This is a follow up story for Hallow Inc.. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published about 2 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hi there! My name is Alex Jones and I’m the CEO & Co-Founder of Hallow: a Catholic Meditation and Prayer App. The short story of the business is that I had fallen away from my faith - was an agnostic/atheist - and then discovered contemplative prayer & meditation and it changed my life. We built Hallow as a way to try to bring the peace and fulfillment that we discovered in prayer to as many people as possible.
We launched the app in December of 2018 and have been incredibly blessed. We ended 2018 with 2K downloads, ended 2019 with 90K downloads, and are now at over 200K downloads. We’ve had over 1M prayers completed through the app and have retained our original 4.9-star rating on both of the app stores.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
We’ve been incredibly fortunate with our growth to date. We have continued to focus primarily on building a great product, but have been blessed to see our user base double on average every 3 months.
There’s no silver bullet to help anyone start or grow something. It just takes a ton of testing and listening and learning and persevering.
The biggest driver of our growth to date is organic growth, with over half of all downloads coming organically. The key we’ve found to this is adding engaging and powerful content for our users. Our biggest pushes were for the seasons of Advent (leading up to Christmas) and Lent (leading up to Easter). We were able to release new meditations for each of these and coordinated functionality and marketing releases to sync.
The rest of our growth has come largely from paid social, with both Facebook and App Store Ads delivering effective acquisition costs, and influencer/affiliate partnerships. We’ve found that influencer partnerships especially drive higher quality users (in terms of retention and subscription) and greater brand awareness.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
The first big learning for us was the focus. As we grew and built out the team and product we kept having a ton of what we thought were all really great ideas. We realized a few months ago that we were just doing too much. In the spirit of trying to move as fast as possible, we ended up not being focused enough. It led to us doing a lot of things, but none of them as well as we could have. I heard one piece of advice this year that was, ‘as your business grows, your job changes from saying yes to things and having ideas, to saying no and prioritizing.’ This has definitely been true for us. When COVID-19 struck it became especially clear and was really a powerful forcing mechanism for us.
If I had to say one thing that’s worked well for us, it’d be this same thing: focusing on the user experience. While we’ve worked hard on a number of different growth channels over the past year the biggest driver of any success we’ve been able to have has definitely been the product. We’ve continued to put the product & content first and think it has put us in a much better position to grow sustainably into the future.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
Three big things on our plate. First is crushing a couple of new big product and content releases. We’ve seen our initial sleep content work really well, so building that out is a big priority. It’s something that can act as a super effective ‘pain-killer’ to get folks into the app, and then use the meditation & prayer as the ‘vitamin’ and stick around.
Second is finding a way to connect folks through the app, especially families. The core part of our faith community is family and we think we have a unique opportunity to help connect families to grow in their faith lives together. It also hopefully will help drive retention and organic growth. We’ve launched an initial MVP of the functionality already but will need to continue to build it out.
Last is really nailing our unique and defensible growth strategy. A core part of this is going to be partnering with the Church and local parishes to try and add value as best we can. The other half is really nailing our organic/viral growth strategy. We’re going to be pushing on a great referral/sharing strategy as well as leveraging the family functionality to help drive this as best we can.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
I know this is going to be a bit strange for this, but honestly St. Teresa of Avila’s Way of Perfection has been one of my favorite books of all time. She is an absolute baller and really pushes me on the values of humility, faith, and trust in God.
I would highly recommend even for folks who aren’t religious. She’s just such an awesome spiritual leader as well as an incredible entrepreneur in her own right.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Honestly, this one is tough. There’s no silver bullet to help anyone start or grow something. It just takes a ton of testing and listening and learning and persevering. The one piece of advice I can give is to find something bigger than yourself.
For us, obviously, it’s our faith, but it has been core to us as a team being able to stay sane. I remember, in particular, one day coming home from what felt like a day of failures and rejections and feeling incredibly stressed and overwhelmed. It can feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. And I know this sounds cheesy, but I looked up at the cross on my wall and realized that it isn’t all on me.
We’re trying to do something bigger here. I literally said ‘Alright Man - if this thing fails it’s on You. You asked me to do this and I’m doing my best so, yes, if it works out You get all the credit, but if it doesn’t that’s on You.”
Anyway, I know that’s not the experience for everyone, but I do think to find something, either a mission, or team, or problem, that is bigger than yourself can take a lot of the weight off of your shoulders. It lets you take more risk and move a bit freer. This whole start-up thing, after all, is supposed to be fun :)
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are actually :) We’re currently hiring for our first growth team member to work with my co-founder Alessandro and a bunch of different growth hacks and on building our influencer marketing channel. The role would be based in Chicago. We put a full role description here.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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