been planning in advance. So we pull through your existing images and then you add your own on top and you can visualize and schedule how the . . .
Andrew: How it looks in the grid.
Andrew: But then what allows you to take a post that I put up two weeks ago and is now in the lower right corner of my grid on my Instagram profile and move it to the upper right of my grid.
Christy: Yeah. So we can’t touch what you’ve posted on Instagram, but we can help you archive it and see if it doesn’t fit anymore.
Andrew: Okay. So you’re not moving it up, you might be moving it out. And then you’re letting me see what happens when I post the next six images that I’ve got, how it makes the grid look.
Christy: Yeah. Or in our case the next 300 images.
Andrew: Got it. All right. And so you had that.
Christy: And we also schedule stories as well, but that’s now.
Andrew: What kind of dance of joy did you do after you did that?
Christy: I sprayed champagne everywhere.
Christy: Yeah, literally. Literally shook out.
Andrew: You literally you and your husband were shaking champagne and shaking it?
Christy: I think I was by myself on the balcony spraying the birds, like, by myself.
Andrew: Why is this not on your Instagram page?
Christy: I know. Because no one ever take photos back then. It was just me hustling like crazy and, like, that was my personal account and I was running Plann and I figured that the Plann user who’s obsessed with Instagram wouldn’t care about the little Christy behind the scenes.
Andrew: Meanwhile you were wrong.
Christy: Yeah. But I didn’t want them to think that it was just some little app. I wanted them to think that this was a really successful global business and they were joining early.
Andrew: Did you quit that job?
Christy: Yes. And no more drawing.
Andrew: You did. No more drawing and also the job that you had to do in order to get the developer you were done with that.
Christy: So that $10,000 was enough to give another team a deposit and then . . .
Andrew: How did you find another team?
Christy: . . . I just had to make sure . . . Referrals.
Andrew: Okay. And then you had to make sure something . . . I interrupted you again.
Christy: Just I hounded my LinkedIn . . . Yeah. No, that’s all right. And I had to make sure that I could interview developers which was actually very scary. And then I had to make sure that I had enough money to pay them regularly. So I had to quit the job in order to be able to sell the apps to pay the developer team because back then I didn’t even know that investment was even an option. I was just making an app in my room.
Andrew: Frankly, it may not have been. I was in Sydney last year as part of my goal of running a marathon on every continent. I interviewed entrepreneurs there. It is tough to raise money there compared to where I am here. I happen to be in the heart of San Francisco today.
Christy: When I’m in San Francisco, I always make a joke that these investors on every corner with a t-shirt, again, going, “You get some money and you get some money.” So everyone [inaudible 00:32:59].
Andrew: Almost literally is investors on every corner because everybody invests. I saw, I think it was a tweet recently where someone said, “One of the best things about San Francisco is people don’t brag about their cars or their houses. If you do well, you don’t buy that.” You might buy a Tesla, to be honest. But there’s not that other thing that people get excited about. They do brag about the companies they’ve invested in. That’s part of the conversation and so that does help.
All right. Our producer then asked you, “How did you grow from there?” You said, “I posted on my own Instagram.” You said you did Search Engine Optimization Facebook groups. Let’s break this down. On your own Instagram, what did you do?
Christy: I was telling you . . . My own personal Instagram was telling the story of building your company.
Andrew: I don’t see that on your Instagram.
Christy: Not now.
Andrew: One of the things that I like about you is you’re really big on storytelling through Instagram posts. You’re saying you removed those old posts where you were sharing what you did to launch it.
Christy: A little bit, yeah, because they’ll become part of something else that I want to do later, so I don’t want them to be public anymore.
Andrew: So then what did you do? Tell me about how you pulled it as a story.
Christy: I just archived it. I’m just kidding. And so it was just like, this week I’m working on ASO, this week I’m working on SEO. But because it was personal, it fell by the wayside because I was literally working on our business 24/7. So I just didn’t have time. So it was like, “Okay. So do I want to build a business, or do I want to build a personal brand? You know what? Personal brand can just be later. I need to grow this company.”
Andrew: But for a little bit there it was a photo of you working on App Store Optimization, like, how to get people to pay attention to you. And that was a photo and that’s how people kept up with what you were doing. So you’re saying, “Look, that did well, but . . . ”
Christy: And I had no friends and they were like, “What are you doing? Why are you just hiding away at home?” So it was like a way to connect with my in real-life friends. So it wasn’t really a personal brand. It literally was a personal account, and then I realized that’s not what I wanted to do. And that’s what you can do. The best thing about it is you can change your mind.
Andrew: So that’s a little bit of that. Search Engine Optimization. Before we got started, you talked to me about how you did that. At first, you said, “I just went to Google and I started searching.” What were you searching for? How did it help you with SEO?
Christy: Yeah. So I knew already with SEO. So I had done in the course of my career, I started teaching myself SEO and I was a massive nerd. So I’d come home at night and do online SEO courses. And one of the things I learned very, very early is that you can’t blog about what you think is important. You have to see what the masses are searching for. So there were insights for me that came from Facebook groups, like, people like, “Oh, Instagram is not working for me,” and then like uncovering what they would actually be talking about in the thread, so that would help. And they would . . . People would ask me questions publicly or even competitors, I’d go onto their Instagram pages and see what people were asking them. And then on Google, so for example, it’d be like, “How do I grow my followers?” or I’d just search Instagram, and then Google would appear and say, “Are you searching for . . . ” or something like, “Other people also searched for . . . ” And at the very bottom of the first page of Google, you actually get your answers, like, here’s what people are searching for. This is what I need to write about. So I’d make sure that they were quite trendy and nichey and write about those. And that’s where I started.
Andrew: Okay. And people would come to your site, and then from there, would you collect email addresses or send them over to the App Store?
Christy: So sending someone from a website straight to the app sort of download is a very hard sale. There’s no nurturing in there. So to break that down, you’ve got your top of funnel which is your social sending people to the website, and then you’ve got your middle and the bottom of funnel which is what I saw our website do. So the content on the blog was a mixture of here’s how to do Instagram with this app, and the other one was how to do stories or how to edit. So it was a mixture of education plus inspiration.
And then, yes, there was email collection. There was a lot of white papers that we had a free Instagram master class that’s probably still on our website. So I sat in my house and I made a 10-minute video series of how to do Instagram strategically. And that collected, like, hundreds of thousands of emails. And then every now and then I’d put out different guides like the one that we were about to put out at the moment is 100 free call to actions for every post. So it’s always very, very helpful, very strategic. And yeah, so then nurturing their email list as well. And then we got so big that I actually couldn’t afford to send emails because we had too many people on the list and it cost me too much money.
Andrew: Wow. Okay.
Christy: Yeah. It was awful. But the joys of bootstrapping. And yeah, so they would be nurtured. So they would come in and then they’d learn more about it, there’d be a product page, there’d be product demo, and then they would see, here’s the value and then download. So there was never a hard sale ever.
Andrew: Okay. Fair enough. And so you’re doing all this. You’re starting to build up your list. You’re starting to sell softly. Facebook groups, was it your own group that you did or was it other people’s groups?
Christy: No. Other people’s groups.
Andrew: You just go into other people’s groups and help out. And by the way, here’s who I am. I’m the person who runs Plann. You can see me at Plannthat.
Christy: So I was also quite strategic because I had the . . . I knew who my target audience was from the very beginning. So the very, very, very beginning of my early adapters were going to be female creative entrepreneurs. So, basically, could I replicate myself? And that’s who I had been attracting at the very beginning. And so I decided to start there. So I would wake up early. I’m an early riser. So I had started the New Zealand groups like Etsy New Zealand, Businesses New Zealand, crafted, scrapbooking, whatever. And as the time moved on, I would go and say, “Okay. Hey, guys. This hashtag is trending right now for us. I think you should jump on it.” And I would go to New Zealand and then Australia and then Asia and then Canada and I would roll through the countries all night and I would give this tidbit of information. And I started making friends. And I had a Facebook profile that I would use that was mine, but all the information on the wall was my business. So soon as they were like, “Well, who’s this girl? Is she reputable?” Then click on my name, would then click to my website, and I’ll grow my audience there too.
Andrew: A secondary Facebook page?
Andrew: You did. Okay. One that’s just for your business stuff so that you’re not sharing family photos on it.
Andrew: Got it. Wow-wee All right. And so this is grown for you. You start targeting influencers even more, right? Because if you’re not going to expand your own Facebook, excuse me, your own Instagram feed, then you might as well start going after Instagrammers. You told them, “I’m working on something and would love if you gave me feedback.” That’s the approach that you took with them. Am I right?
Christy: That’s right.
Andrew: And they would do that? Because it’s for them. It’s built for them. Okay.
Christy: And they would give me feedback and I’d send them screenshots and they’d let me know if it was working or not.
Andrew: All right. How did you keep a marriage going, by the way, with all this? I’ve been asking people who work hard how they do.
Christy: It was difficult because my husband was working in corporate finance. And so he’d come home and at 5:00, 6:00, and he’s like, “What have you been doing all day? You haven’t even showered.” And I was like, “I’ll talk to you soon.” And then it’s like 2:00 a.m. he’s like, “Babe, I’m going to bed.” And I was like, “Oh, I’ll be with you in a minute.” And then I just never saw him. It was bad. My mental health got pretty bad there for a while. And he was like, “Christy, I think we’ve got to talk about this.” And then it was a few days, he was like, “Do you still want to do this?” because I literally was working myself into the bone.
And it was funny because the one time that he ever said . . . He’s the most important man on the planet. Like, he would dive into customer support. He now works full time as COO. So, like, he was already invested. He was helping with the books. But the one time back in the early, early days, I would have had about 30,000 downloads. I wasn’t making any money. I was struggling to pay developers. I was working like crazy. And he was like, “Is this really what you want? Is this the life that you actually want?” And I was like, “Yes.” And it was really funny because the only time he was even questioning, “Is this what you want?” it was the next week that the viral growth started.
Andrew: Why did you say yes?
Christy: Because I really wanted it.
Andrew: You wanted what? Is it that you wanted the fame, the money to see this project . . .
Christy: No. I wanted the freedom.
Andrew: The freedom.
Christy: I’d always wanted my own business. And here it was, it was right in front of me and it meant that I would never have to return to a 9:00 to 5:00, I could swim at the beach when I wanted, I could open a bottle of wine in the middle of the day, I could be one of those people that could travel with my laptop if I wanted, and that’s what . . .
Andrew: Are you doing any of these things?
Christy: Yes, I am.
Andrew: You are.
Andrew: What’s a fun thing that you’ve done because you’re working for yourself on a passion project?
Christy: I just went to Thailand for two weeks and worked from my laptop.
Andrew: From your laptop. Where in Thailand did you work?
Andrew: Phuket. There’s a beach there, right?
Christy: Yeah, it’s all beach.
Andrew: Did you work from the beach?
Christy: I didn’t take my laptop down, but I wake up really early. So I’d work from like 5:00 a.m. till 10:00 a.m. So I get five hours and I’m crazy productive. So, you know, full day’s work and then have the day off. And, yeah.
Andrew: What are you doing now? These days now that you’ve got a team of people. What’s in your hours? What are you doing? What are you leading?
Christy: So I have a team in Sydney and we . . . Oh, there’s a core team in Sydney and then we’re scattered around the world. So today I’ll probably work from home. I’m meeting with a few other founders this afternoon and then just running the team. I’m very hands-on in the product team and marketing teams, but mostly product. So, since we launched the app, we’ve had almost 2 million downloads. We’re in 160 countries. We’ve built a profitable business and we’ve gone from app to web app because what was happening is our people were growing.
Andrew: Let’s pause it there. I know that SaaS was next, and then web app after that, which is a surprising. There’s a reason for it. I’m going to take a moment to talk about my sponsor, and then we’ll get back into your story. My sponsor is a company called Toptal. Do you know much about them? Do you know anything about them, Christy?
Christy: I know that they’re a recruiting agency and I would try them out a couple of times.
Andrew: You did or did not?
Christy: I tried them a couple of times, yeah, but I think at the time they were very, very new, and they only had Silicon Valley talent that I could not afford.
Andrew: Yeah, yeah. So what they’re known for is having Silicon Valley quality developers, the types of people who would work at Instagram, at Google, because if you give them a problem, they could not just take your solution, but better yet, they could come up with a better solution than you could. And for a long time, they were. I think, for many people out of reach. The beauty of their program now is they’ve got people all over the world in markets where they don’t need to pay as much as we have to pay here in San Francisco, but because Toptal still has that reputation, still has that credibility, people who are phenomenal developers who want to be a part of their development team, they still do the same screening process, they still exclude 97 out of 100 people who apply, 97%, and it’s actually even grown higher than that, don’t get in. And the few that do get into their network are the best of the best.
So, if someone like you ever needs a developer today, you’re looking at definitely more expensive than some of the platforms we talked about earlier, but not astronomically high, and the results are 10X better than a regular developer could do for you.
If you’re looking for a developer, I guarantee that you’re going to love them. In fact, all you have to do is go to toptal.com/mixergy. When you do, you press that button, you schedule a call with a matcher who will understand what you’re looking for, help you think through the project, and then put you in front of a few developers within their network to see if they’re the right fit. If you’re happy with them, get started. They’ll even give you 80 hours of Toptal developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours.
But if you’re not happy, they’ve got a risk-free trial period there. They will pay the developer on your behalf. They’re not stiffing the developer, but they’re not going to charge you if you’re not happy with the results. So they want to make sure you’re happy with it, they want to make sure you get exactly what you need. And if anyone out there wants that offer, all you have to do is go to toptal.com/mixergy. Super-fast, phenomenal developers. toptal.com/mixergy, toptal.com/mixergy. How big did you get before you went to monthly fees?
Christy: Not long. It was only six months in.
Andrew: That was it.
Christy: Yeah. I would have been making I’d say $30,000 to $40,000 a month from one-off purchases.
Christy: And then I got to the point where I was like, “Okay. I need to make a sustainable business and I need to make . . . I need to have . . . ” And I had to look at what my competitors and everyone else that was kind of in my space was and I realized by this point I’d done enough research and reading books on SaaS and have software work that I was like, “Okay. This has to happen.” So the scary thing was going from having, you know, a pretty healthy . . . At the time it was very, very healthy revenue for a couple of staff members to then going right back to charging $2 a month or $3 a month and earning a 10th and going, “Oh, my God, have I made the right decision?” because it took another few months to build that back up to 40K.
Andrew: How long did it take to build it back up?
Christy: Let’s say another four or five months. Ages, like a lifetime.
Andrew: Did you have panicky nights or did you see a continuous increase?
Andrew: You did.
Andrew: And when you wake up in the middle of the night panicked, what do you do?
Christy: Of course. And it was continually.
Andrew: What do you do when you wake up in the middle of the night panicked?
Christy: I put on meditation music, eat melatonin gummies, have a tea, read a book, annoy my husband. Anything.
Andrew: You’ll have a tea in the middle of the night, read a book?
Christy: Yeah. Sometimes, yeah.
Andrew: The thing that works for me is I always sleep with an AirPod. I listen to something. It’s either this one show that I listened to over and over to the point where I know every word by heart or it’s this audiobook, and getting lost in the story helps me chill and go right back to sleep. It’s just amazing. Melatonin gummies. I’ve seen some people give that to their kids. Does that work?
Andrew: Literally, they’re giving to their kids. It does work. It helps you fall asleep within how long?
Christy: Ten minutes, 10, 15.
Automatic voice: Okay. Your time was set . . .
Christy: Oh good.
Andrew: What was that?
Christy: Oh, my phone going off.
Andrew: With a phone call coming in?
Christy: With an alarm. I think it overheard us and Siri decided to have a chat.
Andrew: Okay. I was hoping maybe it gave me some insight into you. All right. So you go in SaaS. What did you do with the people who paid for the product full out?
Christy: I grandfathered them in.
Andrew: So they get lifetime access, don’t have to pay monthly.
Christy: They all got lifetime access. Yeah.
Andrew: Wow. I have a few apps that I’ve got that with. It’s just phenomenal because you see them improve it because they’re getting money every month. But you don’t have to pay for it.
Christy: Yeah. And they’ve become loyalists. And by giving them and showing them value, they then have talked about the app. They’ve got no reason to churn and go anywhere else. They don’t have to pay anything. And they have provided me with the best case studies. I saw it as an investment because I pretty much gave the product to them for free, but what I learned from them was huge either through customer support or them emailing through with suggestions and ideas. That was invaluable. And had I been charging them and then being angry, they wouldn’t have stayed at the very early days. So, for me, that generosity at the start was actually quite helpful.
Andrew: Give me specifics. What’s a specific piece of feedback that came in from users that influenced how you shaped the product?
Christy: It was an overwhelming. When I first launched, it was a drag and drop grid. And there was an overwhelming desire for, “Hey, we want to be able to edit the photos and crop them inside.” And so that led me to be like, “Okay. Well, can I find one?” And there was a whole bunch of free ones that I didn’t think were that great. And when I started asking them, “Which set of image filtering here, the demos, which ones do you like? Which would you actually use?” I was able to make a decision.
Andrew: Got it. I wouldn’t have thought that people would want editing within the app because there’s editing in their phone already.
Christy: But this is like more. You got text, you’ve got filters, you got like flare overlays, all the creative tools as well.
Andrew: So one thing that I highlighted here was in the scaling section of my notes, apparently, you told our producer that you built a tool to sneak on other people and get analytics like the best performing color palettes.
Andrew: What does that mean?
Christy: So inside Plann itself, inside the app, you can search up your competitors or your friends and if they’ve got a public account, we can pull through their information. So you can see, for example, when I was talking about my brand being associated to West Elm, I was like, “Well, my people might like their color scheme.” So I look up West Elm, I find their best-performing color palette, and I’m like, “Okay. Well, if I align my colors, that might be too on the red scale and they’re on the green scale, and they might like more neutrals. I’ll give that a try.”
Because for me the way that I operate is as a marketer, as a tester, and a growth hacker type situation. So if I can try and fast-track my learning, then I will. So, if I can find the information from other people that have done it for me, then I’ll just steal it. Thank god I don’t have to pay for it either, so I can pull out their colors, I can pull out when they’re posted, and I can even take their hashtags.
Andrew: Okay. So let’s say Foundr is . . . I know the . . . I feel like the founder . . .
Andrew: He’s going to get upset that I would do that. Sorry. Yeah, Nathan. He’s huge on Instagram. I might say, you know, he and I have the same audience, both entrepreneurial audience, I’m getting started with Instagram. What I want to know is what’s a good time to post? Let’s have Plann suck in his data and tell me what time works best for him, and then if I’m starting, I might as well instead of starting from zero, start with what works for him and keep testing. And I use that. If I say, “What color schemes wouldn’t be big in my world?” what else would I want to know?
Christy: You’d want to know so you can go back over time and see what has worked. So the most engaged and the most liked posts. So you can see over three months or a year or lifetime what posts are actually working for him. So, when we talked about themes earlier, we’re talking about education works or inspiration works or community works. You might be able to have a look at his best-performing images and be able to pinpoint what it is that it’s working and then try that.
Andrew: Got it. I might start to notice that when he has a photo of a guest for his magazine, right? If Foundr is the magazine.
Christy: Which guests?
Andrew: Which guests?
Christy: Which guest is popular.
Andrew: And then go get that guest or get the style of the way that he posted from that guest. Got it.
Christy: Or did he have a great background or did he have a microphone and shot or was it just of him? Was it a quote?
Christy: And see if there’s any themes.
Andrew: You know what? I’ve noticed that he will post about people who have nothing to do with founder, like, he might have never talked to Richard Branson, but said, “You know, I think my audience likes Richard Branson.” So he might post a nice photo of Richard Branson with a quote . . .
Christy: Yeah, but that might get Richard Branson’s attention as well.
Andrew: Got it. Got it. But for me as an outsider, I might have a hunch that that’s working for him. With Plann I know for sure whether it’s working for him or not as far as audience engagement, and then I might be able to do something similar and say, “Why am I limiting myself to what’s . . . ” Got it. “Why am I limiting myself to who I’m interviewing?” So that’s . . .
Christy: Yeah. The gut feel as well.
Andrew: . . . what you’re talking about.
Christy: Yeah. So gut feel can get you so far, but the real decision making and growth comes from real data. And that’s in our app.
Andrew: You were saying . . .
Christy: It’s built-in already.
Andrew: You were saying that your husband was asking you to reconsider. Eventually, he saw you were doing so well. You said that he’s working for you. How did that happen that he’s now working for you?
Christy: Well, I was living . . . One of my first years I lived in San Francisco for three months to learn. So I wanted to really immerse myself in Silicon Valley. And I’m probably . . . That’s probably where we met was when I was doing that. I have gone back several more times, but not really for long. And I met some great mentors and people that taught me way more than I could have ever learned here in Sydney, not saying the startup community is not good. It’s just so dense that it happened so quick over there. And so we were apart a lot. The time zone were off. Our relationship was already pretty strained with how much I was working. And I had . . .
Andrew: Wait. He was at home in Sydney and you were here in San Francisco for three months?
Andrew: That would really put a strain on a relationship. Okay.
Christy: Yeah. And I did it multiple times with his blessing, and he knew how important it was to me, so he kind of was pretty understanding, but as every husband he was like, “Is this right for us? Is this what you want for your future and our relationship?” So we had some big talks. And then I was like, “I actually want you to come with me,” or I think I was going somewhere and I was like, “This isn’t . . . ” And he’s like, “You’re traveling a lot.” I’m like, “You could always just come with me.” And so I kind of started planting the seed. And then when I started . . . His work as well in corporate finance, didn’t really understand your wife at home building a software company. And so he would get comments like, “Oh, we know you’ve got to look after your wife,” and all those types of comments. “And how’s the little app going?” And things like that. So those are the types of comments that were coming through.
Andrew: How did he handle that?
Christy: With grace, I think.
Andrew: Was it an effort to, like, not be seen as inferior to his wife?
Christy: No, it was more the attitude of, “Christy, get a real job. Why hasn’t Christy got a real job?”
Andrew: From other people.
Christy: Yeah, from other people. So it was not that supportive.
Andrew: You know what? That bothered me too about my wife. When people would put down what she was doing because it wasn’t expected, it wasn’t traditional. That really bothered me. And I don’t know why. I think maybe because it’s . . .
Christy: I think like . . . Because they looked at me like I had a little hobby business at home where I can see where it was going and my dreams were so much bigger than that. And then when he came home . . . He came home one day and he was doing the books, and I had made more money in one week than he had in a month. And he was like, “What is going on?” And I’m like, “Look at all my curves. They’re all smiling. They’re all going in the right way. Are you sure?” And he went to a soccer practice and he came home that night and was like, “You know what? I’m going to quit tomorrow.” I was like, “Really?” And he’s like, “Yeah.” And by this point, like, my world was falling apart. Everything had grown virally, operations couldn’t keep up. I was desperate for help. And no one knew the business quite like he was. And he came home, he’s like, “You know what? I’m in.” And the next day, he went into his office and said, “I’m going to leave and work with Christy.” And they were like, “What?” And it wasn’t until I started to get a few . . . So now Plann won five international awards. We’ve been mentioned everywhere and it’s kind of growing. And it’s one of those apps that people are like, “Oh, yeah, I’ve heard of that app before.” And it wasn’t until that happened and Tim became part of the full-time team that I started to take seriously in my real life.
Andrew: You had . . . You mentioned some problems. So far, we’ve been talking about the happy go lucky stuff. Tell me what happened with AWS, Amazon Web Services and your IP address.
Christy: So I learned this the hard way. I didn’t know how to build architecture of software, hence, no experience in it. And I just thought that all developers did develop these things. And one of my app developers had coded out Amazon IP address into the app. And every now and then Amazon refreshes their servers when they go down. So Amazon went down and then they refresh which gives out a new IP address, which is meant to be flexible, but because ours was hardcoded, it didn’t connect to Amazon anymore. So all of my users, and I think at this point, I would have had I think 30,000 daily users, got a black screen of death.
Andrew: In the app that they paid for.
Christy: Yeah. Yeah. Shame. I would be very embarrassed to say that this was my biggest mistake ever. And they would open the app and get a black screen. So there was no way to contact me, they had to go through my website and try and find the contact form. I got blasted all over social media. My review in the App Store went down. Like, everything just kind of destroyed. I was actually . . . And because I was still kind of side hustling a little bit in the background, I was away at a wedding as a stylist in an area with no reception as well. So timing was amazing. Here we go. I was waiting for that.
Andrew: There’s the alert.
Christy: I was waiting for it.
Andrew: Yeah, we’re going overtime.
Christy: I was waiting for it. And he . . . Yeah. Sorry, distracted. And the black screen of death, I then had to find an Amazon Web Service specialists which was hustling through my Silicon Valley contacts trying to find someone. I found someone in Jamaica who could do it at short notice, but was four days. Cost like $5,000. And then I had to get the app developers to fix it, get it back through the app store and back to my people, which was a week. A week.
Christy: And I was like, “This is it. It’s over. I worked myself . . . ” I had 30,000 emails and I worked myself into an ambulance. It was horrible. I thought I was having a panic . . . I thought I was having a heart attack. Most people around me thought I was having a heart attack. It was probably a panic attack. And I got put in an ambulance with absolute adrenal fatigue and exhaustion. And I laid in the bed for probably three weeks. And my husband just jumped in and cleaned up my inbox and kind of just managed everything for me, and then when I got back up on my feet, he was like, “Are you ready to do this again?” I’m like, “Let’s go.”
Andrew: That’s great.
Andrew: It’s painful, don’t get me wrong, but wow, at the end of that you said, “I’m ready. Let’s go.” Do you ever take vacations now where you’re completely disconnected?
Christy: My first one was a bit in Thailand. Yeah. I’ve done the here and there but . . .
Andrew: Okay. But you’re still doing email in the morning.
Christy: Yeah, I’m still emailing. And I mean, it’s my life and I love it. Like, I get to wake up and do something that I love doing. So it’s addictive.
Andrew: You know what? I had some friends who were going to Cuba fairly early on in their businesses. And at the time, I wasn’t taking vacations and I didn’t understand why they’re doing it. And I realized they weren’t being lazy. They were stress-testing their team. Like if you’re in Cuba or some out of the way place, you can’t be reached. So you have to have the discipline or your imposed discipline to not be reached. They then as a team had the discipline to not need them. And the founders started to treat and teach their people how to run without them. All right. I do have a note here to come back and ask you about the web. You at some point said, “Look, I know I’m mobile-first, but people are asking me for a web version.” Why? Why do they . . . Why do you have to make that switch?
Christy: So teams would grow. So what would happen is that people would join Plann and then use the software, but they started growing. And so they tried to scale with us, and they got quite hard to scale teams on an app and . . .
Andrew: As a team because if I’m working with the app myself, why can’t my assistant have the app also and login to the same thing? Canva does it.
Christy: So they can. They absolutely can.
Christy: But what we were asked for is that, “We want to sit at our desktop and we want to do planning at my desk.”
Christy: So we could offer the mobile and also Apple take 30%. So I was like, “Okay. So let’s see if we can make more money by doing our own version and providing the scaling equipment that teams are needing.” So we then launched and bootstrapped and saved up and built over time, took about a year to build, the web app versions. So I launched the MVP version of the web app that April of 2019. And within six months, it was doing the same as the apps. So it was the right choice. And then we started getting the feedback coming through what they wanted and then what teams wanted. And I’m a week away from relaunching the redesigned better version Plann version two of the web app next week. So that’s what one of those alarms was for.
Andrew: By time this is . . . What’s the alarm about? I have a note here to ask you about the alarms. Why do you have alarms go off so much?
Christy: So that I keep track of . . . So I plan my day, this is like an hour blocks. So if you have a goal, your goal is only met by what you do every day.
Christy: Yeah. So if I organize my day, then I will likely meet my goal. So I have a few hours in the morning when I’m most productive that I do certain tasks and things for myself or the team. And then next task. And then so I know that I will reach my goal at the end of the week.
Andrew: And you set alarms for yourself to make sure that you’re sticking with it and the fact that we’re now 12 minutes beyond the hour, how painful is that for you?
Christy: I have a coaching session that she’ll be waiting for me. So it’s okay.
Andrew: Okay. All right.
Christy: I’ve let her know. I popped her a note and I said I might run late. So that’s how I run.
Andrew: I saw that as I was doing that. You did it.
Christy: Yeah. Yeah.
Andrew: You know what? I’m going through Ahrefs to see what keywords you’re targeting, to see what you’re doing as SEO. Let me close it out with just I got ask you about it. What are you doing?
Christy: I think rank into 80,000 words I think. Eighty thousand keywords now.
Andrew: Like what? What are some of the keywords? I’m going through organic keywords to see what you’re big on. And it’s things like . . . Username ideas?
Christy: Yeah. It’s anything from username ideas, best holiday captions, how to do Instagram story highlight covers, like anything. So I spend a lot of time making sure we put out expert content.
Andrew: I see why because somebody who’s new to Instagram wants to know what’s a good username to create. If they’re coming in and finding it through you, they’re also finding out how to post better and because they can figure out how to post better, they are now more connected to you, more likely to sign up and buy. All right.
Andrew: I’m going to close it out now. I know we went over and I probably should’ve closed it out a few times.
Christy: It’s okay. It’s that funnel thing again, so you’ll find that we rank for all different types of the funnels, but the bottom of the funnel which is the how-tos, right, through the how to make a strategy, how to read analytics. So it depends on how advanced you are. So we make sure that we target all types of personas.
Andrew: Yeah. This is the most . . . Usually, I’m in Ahrefs and I don’t understand the mentality and what the person is doing and it’s just like a random set of stuff. With you, I can totally see this, like, I can see the questions that people have. I could see how the keywords are linking over to post. I can see apparently Instagram or YouTube to Instagram is a big topic. You’ve covered that. You’ve got the keyword. It’s just . . . It’s a thing of beauty to see how you operate.
Christy: I think like over 7 million unique people visit our website this year or last year. So it’s working. And one of the big things that I try and help people with their SEO is like try and solve the problem and then link that problem back to your product. So we have five problems that we solve for people. So that’s like understanding what works, how to grow followers, how to look better, how to make sales. So all of our blog posts fit into those things that help people solve problems. And then at the end or during the blog post, we will link how that problem is solved in our product. Does that help in any way? I hope it does.
Andrew: I got a big smile from it.
Christy: But that’s how we work.
Andrew: Okay. The website for anyone who wants to go check it out, its plannthat.com. There is a free version. It’s up to 30 posts a month, which if you’re getting started, you can . . . Right? Am I right about that? Yeah. If you’re getting started . . .
Christy: Yeah. It starts from $7 a month.
Andrew: And then it goes $7 a month, and then there’s a business version, and it’s just all on there and it’s a pleasure to see how far you’ve come.
Christy: Yeah. There are a couple of . . . Yeah. There are a couple of huge integrations coming out. I can probably tell you this because it might be out when this is published, but we’re about to launch a partnership with Canva.
Andrew: I saw something in your face when I said Canva and I said, “Is she like want to take on Canva or something?” All right. I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen. If you need a website hosted with your idea, with your personal site, with anything, go to hostgator.com/mixergy. Really, start your business. It’s going to be so exciting. You know what? I won’t say it’s always that exciting. Frankly, you’ve had a real . . . You’ve had a ball building your business, but you’ve also been knocked out for a bit. So it’s going to be up and down. But man, it’s fun. If you don’t have a website, go get it, go get started with your business, hostgator.com/mixergy.
When you’re ready for the best of the best developers, the people who will know not to hard code your IP into your software so you don’t get a long-term outage, go to toptal.com/mixergy. I’m very proud that we are associated with them. And let me just thank also, I don’t think I’ve done this before, Ahrefs for just giving me this tool that I’ve been using to research my guests. Christy, thank you so much. I hope to see you in San Francisco. I’ll let you run before more alarms go off. Bye.
Andrew: Bye, everyone.