Episode #7: Our App Story

This episode is special because we tell the stories of building our app company from the ground up over the past eight or so years! We talk a lot about our first app and how we built it with no experience because we truly hope it will inspire some of you to try something scary in the future. That said, we’ve accumulated a good bit of experience 6-10 apps later (it depends how you count them!) and we’re excited to share our journey with you in this episode!

You can stream the episode here on the blog or on iTunesSpotifyGoogle PlayTuneInPocket Casts, and Stitcher.

Show notes:
-We talk about pre-Internet life. We’re among the last generation of people who remember a totally unplugged childhood. We both grew up with no home Internet and no smartphones, which is so crazy to think about now. We each once took a cross-country road trip with paper maps—so weird!

Links to our apps …

A Beautiful Mess App
Our first app! You can read about our first app launch here. You can also read our first reflective post about our app business journey here. This app is now retired, but it was a huge turning point in our business and a highlight of our lives … and a great story. We’re so thankful we took the leap.

Party Party App 
Our second app. You can read about it here.

A Color Story App 
A Color Story is probably what we are best known for and has been our most successful app with more than 13 million installs currently. We started it to bring something fresh and clean to the photo app space and over time it evolved into a full editing suite that caters to a lot of different styles and creative directions. We collaborate with influencers often to bring their unique edit styles to our audience in packs.

We have a bunch of great tutorials for A Color Story here.

A Design Kit 
We talk in the episode about how A Design Kit was meant to be a replacement for our original ABM app when it became an “elderly app.” It is a replacement, but it’s also so much more. The brushes and collage elements are some of my favorite out there!

Filmm App 
Filmm is our newest app, which launched earlier this year. Filmm is a video app that launched as a video filter and effects app, but is quickly evolving into a full video editing suite. We’re so proud of it and as we hinted at in the episode it has some amazing new features launching soon.

Previous to this app, Emma and I had never had a partner as a founder, but for Filmm and for Template (below) we partnered with Zoë Sugg of Zoella (she’s also very well known for her YouTube channel). She’s been an amazing partner as we navigated our first video app! We gush about her quite a bit in the episode, so I’ll stop gushing for now.

Template 
OK, so I had to go back and record a disclaimer since we talked rather confidently about how Template would for sure be out before this episode went up. Well … we recorded this episode about a month ago and we were wrong. It’s pretty normal for an app to be delayed a few weeks, and we’re excited to (HOPEFULLY) launch it this month.

I will say, I have NEVER been this excited about an app. I have all the butterflies of our first app all over again, and it’s going to be VERY exciting to see you all using it soon!

Follow Template on IG for the best peeks!

Before I move on from apps, I just want to acknowledge that YES it feels weird to talk about our successes so openly. For years, we sort of tried to minimize that part of it because it felt like bragging. But on the flip side, we are experiencing so much freedom on our new platform via the podcast. And to be honest, it feels really good to be super open about all kinds of different topics. We really feel like it’s worth it (but still please don’t leave us mean comments, OK, PLEASE). 🙂

OK … moving on to the other segments! 

Elf on the Shelf was invented in 2005 by a mother and daughter (AWW!!) you can read all about it here. We LOVE Elf on the Shelf in our home … like SO much.

You can watch some “Celebrities read mean tweets” here. I love this segment—good job, Jimmy Kimmel.

Haha—and if you want to see my modern farmhouse table DIY, here’s the link. I actually got ANOTHER almost identical comment yesterday here. Fun fun!

Thank you SO MUCH for listening to our podcast!! If you want to support us, could you please post about your favorite episode on IG this week?? That would mean so much to us! We are still VERY much in the experimental/learning/growing stage, and your support really means a lot to us!

Love you! Elsie + Emma

Episode 7 Transcript

Elsie: You’re listening to a A Beautiful Mess podcast. Today we’re telling arguably the most exciting story of our whole lives: how built our app company. We’ve launched six apps in our career, And if you count all the Android ones, it’s 10. Anyway, we’re excited to tell you the full story because we almost didn’t even do our first app. This is the story that I imagine myself the most telling my grandkids, and I imagine in a certain way, like with like a lamplight and a rocking chair and…

Emma: But also an iPhone because it’s key.

Elsie: Yeah.

Emma: Or some kind of smartphone. I feel like when we’re old, when we’re all the way old and we tell the story to our children, like it’s going to be a cool story because we’re the last generation who was, you know, one foot in one foot out. Half and half on the Internet and not. Like we remember life…I totally remember life without the Internet. We got our first family computer when I was in high school. I didn’t use it daily until I was in my 20s. And yeah, to say these things now already makes me feel so old. It’s amazing how much life has changed in just fifteen years.

Emma: Yes, I had dial up internet through college. So anytime I I really just used the computer mostly to do homework because it would take so long for stuff to load. I would like paint my nails while I was waiting for web pages to load. And then I didn’t have a smartphone or an iPhone until 2010, which I graduated college in 07. So, you know, I spent a large part of my well, not a large, but like the early part of my adult life. Definitely not really with the Internet. Not really with smartphones. Yeah, that’s it.

Elsie: Me too. OK. So I didn’t have a computer of my own until I was in my 20s. And basically as soon as I got one or I was even started by using my friend’s computer. I almost immediately got an online job. So it changed my life. I started my blog that year. As soon as I saw, you know, my first one of my friends started a blog. I was like, oh, I’ll start one too. And it wasn’t like a big thing. It was just like, oh, might as well. Kind of like signing up for like a social media account or something like that’s how seriously I took it in those days. By the time I’m trying to kind of set up the scene for our first app. So by the time we start our first app, it was really just a few years after the app store had launched at all, you know, because I had the first iPhone and it didn’t have apps on it. It’s hard to even remember that now. It’s like it was basically an iPod phone. Like that’s pretty much what it was. It was cool that you could play music from your phone. And I remember when apps started launching, I didn’t understand like the point of them. And then I got my first photo app and I, you know, abused it. I used it so much. Every photo. And, you know, Instagram definitely became my favorite social media really quickly. Because it is really visual. And, you know, I wasn’t thriving on Twitter. Let’s just put it that way, just, you know, really worked for, like, the way that I love to share life. And I think a lot of people felt that way at the time. So pretty much immediately when I found out that normal people could start an app, I wanted to do one and I wanted it to be a photo app. Of course, for Instagram. And so this was just so early on. Emma and I we had no idea what to do. We had kind of just started making money with A Beautiful Mess. We had just paid our back taxes and kind of gotten on our feet financially. And this little bit of savings that we had in our business account, we decide to spend making our first app.

Emma: It was our book, what do they call it when they give you money at the beginning of it?

Elsie: Advance.

Emma: Yes. I couldn’t think of that word. Yes. It was our entire book advance. That’s how we built the first app.

Elsie: Yes. Oh, my gosh. I forgot that detail. That makes me proud now that we were willing because we we didn’t have money in those days and we had just kind of gotten on our feet even.

Emma: I think the good thing about not having money is you don’t care if you continue to not have money. So you’re like willing to take some risk that, I mean, this one really paid off…spoiler. I feel like you guys kind of though that at the story what it’s going to be. But yeah, because I think it’s, it gets harder and harder to take risk the more like you kind of get used to having money or the more people you have working for you. So you need a longer runway. All that stuff. But anyway, that’s besides the point. We took all the money from our book advance and we built an app and I had only downloaded three apps in my life at that. Do you remember what they were?

Emma: No. I know it was Instagram and then I knew I had a couple other ones, but I only downloaded Instagram because you told me to. Yeah. And at the time we had a store called Red Velvet. So that’s why I’m called Emma Red Velvet on Instagram.

Elsie: Nice. Yeah. I’m glad you said that because that is still your Instagram name. And yeah, a lot people probably don’t know what that came from. Okay. So we decided to make an app for iPhone. And so how he did it is we just…

Emma: Wait wait wait wait wait, I feel like you should tell them the idea or like how you came up with.

Elsie: Oh, OK.

Emma: Because so often I know this happens to you, to Elsie, people will kind of come up to us. And this happens to my husband a lot because he now runs our app company, Trey. And they’ll be like, I’ve got a great app idea. But, you know, I don’t know. You know, I just. Everybody has an app idea and that’s awesome. A lot of those ideas are gonna be made and they’re gonna change the world. But also a lot of those ideas really, really suck. So I feel like, you know, you should tell him, like, how you came up with the idea for this app that we built this first one, because it was a really good idea. And I think the way that you came up with it was really smart.

Elsie: Thank you. I think it was a good idea at the time. Yeah, at the time there.

Emma: Well yeah, ideas age. But you’re a genius, sister! That’s what I’m trying to say! No, I’m just kidding. OK.

Elsie: Thank you.

Emma: This was good, though. Truly.

Elsie: I’m proud of this. Yeah. Okay. So at the time I had gotten just really excited about Instagram and at the time it was normal to post like five times a day. You know, we all did it. We just posted like every single cup of coffee we drank and every single selfie.

Emma: There was no algorithm.

Elsie: And yeah it was just a different era. Let’s put it that way. And so I had occasionally for the blog, I had like a tablet that I drew in Photoshop. So I would occasionally just like draw words or arrows or hearts on my pictures and then post them. Since I would take a lot of pictures that I was using for the blog and post them on Instagram. Also, people would always ask me what app did you use? And that’s how we got the idea for our first app, which was called A Beautiful Mess, which is now retired. It’s not in the store anymore, but it had a long elderly app life. A lot of people don’t understand that apps have lives too, and they don’t live forever just like people.

Emma: That makes me think of Inside Out and all the feelings. I don’t know why. Just makes me think.

Elsie: Yeah. So anyway, we had this idea. We hired a small, we I think we asked like all of our friends, how do you make an app to start with?

Emma: Yep.

Elsie: And one person knew one person knew one company that sort of did what we wanted to do and we hired them. And I don’t think at the time they had made a photo app, which we would never do that now. But this is a different time and you do what you gotta do to get started, right? So…

Emma: Yeah, I mean, I hope like 10 years from now, I think what I’m doing now is not so smart. Hopefully we’ll learn more, you know, like you just grow over time.

Elsie: I am not. Maybe I sounded like I was dissing it. I’m not dissing what we did like we did the best we knew how to do at the time, which is fine…

Emma: I don’t think you’re dissing it. I just, I’m just pointing out that it’s OK to grow. I guess what I was trying to say, I don’t think you’re dissing it. I didn’t think that…

Elsie: It was a beautiful time in my life.

Emma: A Beautiful Mess.

Elsie: So we hired this kind of small company to make our app. I believe it costs somewhere around like thirty to forty thousand? Something like that?

Emma: Forty thousand.

Elsie: Yeah.

Emma: And it was just for the iOS version, not Android. So just for iPhone.

Elsie: Which spoiler, like now that price tag would probably not be able to build you an iOS version anymore. But this was like seven years ago or maybe eight years ago when we started working on this. Anyway. So we developed the app. It was time for it to launch. We had just spent all our book advance money on creating this app and we made a little box to send all of our friends to say basically, will you please post about our app? Basically. People do it every day now. It’s called a PR box and we get them like every single day in the mail. But at the time it was like, you know, it felt like something special. Like we had never done this before.

Emma: I’d never gotten a PR box. I mean, at that point. So, to us it was a novel idea. I’m sure people had been doing it.

Elsie: We invented the PR box and we’ll get credit for it. Okay. (laughs) So anyway, the day came, the app launched, not without hiccups. Like, honestly, it barely worked. It had lots of problems. We had to rebuild it right away, basically, but…

Emma: We also didn’t know exactly when it launched, because just how the Apple review process works. We just, we did, we were like, oh, yeah, it’ll be up sometime, you know, like we really didn’t even totally know. We thought it would happen immediately and then it didn’t happen for like, I don’t know, like three or four days. And then someone was like, hey, I just downloaded your app. And we were like, What?

Elsie: This is all true. And the app went to number one paid app pretty much right away. It stayed there. I don’t remember if it was like for a week or a month. It stayed there for a long time.

Emma: Let’s say one week to be safe, but it could have been a month. (laughs).

Elsie: The really important special part of what happened is that the money we had spent, invested, to build this app we made back in one day. So that was honestly like the most exciting, shocking, beautiful moment of my whole life. Like in biz, in my business career. I just don’t know what could ever top that because we didn’t know what we were doing and we just tried and it worked.

Emma: Yeah, it was…very lucky. And I mean, we worked hard and we risked things, but it was also very lucky. It was just crazy.

Elsie: Yeah, zero experience. All right. So I’ll kind of skim through some of the rest of what happened after that. We made an Android version. We also made a Windows version. That was that was a one time thing.

Emma: Never doing that again, I bet you can guess why… (laughs)

Elsie: Yeah, no one downloaded it. We did another app, I think the next year, called Party Party and this is another app that has now retired. It was a novelty kind of like gif making app where you could kind of make like little stop-motion videos and pretty much right after that Instagram launched boomerang.

Emma: Yeah.

Elsie: And it was like, you know, killed app, which is fine. That happens all the time features get built…

Emma: It’s a bummer.

Elsie: …that kill apps all the time, it’s a savage industry. And then after that we launched A Color Story which is, our, would you call it our big kahuna?

Emma: I definitely would call it our big kahuna.

Elsie: Our special baby?

Emma: Very special baby.

Elsie: This was how many years ago? Three years ago?

Emma: Yeah, three or maybe almost four now. I’m not sure.

Elsie: (gasps) It’s been several years and this app has 13 million installs currently and it really built our company. We really started building our company into its own company when we launched this app because previous to that we had kind of operated like the apps were a part of A Beautiful Mess, which is our blog company. And after this, we were able to like build a team and invest a lot more in the app company and good things have come from that. And the team’s amazing and they’re all, you know, 100 percent working on the apps all day, which is…Yeah, incredible.

Emma: Yeah. And that’s why it’s A Color Story and some of its other family apps, like A Design Kit are so good. And you know, when new updates come out, we are able to update them. It’s because hardworking, talented people are working on them all the time. And, you know, that’s something we didn’t have in the beginning and we have it now. And I’m just really grateful for it. But also, if you’re starting out and you’re listening to this, don’t feel like you have to have that in order to start. I don’t think you do. Obviously, it’s better if you can. But you know, every small business, which that’s what we are, still starts from somewhere. And unless you’re just like raising capital and have millions of dollars to start with, which that’s cool. That’s not been our experience. So I could never speak to that. But if you’re starting from scratch like us, then just do what you can with what you have and do your very best. But you know, that’s it…

Elsie: I think our story makes that clear that you can do something like an app with no experience and just try it. And it might work and it might not. But you can try. You can do it. You can make an app. A Color Story is our special, baby. We have been updating it now for the past several years. It has a new pack pretty much every month, it has a subscription. It has an Android version. We’re about to roll out a bunch of new features that are pretty crazy.

Emma: Oh yeah. There’s some I don’t know when they’re coming out, so I don’t really want to say it because it might not be out by now. But they’re really, really good. And Elsie kind of mentioned this, but I want to kind of point it out, one thing that I have loved about A Color Story. I mean, there’s many things, but the new packs that we come out with every month for the most part, sometimes they come from our team or they come from Elsie or they come from me or they’re new tools. That happens. But most of the time, a big majority of the time, we’re working with other influencers. Other online creators and photographers to come out with these packs, and I personally love to work with others and bring about new products or just, it doesn’t have to be a product. But in this case, it is. I think that’s really exciting. I love collaboration. I’m really passionate about it. And I also love that so many of the people we’ve worked with, they’re online influencers just like us, they’re maybe not necessarily bloggers or, you know, in the kind of crafting world that we are in. But there are a lot of, you know, mostly women and some men, too, who are making just really beautiful images, really beautiful work and putting themselves out there online. And I think all of that is just rad. And I think it’s awesome that we get to work with these people. So I love that about a color story.

Elsie: I am really loving the twilight pack that Rachel did so…yeah, there’s always something new, which, it’s really exciting and it’s fun to work with so many talented people.

Emma: It is. It makes the app so much better. And yeah, I’m very passionate about working with other talented people and working with people that are better than you. I think that’s really important in life and in business. It stretches you and you also have to be kind of humble to do it, I guess. But I think it’s really important and I’m really proud that we do that. So I feel like I’m tooting my own horn. So I feel kind of weird. I’m kind of like backtracking a little, but I am proud of it. So there you have it.

Elsie: Well, I mean, the episode’s about our app story, so you kind of have to be okay with…

Emma: I guess we’re tootin’ the whole time. You’re right. Toot toot! (laughs)

Elsie: Oh my god, Emma.

Emma: You’re right. Forget it.

Elsie: All right. Well, we’re very proud of A Color Story, clearly.

Emma: Yes. We’d love to have. We were talking about having Trey, my husband, on sometime. He runs A Color Story. He’s essentially the CEO.

Elsie: No. He is the CEO.

Emma: He is the CEO. I don’t think he loves that title because it’s a small enough company still that it feels a little funny to say that. But it’s absolutely true. And he’s really a big part of why the growth has been sustained for so many years. A lot of times people give us all the credit for everything that happens in our lives and in our businesses. And I just kind of want point out that that is not the case. I mean, I’ll take the credit, but we actually have really amazing people we work with and Trey’s one of them. He knows a lot more about the app than we do at this point.

Elsie: Trey’s incredible. Okay. Well, we do have to share that Trey was one of the people that on our first app was like scared for us to do it because he was, you know, nervous that we were gonna lose all our money. But as soon as it came out and started working, he like every step of the way, he’s been like the most supportive person and like the most excited about our apps out of, I mean, that’s why he’s the CEO.

Emma: Yeah, for sure. But yeah, he did say not to do it.

Elsie: He’s going to have to…yeah, he’s going to have to live with that. And it might be written on his gravestone. I’m just kidding.

Emma: It just says “DON’T DO IT!” —  Trey George.

Elsie: Okay. So after A Color Story we did another app called A Design Kit. And A Design Kit is kind of the new version of our first app A Beautiful Mess because A Beautiful Mess, long story short, it became an elderly app that was on life support. And it…it’s somebody needed to pull the plug. So, you know, reincarnation…A Design Kit was born and it is a design app where you can add text to your photo, you can add little arrows, you can draw, like it has a really good wait, what is it called?

Emma: Brushes?

Elsie: Yeah! Sorry. It has really amazing brushes where you can draw on your photo and then a lot of these little like collage elements now that are really fun.

Emma: Yeah it’s starting to get a little bit edgy as of late, which I think is fun. We came out earlier this year with kind of like pressed flowers and pressed leaves. And I was really into that. It looks really cool. It’s fun to add to photos. It reminds me a lot. I used to make a lot of collages in high school with like National Geographic magazines that I would literally cut with scissors and like, glue them, you know. You know, collages – you get it. And it reminds me a lot of that. But obviously digital. And so it’s just really fun, I think. To me, it feels very nostalgic.

Elsie: Yeah, I really feel nostalgic about the collage stuff. It’s very like scrapbook feeling to me. So I love that. OK. So this year has been like the craziest app here ever. So first of all, we partnered with Zoe from Zoella. Zoe Sugg, which, by the way, 100 percent we would love to have her on our podcast. I can’t like guarantee…

Emma: Oh, yeah.

Elsie: …that she’ll say, yes, but I really hope you hope she will. She’s the cutest, most bad ass person. And I just I don’t know…

Emma: She’s the best of the best.

Elsie: She’s the best of the best. Okay. So we’ll definitely have her on sometime, maybe. Hopefully.

Emma: Definitely. Maybe.

Elsie: So let’s explain what Filmm is. Can you explain what Filmm is Emma?

Emma: Yes. So Filmm is a video editing app and our goal with it was for it to be kind of a full suite video editor so you can add filters to your clips. You can also put clips together, just basically create really any kind of video you want with your…

Elsie: Now you can add music, we have royalty free music. So we don’t get sued…

Emma: We have a lot of features. Yeah. Oh, yeah.

Elsie: A few times maybe we’ve infringed some copyrights and it is not a pleasant thing to go through if you’re an influencer.

Emma: Us? No, never.

Elsie: Yeah. Don’t use don’t use music on your videos. Just use the royalty free music.

Emma: Yeah, but more and more, you know, we’re all connected with our phones. This is obvious. I don’t want to sound like a marketing firm, because I feel like, no duh. We’re all connected with our phones. But we just felt like with A Color Story, we kind of have a lot of the tools. You want to edit your photos, still photos or boomerangs. You can also edit short video clips, by the way, and we’re adding more and more tools so that you can edit your photos in more and more advanced ways considering that it’s all on your phone. Which is crazy because it’s really a very small device. So it’s kind of bananas what it can do. But in the same way, our vision for Filmm is that you’ll be able to create these really professional put together videos just from your phone. So, you know, a lot of people are on the go. A lot of people are taking other videos on their phone, whether you’re doing just like a for fun family video or if you’re an influencer and you’re creating something for a brand, we want you to be able to create something super polished with film and just fun stuff, too. So that’s generally the vision for it. We launched it without all of the tools that it’s going to have. We’re kind of like rolling them out during its first year of life, which we’re kind of in the middle of right now. So, yeah, the next big one’s going to come out. Actually, I think it’ll be out by the time you guys are listening to this. But yeah, it’s very exciting and I was super stoked to work with Zoe on it. It was again, another moment where we get to work with someone who I’ve admired for many years. She is a total bad bitch when it comes to business and influence and all that. But I also really like that she uses her platform for good. To me, it’s really important that we get to work with people and we choose to work with people who do that. They use their platform to make the world a better place and whatever, whatever thing they’re doing, which for her. The big thing she’s known for is YouTube. She does a lot of things, but that’s probably the one she started on and is most known for. And she really does use it for good. And I love that about her. So it was really cool to get to work with her on this app.

Elsie: Yes. And she just had a new pack called Equinox. And you have to try the filters. It has filters, effects and frames included in it. And yeah, I really, really love the filters in that pack. So our new app, Template, this is so weird to talk about. Okay. So I will just say we’re recording this. There’s no way to not say this. We’re recording this before the app comes out and it’s about to come out and it’s super weird.

Emma: Yeah, it’ll probably I mean, it’ll pretty much for sure be out by the time you hear this, but it’s not out yet for us.

Elsie: So you get to see from the inside how we don’t even know when our app is going to launch. I mean, we know within a few weeks we know that it’ll be in November probably. But yeah, it’s crazy. It’s that’s just how it is.

Emma: I feel like now that you like now that you said that it’s not going to be November?

Elsie: Oh, my gosh.

Emma: You jinxed it a little.

Elsie: OK. So this is Elsie from the future. And I’m just kind of jumping in to say we did jinx it and it’s now December and the app still hasn’t launched yet. So in case you’re listening, being like, I haven’t heard about this, it’s cause it still hasn’t launched yet and it will be soon. Template is an Instagram template, a story template app. You can put your photos and videos into collages together, frames, add text add little design elements. Yeah. I was just doing my feedback for it today and there are some really cool packs in there that make collages with kind of like little Polaroids and little bits of paint on them. And yeah, I’m really excited about this app. There’s some really clean graphic ones where you can just kind of have a photo with like a little bit of text over it. And I really want to put more love into my Instagram stories. So I’m really excited about this app. I can be very all or nothing about like how much effort I’ve put into Instagram. So I feel like this like motivates me to put in more effort.

Emma: Oh, yeah. And I think it makes it easy. And there are a number of other apps that do something similar. But one thing I kind of want to point out, because this is what we consider kind of our point of difference. I mean, obviously, all of the designs and everything in the app is its own thing. It’s completely original. But additionally, one feature we have is in your grid, so the main part of your Instagram, not stories, but on your grid, you’ll be able to create kind of a carousel that is designed so that the images and the text and the design elements of it kind of bleed into each other. So it’s kind of like turning the page on a book. If you’ve ever, like, held a magazine open and the two pages…

Elsie: Yeah. That describes it. Exactly. Yeah. So that’s…and I’ve actually seen a lot of people recently doing this more and more and they’re always using Photoshop to do it. So I’m really excited to be offering something that’s going to make it a lot easier for them. And I’m also super excited to hear from people through them using it like which ones they really like. Which ones are useful to them. And then we can kind of like work to create more stuff that people will love. We have a huge variety we’re launching with, but I just always love to see what people use the most because that informs us what else we should create.

Elsie: Yeah, I love that. You can also use it to do the thing where like on your feed, it looks like two separate photos are connected.

Emma: Yes.

Elsie: Yeah. So like it could, you know, a word could go across two photos or you know, there could be like a little Polaroid or something that’s kind of half and half on…

Emma: This is hard to describe in a podcast. But don’t worry, the app will very likely be out by the time you hear this.

Elsie: The show notes for this episode are going to really help. And we’ll link everything. We’ll be very meticulous when we’re linking. I promise you. So template is also, we also partnered with Zoe on this app. So funny story. Whenever we first started working with Zoe, we basically pitched her two ideas like, would you rather do this or this one? And she was like, “both of them!” Which I love that about her. I totally relate with that type of like, yeah. Why not just do all of it? So we’re… this is our second app with her this year. And she’s such a great partner.

Emma: Yeah. I also want to mention we keep talking about her and she is amazing. She also like us, has a team and her team is really also awesome to work with. So I just kind of want to throw that out there because I feel like Kari and Maddie and Daniella maybe don’t get mentioned as much. And I just want to mention them because I think they’re amazing to work with and they’ve been so excited and so…such a big help on bringing everything to life just like our teams. I mean, it’s a huge group effort to do big projects like this. So I’m just putting that out there.

Elsie: Absolutely. The reason why we wanted to do this episode is because we wanted to show you just how much we didn’t know when we started this and now we’ve created like a pretty big company, like a multi-million dollar, pretty big, you know, good sized company. And we’re really proud of our work. And we started with nothing. We didn’t know anything. We barely had enough money to do it. And we didn’t even do it right. And it’s still, you know, put us on a path, you know?

Emma: Oh, yeah, yeah. And I’d love to hear from you all if you want to hear more about not the technical side, not necessarily like we’re going to talk about code, but if you want to hear more about the business side of building an app, like if anyone out there is really interested in building apps and you want to know like how to build a company of that and, you know, maybe like how to market it, you know, how do you do Facebook advertising, you know, Instagram advertising or just various things like that? How do you find the right people for your team? How do you figure out what kind of developer you should hire if you don’t write code yourself, if you’re interested in you that we’d love to hear? Because though those would really be things that I think my husband Trey could speak to. But if that isn’t something you’re interested in, that’s cool, too. But you know, just if you are, do let us know, because I have no idea if that would be interesting or not. I think it is. But I recognize that I have a lot of interests that nobody else cares about.

Elsie: Yes, I would love to do kind of an in the weeds nerdy techie app episode. And of course, Trey should definitely be a part of that because he’s such a big part of our company. So yeah, if you have any app questions, send them to [email protected] And now we’re going to move on to a reader question. Yeah. And this reader question also came from the email. So this one’s from Estelle and she asks, what are a few of your most beloved holiday traditions? I know what mine is. I can just say it. It’s Elf on the Shelf. Elf on the Shelf is everything for a four year old.

Emma: Okay so tell me. So number one, for those of us without children, maybe you want to explain Elf on the Shelf a little more because really until you did it with Nova last year, I wouldn’t say I totally. I knew what it was, I didn’t read the book as a kid, so yeah, just explain in a nutshell what it is.

Elsie: Yeah. I was trying to figure out when it was invented because it wasn’t around when I was a child either. It happened sometime, probably when we were in our 20s and we weren’t worried about this kind of stuff. And it’s been yeah, it’s been around for a while. It’s a genius, like a top tier children’s book and toy idea…idea of a lifetime. I bow down to you, whoever you are, who created Elf on the Shelf. So…

Emma: They’re on on their own private island somewhere.

Elsie: Yes. So it comes with a book. It’s a book and a toy. But the toy, you’re OK…so the thing that makes it magical is that you’re not allowed to touch it. And so it says in the book, don’t touch me or I’ll lose my magic. And the child also gets to name the elf. So, our Elf is named Candy the Elf. That’s what Nova decided to name it. Yeah. At three, last Christmas. And she talks about it now every day. When is Candy the Elf coming back? And yeah, he he will be back with us. So Candy is a boy. Are all the elves boys? Ours is very fluid and it kinda doesn’t matter. But it kind of looks like a boy to me. It’s hard to tell. I guess it doesn’t matter.

Emma: Do some of them have skirts and some of the have pants? Not that that even really makes a big difference. But maybe for a kid it does. I don’t know. Well, anyway. Okay. So what do you do with Candy? The Elf? Like, OK, what’s her deal or his deal?

Elsie: His or her deal. So the special thing is basically every night when your kid goes to bed, you move the elf, you put it somewhere like you in a little pose. It can be kind of getting into trouble is a big thing. You know, spilling the Cheerios, trying to get into the candy, it can leave notes and gifts like this year I think we’re gonna start with a gift and a letter, you know. Yeah…

Emma: “I missed you all year.”

Elsie: Yeah, yeah. That kind of thing. Yeah. Because this elf is like it’s a very big deal to her. Like she was writing letters in the summertime to the elf about how she missed it.

Emma: Okay. I got some ideas. So I think that Candy should probably sit on the toilet at some point. You know, you do that. That’s also what if Candy was like brushing his teeth one time and you could talk about brushing teeth…just give it, just give me like an hour. I’m going to come up with a bunch of ideas. I know you did not ask me to, but I’m like very into it now. I’m like, oh, hold up. I got a lot of ideas.

Elsie: Text me all of your ideas.

Emma: What if he was doing yoga? That could be cool. Like have a little yoga mat.

Elsie: Yes. There’s a DIY online for adding like wires so that you can make it more pose-able. It can become very complicated or you know, you can forget to move it and you can say, oh, I guess he didn’t feel like moving today. It can also become very simple.

Emma: Mm hmm.

Elsie: What’s your tradition?

Emma: One holiday tradition that we’ve done for the last, I guess, four years now, basically since you moved to Nashville, Elsie. Is my side of the family…so, you know, I’m married, as I’ve mentioned. So, you know, we have Christmas with his family. Christmas with my family. So my side of the family, what we do is we do Christmas Eve and we usually do it at my house, although this year I think we’re gonna do it at the holiday house, which is Elsie’s house in Springfield, and we do just dinner and hanging out and stuff. But a few years ago, I decided to make it a wine pairing dinner so we would have like courses and there’s a different small glass of wine with each one. And I even usually get sparkling juices for the kids and let them have a little wine glass. So it’s like, you know, kid wine, basically. So so we do that. And then last year we did something where we did kind of a potluck wine pairing. So I told my mom, like, you’re the salad course. So bring a salad, bring two bottles of wine that go with your salad. You’re the main course. You know, whatever. I do remember what you got. What did you get? Cheese board?

Elsie: Probably.

Emma: Oh, it was wings because Jeremy made it. He made these awesome like Thai wings. Yeah. I forgot about that. Now I’m like, oh yeah, those were delicious. So anyway, so that was really fun. So I think we’re gonna do that again this year because it let everybody get involved. But it’s also like not such a big commitment because someone just gets like the dessert or the salad or, you know, something. So it’s not like you have to cook an entire meal. It’s like you just have to prepare one course. So anyway, that’s our little family tradition. It’s a wine pairing and Christmas Eve thing. And I love it.

Elsie: I love it. It’s really special. So we’re closing out with a new segment called “Judge Not” and I’m not going to lie, I always wanted to do a segment like this, but I didn’t quite know how to do it because I think it could come off as really negative. But I got the idea from is it Jimmy Kimmel? Where the celebrities read mean tweets?

Emma: Maybe it is, I don’t know who it is.

Elsie: I think it’s Jimmy Kimmel. Anyway, I’m going to read a mean blog comment. And then I’m going to just like tell you how it made me feel. Because sometimes, I don’t know. I think that sometimes people don’t either don’t think you’re really gonna read them or they think you’re not going to care. But I don’t know sometimes I think about them for days, not always, but sometimes, this one was one that kind of like got like, got some thought put into it. So this comment is from Rae, and it is: “Question of the day…” And this is on my modern farmhouse table DIY, which was on the blog a couple months ago. And it’s a beautiful table, by the way…

Emma: We’ll put it in the show notes.

Elsie: Yes. It says, “Does it really count as a DIY if some guy named Collin is making all of your projects for you?” (laughs) And yeah, actually, when it when the comment came in, Jacki texted to me because sometimes she text me comments like that that are questionable because she doesn’t know what to do.

Emma: She doesn’t know if she should approve it or if she should respond. It’s awkward for her.

Elsie: Yeah. So I was just like, oh, I’ll respond.

Emma: So Rae, you made it awkward for multiple people, just so you know…(laughs)

Elsie: Ya did it! And so, yeah, I wrote back. “Short answer. Yes, it counts as a DIY.” Long answer. I’m proud to work with people who are more talented than me. People who are good at different things. Part of what you have to learn as a business owner is how to manage other people, delegate responsibilities and, you know, collaborate with people so that you can form like a strong team. And I don’t use power tools, I’ll just say it. I don’t. And like, I don’t think I’ve ever tried to hide that. So like I do DIYs, I love DIY, but I don’t like power tools. I don’t really want…I kind of want to learn to tile, but I don’t want to learn to like build a table. And I love that Collin, over the last three years, working with me has learned to build so many different projects, you know, start to finish because we did them for the blog. So, yeah, that’s something I’m proud of. Zero shame.

Emma: And it’s just a weird comment cause it’s like “some guy named Collin”. I feel like that’s so…Collin is a real person…

Elsie: It’s kind of rude towards Collin.

Emma: …who’s very talented and has been making things for years. And he’s really cool. He’s not just “some guy named Collin”.

Elsie: Yeah, he’s on our team page. Yeah. So anyway, from time to time we’ll read some of those because. Yeah, I really thought about that one for a while and it made me feel really good to write the response because I had thought about it for awhile.

Emma: So that’s all for this episode. Thank you so much for listening. And as always, it means a whole lot. If you leave us a review, if you share the podcast with your friends or if you just want to write to us and let us know what you thought. We always appreciate it.

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  • Hi! I just heard your episode and wanted to look at Collin’s projects/collaborations, so I checked your “about” page and your contributors page, but I couldn’t find him! Is there somewhere else I should be looking?

  • This is my current favorite podcast- you two are fantastic and you inspire me when you talk openly about your successes so… please keep doing it!

      • Awww man… A Design Kit was the one that sounded most exciting & useful to me, so I’m bummed it’s not on Android! I don’t do much photography but the brushes/stickers, etc. sound super cool!

  • Elsie & Emma,
    You two are two of my business and entrepreneurship role models. You handle your businesses with such grace and I have always appreciated your openness. I love, and think that more people should too, how you talk about and describe your successes. There is nothing wrong with describing what leads to success, especially for women/non-male owned business. It is important that you talk about it and I am grateful that you do! Keep talking about your success, it’s not bragging, it’s fact! You two own successful businesses, this isn’t a hobby, and as a part of your customer community, I’m pleased to contribute to and learn from your successes.
    -Nicole <3

  • Love all your apps! I have then all and actually still use A beautiful mess sometimes!
    You two are so inspirational

  • I have been loving your podcast!! Thanks for taking the extra time to put it together! If you were willing to share, I’d love to hear more about putting together a team (for all your businesses)! And more about running an AirBnB—how did you choose a team/local people to help with that? Great job so far!!!

  • I still have and (occasionally) use the ABM app! I remember I was so excited about it and probably waaaay over used it when I first got it. Didn’t realize it was “elderly” and no longer even available! LOL. I’m so interested in the other apps you have made and will definitely be downloading some of them.

  • I’ve been following both of you on Instagram for a while now and checking the blog now and then, but I’d say the podcast is a revelation! I feel like in a couple of episodes I’ve gotten to know you so much better and I really like what I’m discovering! 🙂

    Pleaaase do a podcast about more tech stuff! I need inspiration and a little motivation to launch something of my own! 🙂

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