Kern Wyman and Jillian Manly, along with two other partners, started myAppalogues last year. The business offers a ‘one-stop shop’ of aggregated products in niche markets via apps.
The first sector covered by the company is the parenting market, with the myApp4KIDS app launching in May.
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Wyman spoke to StartupSmart about how the fledgling business is faring.
What gave you the idea for the business?
Jillian and Belinda, who is the wife of another partner, were having a chat about the sites and products they use and they said it would be great if everything was in the one place.
They accessed information on the go via smartphones and iPads and thought there should be one place to go to, rather than the fragmented web.
We built an app to get proof of concept and thought we will put our foot down if it went well and get proof of commercial concept.
What’s your involvement?
I came on board in September at an advisory level. I have a background in chemical engineering and R&D. I then went full-time in April and am notionally CEO. There’s one sales guy and that’s me.
We have the three other partners – Jillian is in Brisbane and I’m in Sydney. The other two are in Singapore, where the IT team which we contracted to build the app, is based.
It’s tough but it’s also good to have that spread of people. We have people close to the IT team and we are constantly keeping in touch with Skype and email.
What made you think this business would take off?
You go off gut feel, and we knew as parents that we would like something like this. We consciously made it an app rather than online as we were sick of the web, which is a fragmented mess.
Parents of young kids are always using their smart phones and we knew that if we could create a nice product, they would come back to it.
We crowdsourced the system, tested it with businesses and asked if they would list on it and we asked consumers if they would go there for products, and they said yes, if the product was fresh and updated.
They said ‘’great idea but make it faster, make it image-based and improve the user experience’’, which we did.
How does it work?
We call it app-based community marketplaces, with the first one being aimed at mums and bubs. The target market is parents who are working or at home.
Around 700 small businesses are linked in a directory in the app. These are businesses who haven’t been advertised on a mobile before and want another way to compete with the larger players.
The app is free to download and businesses are charged a listing fee, and then maybe a transaction fee down the track. We still have to work that out. At the moment we have a free two-month trial on offer as we want to educate people about this and get them to try it out.
As well as the director we have 50 to 60 registered sellers who offer branded products to mums and babies.
There are a lot of boutique brands out there that don’t have visibility on mobile. We don’t accept products you see in the mall – these are good quality products, but not necessarily pricey. They have a much better quality and design than the products you see in the large malls.
We’ve also brought in a third party appalogue, which is an app-based catalogue. At the moment, we have Enrich Me, which is financial advice for women. They provide constantly updated articles via the app.
How is it faring?
We launched the app in mid-May and we’ve had around 2000 downloads on the Apple platform. We launched it on Android last week. We have some revenue, but nothing to write home about. At the moment, we are self-funding the business.
What’s been the hardest part of starting up?
It’s been tough getting businesses on board because they are small. Large businesses aren’t a target for us, so it has been a tough sale. Small businesses often haven’t been advertised on mobiles before.
Customer acquisition is a big focus for us now. We will do some emailing, work on social media sites and some competitions to increase our numbers, as well as word-of-mouth referrals.
Educating customers is hard. You can’t afford a lot of time explaining it to each business and they struggle with that.
What are your plans for the business?
The priority is getting commercial proof of concept, as well as making sure the product is good enough for mums and babies.
We want to get earnings positive to fund further development and once we’ve proved that we can move the model to another sector, be that travel, education or gifts, or move it to another market, such as Asia or the US.
There will probably be a capital raise at some point too. We went through a capital raise with one of the partners already, so we know what to do. We just need to get the product buzzing and humming first.