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“Don’t keep your ideas secret.” The CEO of Plann on how to create and build a successful app.

At 28 years old, Christy Laurence contracted a strain of the flu that went to her brain and affected her spatial awareness and balance for two years. It left her unable to work in her corporate advertising role and doctors said she would need a carer for the rest of her life.

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Fast forward a few years, and Christy is now the CEO and Founder of the multi-million dollar scheduling app, Plann. The app, currently used by 1.5 million brands, helps businesses visually design and schedule content before it goes live on social media.

 

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In recent weeks, Christy sat down with Mia Freedman on our Lady Startup podcast to discuss her health, how the idea for Plann came about and how she became the CEO of a tech company with 40 employees.

She also explained how she created and built a successful app without any investment.

LISTEN: Christy Laurence talks to Mia Freedman about Plann. Post continues after audio…

How she came up with the idea

Christy began by explaining that after realising there wasn’t a tool like Plann out there, she found a gap in the market. If someone built this app soon it would not only be helpful for her own use, but it would help plenty of other businesses and individuals.

 

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“I found that a lot of people started to understand the value of the [Instagram] grid and the storytelling. But they couldn’t visually put it together,” she said.

“And the more people I spoke to would say, ‘I have a secret Instagram account that I use to check it,’ or ‘I’ll post on Instagram and if it doesn’t work I’ll delete it.’

“So I thought, what if you could just drag and drop and design your own grid? It would give me full control of my story and visual shopfront.”

However, despite that idea sounding simple enough to turn into an app, Christy realised that it would need money.

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“At first I thought I’d just whip up an app, so I started getting quotes. And the little app that I wanted to build was actually $100,000 to build,” Christy explained.

And since paying for the app to be built wasn’t an option at the time, Christy went down another route.

“What I ended up doing was scoping out an app. I started wireframing.”

Christy explained that wireframing is basically visually drawing the steps in your app. Where you would begin when you opened the app, followed by visual flows of everything that would happen next.

“I learnt very early on that you can’t keep your ideas secret. You have to tell people what you’re doing. The more people you tell, the more people will come out of the woodwork,” she shared.

“I’ve never been the person to worry about someone stealing my idea because nobody has your passion. And nobody can execute it the way you do individually.

“So I jumped onto the freelancer websites and threw out my idea to 10 different developers and asked them to give me a quote.

“But what I was actually doing was asking them to give me feedback on my wireframes and scope of work. And they would come back and explain what I was missing,” she explained.

So once Christy received her feedback, she was able to scope out the entire app, teach herself UI Design and build her scope of work.

“I was at home, not very well and just watched Youtube tutorials till my eyes bled,” she shared.

However, by the end of the scope of work, she still needed $100,000 to build the app.

“I hustled around Sydney and went to a few app and web agencies and said, ‘I’ll work for free and I’ll do your marketing and your clients’ marketing if you build my app and teach me how to be a CTO (Chief Technology Officer).’ And I got really lucky, one said yes.”

 

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10 months later, she had her minimal viable product (MVP) to work out whether people want it and if they will buy it. But also in that time, she had built her website and an email list for pre-launch marketing and to get influencers on board.

“On the day of launch, I made $10,000 which was enough to leave working for free and put a deposit down on my own development team,” she said.

Then Christy explained exactly how she built an email list before she even had a product.

“Knowledge. We always think about how we add value to somebody’s life. It’s never been about the product, it’s about how do we serve an underserved audience.

“I would purposely share videos and screenshots of what I was doing to get people excited.

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“I would also message influencers and write something outrageous or quirky to get their attention. Really personable messages. Next minute, we’re friends.”

Where the business is today

Today, Christy oversees 40 employees and the app is used by 1.5 million brands to schedule and analyse their social media posts.

“Right now, we have a web app. So we have 10 people that constantly work on the desktop version.

 

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Our people loved our app, but as we helped them grow their business, their teams and their needs, they outgrew us too, waahhh!!⠀ ⠀ It was bitter sweet! I was SO thrilled it was working, but equally as sad I was no longer part of their success stories even though they kept in touch.⠀ ⠀ 18 months ago I finished designing and hired my first developer to help me build my dream of Plann Desktop. ⠀ ⠀ Almost $1M later and team that’s grown to 30+, we have the very first iteration of Plann Desktop entering the world – with at least 12 months of features and a crazy-stupid vision I can’t wait to build!!⠀ ⠀ It’s scary, exciting, and not for anyone who loves their sleep. Seriously.⠀ ⠀ We’ve heaps of new features, refreshed our favs and can’t wait to grow with our community. ⠀ ⠀ If you’re curious if @plannthat is something you’d like to join 1M other people using – check out my stories today for a sneak peek of V1 ????

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“So when we first launched we had the app only. Now, we have an iOS (Apple) team and an Andriod team and then the web app team. We also have customer support, operations and marketing.

“And right now, I’m actually rebuilding the apps from scratch so I have two Andriod and two Apple teams,” Christy explained.

Listen to the whole interview with Christy Laurence and Mia Freedman here.

Read more from Lady Startups:

Feature image: Instagram/@christyladylaurence

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