Can You Create a Great App Without a Tech Background

Can You Create a Great App Without a Tech Background?

On lazy days, I’ve wondered why no one has invented an app that outsources all my errands. After moving to a new city, I’ve wished for an app for making new friends (like the platonic equivalent of Tinder).

There’s something gutsy about starting an app or creating a product to solve a problem. You are seeking a solution and inventing it yourself.

With the creation of the MomCo app, Jillian Darlington did just that. MomCo brings mothers together for playdates and friendship, connects them with local businesses, and keeps them in the loop on local events.

"The app is completely based off of my experiences and pain points over the past few years," says Jillian.

I spoke with Jillian about her experience creating this app. She spoke about how she did so without having a technical background and how she navigated the startup realm with little experience, creating something she is passionate about based on a personal need.

Creating an app to solve personal pain points

As a single mom running a business and raising her son, Jillian wished for a platform to connect her with other moms in the area. At the time, Jillian owned and ran an indoor play gym.

The idea for MomCo grew out of her desire to create an app that would help her connect with other moms and market her business to her target demographic.

"The app was something I wished existed for myself as a mom and business owner," she says. "I wanted to find moms that lived close to me and to be able to list myself, run deals, and host events on a platform where my target demographic was already populated."

Entering unfamiliar territory

While the technology for the app Jillian envisioned already existed, no one had yet created a local mom-focused app. "I was inspired by the technology that existed in dating apps," says Jillian, speaking of apps like Tinder that use matching and geolocation.

With her personal and professional experience, starting MomCo seemed like a natural move. "I catered to women and children, so I’ve been in the mom space for quite some time, and in the business space…I spoke both of those languages fluently," says Jillian.

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While Jillian had experience running an indoor play gym, she didn’t have formal business training or technical experience required to build an app. But she started by doing research. "You don’t have to have an MBA and know how to write code," says Jillian. "You can make this happen."

Want to create an app or a product? Here’s what you can learn from Jillian and MomCo:

Be your own target demographic

Jillian knew the difficulty of being a single mom without a network. She wished she could reach out to her main client base: moms. She knew what to put into an app to best meet her needs. "I always like to be my own target demographic because you know how to market to those people better," she says.

If you are considering building an app or creating a new product, think about what you’d personally like to see out there. Take a leaf out of Jillian’s book and assess your own personal pain points. You will find that building something for yourself as your target market makes initial market research easier.

Do your homework

Without a tech background, Jillian might easily have been discouraged when approaching the technical side of building her app. But she did her research. "I read every article and watched every video from developers, so when I was talking to developers, I knew exactly what I needed to have and show them," she says. "I made sure I really did my homework."

If you are entering an unfamiliar field, doing research will make you feel more prepared and prevent you from being taken advantage of in the early stages. "Being a complete novice, I didn’t want to be taken advantage of," says Jillian. "Being a mom and a woman, sometimes the tech industry is brutal for us."

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Have a clear vision

After doing her research, Jillian planned out the entire app. "I had a very clear vision," she says. Planning ensured she knew exactly what she wanted and how to communicate it to developers.

This step was important for maintaining control over the finished product. "You have to write the entire roadmap for the developer and hand it to them," says Jillian.

Shop around

With her clear vision, Jillian felt confident approaching a wide range of developers before settling on who to work with. "I talked to everybody," she says. "I wanted to make an educated decision."

By doing your homework, having a clear vision, and shopping around, you’ll make the best decision possible and create something in line with your vision.

Know the value of your own time and energy

Jillian funded MomCo for the first six months with revenue from selling her indoor play gym business. After that, she had to raise additional funds. "Getting the app started was cake compared to raising money," Jillian says with a laugh.

Initially, she focused on any angel investors who would meet with her locally. However, the niche nature of her app proved difficult. "Having something that not a lot of angels are interested in is a huge disadvantage," she says.

Jillian realized she needed to narrow her focus and target angels who were more likely to be interested in MomCo—women and mothers. "We just started targeting other angels," says Jillian. "If it’s somebody who actually is a mom, they immediately get it. You don’t have to do a hard sell, you can just go straight into your business plan."

Don’t be afraid to befriend your heroes

"Find somebody who’s done what you’re trying to do and talk to them," advises Jillian.

She connected with her hero Jessica Denay, founder of Hot Mom’s Club, via Facebook. "Now I consider her one of my friends," says Jillian. "It’s amazing to have somebody like that, she’s so supportive."

When it comes to your heroes, think big and don’t be afraid to reach out. You might get an opportunity to seek advice, develop a mentor relationship, or even a friendship.

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Avoid spending money on marketing

MomCo has done the majority of its marketing through social media "growthhacking" techniques. They utilize anything they can, such as their brand ambassador program and interacting on social media.

By limiting marketing spending, Jillian has been forced to get creative. "When you get money, you get a little lazy," she says.

Jillian also notes that social media marketing has helped get the word out about MomCo better than paid advertising or coverage in notable publications. "With an app and what we’re doing, the personal touch makes so much difference."

Jillian’s advice for new entrepreneurs:

– "Make sure you have the ability to stick with it."

– "You can teach yourself anything."

– "You have to be passionate about it."

Using your passion to fuel inspiration

Jillian is inspired by the positive impact MomCo has on other mothers. "You can’t control what other people do for you, but you can control what you do for other people," she says. Making her own pain point go away for others is her biggest inspiration.

She believes that MomCo has the potential to change lives, and she’s excited to hear those stories.

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