Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Our customers are Shopify store owners who are looking to attract new customers and take their store internationally by relating to their customers in their local language. Our goal is to make it easy for store owners to relate to their customers in their native language and support them, resulting in making their store a success.
We are currently making $150 a month and our focus right now is on building the fundamentals for a huge business. In the first month Translate Pro was live we made many changes. These included adding a support software system, changing the onboarding from showing our simple features that solve problems, added analytics software, and much more which was not planned on launch. This all came from listening to our customers and following the data for Translate Pro.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I have been an entrepreneur for years prior to expanding into the Shopify app business. This is an extension of Mokool Apps which developed iOS and Android apps since 2012.
Back in 2011 I was running a phone unlocking website and it was doing very well, however, I was looking to get into something that was more long-term, I made a list of what I was looking for in my next business which included (long-term, early into the market, big revenue, work from home), after 5 months and looking at a lot of opportunities from the franchise, real estate, stocks, affiliate programs, eCommerce and even offline businesses, I then landed on the idea of mobile apps. It was a perfect fit and checked all the boxes.
I made a list of what I was looking for in my next business.
We grew the app business to over 7 figures in profit. Our apps are used by millions around the world and we sold many of our primary apps. We then decided to go bigger and create a large series of big real-time games, this idea flopped. At this point, we started to look at where we wanted to take the company and came across the Shopify App Store. This was similar to the Apple App Store in its early days.
Once I researched Shopify a little, I knew this is where I had to be. I had a huge advantage thanks to going through a similar journey with the Apple App Store many years earlier. Looking at the App Store and the local communities, I knew I could help store owners develop a great business in the Shopify App Store.
As mentioned earlier, in month one, I learned about all the things I did not know and were different and adjusted quickly. Though there were a lot of similarities, there were also some huge differences.
One example is onboarding. In the Apple App Store, it is really important for a user to understand your app, if they don't get it right away, they will leave. In the Shopify App Store, it has to be intuitive to do what they want. Store owners don't have time to read documents or go through onboarding. It has to work quickly, solve a problem, and be easy to use. The mindset of the customer is very different and I learned that quickly.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The original plan and the current plan vary a lot.
The original plan was to build the app and spend time creating content, videos, and then reach out to people in the Shopify ecosystem. Thus, building up a customer base through marketing and networking.
What happened instead, as we had customers to support from day one since we optimized everything in the store we could (keywords, title, description, pictures, etc). You can see it at Translate Pro. I spent about 1 to 3 hours a day on customer support. The messages between the programmer, myself, and customers were disorganized. Therefore we had to implement a customer service ticketing software.
Many people installed and uninstalled in minutes and I needed to find out why I reached out to customers and discovered that onboarding and explaining all our features was not the best idea. Better to have a simple version solving the problem, then all the extra features. The store owners wanted all the features, they just didn’t want to go through them all on day one. I emailed 20 customers and got zero responses back, I emailed again and one customer called me persistent and he was right. People are busy and don't have time to care about my business, I had to be persistent and keep going and trying to get the feedback I needed.
People are busy and don't have time to care about my business, I had to be persistent and keep going and trying to get the feedback I needed.
I spent a lot of time reaching out to others in the community who had succeeded, that was a huge help.
The biggest lesson on launch was -- plan for the unexpected. It won’t go as planned, but let your customers and the market tell you the adjustments you need to do to make it work.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Customer support is critical in this business. However, customer service may not be as critical in all businesses. For instance, when I was developing apps for iOS and Android, customer service was not as critical and customers rarely reached out. I never had someone handle support since I only received a handful of messages a month. But with Shopify stores, I get that many in a day, and service is critical. So you really need to know the market you are in and know what will and will not work even if it seems similar to another market.
Now that the product is more solid, we do less support, so more time to market.
It is important to understand who your customer is. The saying is that if everyone is your customer, then no one is your customer. We have carefully targeted our customers. They are store owners who want a headache-free solution and premium customer support.
We create how-to videos explaining our features and showing the benefits for customers. We let store owners find us when they realize we can solve their problems. This is huge since it is a warm lead.
We are still in the early phases, if there is interest, I am happy to share my journey.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Right now costs have been higher than expected, I have added a full-time customer support/assistant. We are experimenting with AWS, Heroku and we’ll see what works best for our customers.
We are not profitable and that is normal in this business after only a couple of months, I expect it will be six months before we break even and a year before seeing real revenue. It was the same with the phone unlocking and iOS. However, it turned out to be very successful. Business is a grind. If I was looking for a stable income, I would get a job. But if I want to build something great, I look to create a business. That’s what we will do with this business.
I believe we are doing the right things to grow the business (quality product, service, and building a great team). I have another app in the works which should be out by the end of June - Currency Convertor Pro.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I have shared a lot already that has been very helpful. I think one big thing is that -- as similar as a business may seem, there are still a lot of differences. Coming in thinking you have a competitive advantage can hinder you more than help you. Yes, use your competitive advantage, but stay humble. On day one of releasing Translate Pro, it became obvious I had much to learn. I corrected the course quickly. I now start with a mindset that we can always learn and become better.
Coming in thinking you have a competitive advantage can hinder you more than help you
I joined communities prior to going live and a lot of the advice I shared here I learned from those communities. I think connecting with others and learning from those who have already done what you are doing is critical to success. One piece of advice I hear over and over again is that it may take a year or two before you can grow this to a solid business. I see it this way, there are maybe 100 steps from place A to place B, the quicker I can complete those steps, fall, learn and grow, the quicker I can get to where I want to be...
It’s important to stay persistent, optimistic, and always be solving problems. Expect things to come up, expect things to go wrong. If you’re prepared in advance to dedicate time and resources to build the business it helps a lot. I didn’t put all my resources to work getting it right the first time. It is guaranteed that the problems you didn’t expect will come up. I realize more stuff will come up, I just don’t know yet what it will involve. So planning for the unknown is very important. Plan on giving yourself ample time and expect extra costs.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
My favorite tools:
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Communities - Find people with common interests on Facebook, forums, etc. Always try to add value to these communities. I am still new to Shopify, however, as I learn I find great resources and I share them.
Books include 4 Hour Work Week, Rich Dad Poor Dad & The War of Art. I also love reading biographies and especially autobiographies Made In America (Sam Walton) or Open (Andre Agassi). They give real insights into how they accomplished what they did.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Know your market and know the communities who do what you do in that market. Find the key players. The ones who often don't go around bragging about their success. You will find them on forums and Facebook groups. Once you know the names, they will pop up on other places like Quora or as examples in blog posts.
Building a business is a process. I have built several 6 figure businesses, but I have never built one that didn’t require me to work for anything in the beginning. You must be a persistent day in and day out. That is why when making $150 a month revenue after the first month, I know that will grow and It will be worth it in the end. I just need to go through the process. If you want fast money, get a job.
People often see what I have done and asked me how they can leave their job and do the same. I tell them don't leave your job until your business is off the ground and making real money. A new business will not replace your income on day one. It will be months, if not years. I worked a job and had a side business for three and a half years before I left my job.
Work hard, have fun, and be persistent. It sounds cliche, but it is true.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I am not looking to hire right now. I have just hired one full-time customer service superhero/Assistant and a part-time customer service developer.
Where can we go to learn more?
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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