41 search results for “Courtney Symons”

Shopify Unite 2017: Announcing Track Sessions

Shopify Unite 2017: Announcing Track Sessions

Shopify Unite 2017 track sessions: Email

This year’s Unite conference will be bigger and better than our inaugural event last year. This two-day event will be rich with Shopify announcements, product updates, and insights into how to grow your business and do your best work alongside Shopify. Without further ado, here are track and session details for Unite 2017.

Read further to find:

  • The topics each track will cover.
  • Suggestions for which tracks may be best for you.
  • Details on what each session has in store.

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    Why and How to Improve Your Writing as a Web Designer or Developer

    Why and How to Improve Your Writing as a Web Designer or Developer

    Writing Web Designers: Email

    As web designers and developers, you may not view writing as an essential tool for your business. But the reality is that every part of your life and business requires communication — pitching eloquently to clients, contributing to copy for their websites, and creating content to promote yourself online.

    In this article on writing strategies, you'll learn:

    • Why spending time and attention on writing benefits your copywriting, correspondence, and content marketing efforts.
    • How planning and understanding your objective can set you up for a much easier start at writing.
    • Tips and tricks to make the writing and editing process more efficient and effective.

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    10 Beautiful Christmas-Themed Ecommerce Websites to Get You in The Holiday Spirit

    10 Beautiful Christmas-Themed Ecommerce Websites to Get You in The Holiday Spirit

    Christmas-themed ecommerce websites: Email

    It's that time of year!

    Any holiday features you’ve built for clients have likely been live for weeks. Now it's time to sit back, relax, and take a peek at what other businesses have been up to this holiday season.

    We've highlighted 10 stores built on Shopify (with the help of Shopify Partners) that show the best of what this holiday season has to offer.

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    20 Expert Strategies to Help Overcome Creative Blocks

    20 Expert Strategies to Help Overcome Creative Blocks

    Handling Creative Blocks - Email

    We're sure you’re familiar with the feeling. A deadline is looming; a client awaits. You know your brain has the capacity to dream up a beautiful solution to the problem you’re trying to solve, but it’s just. not. happening.

    Discover how to identify creative blocks, and learn expert strategies that will help you carve a creative path forward when you’re stuck at a standstill. 

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    Shopify Opens its Platform to Developers With New Sales Channel SDK

    Shopify Opens its Platform to Developers With New Sales Channel SDK

    Shopify channels SDK

    From bartering to Buy Buttons, people have always relied on commerce. When the internet came along, online commerce was a natural evolution. Online stores were the first frontier of ecommerce, but think of all the ways that people use the internet to connect, discover, and learn.

    What if there was a way to introduce commerce to any and all of those online experiences? There are thousands of unexplored touchpoints and interactions that commerce has never been a part of — and it’s time to start exploring.

    We’d like to introduce you to our new Sales Channel SDK: a collection of APIs and a UI kit that you can use to add commerce to any site, app, or platform.

    Now, anything you’ve ever built can be turned into a sales channel. This will create new possibilities and endless opportunities for you to build, and for merchants to sell.

    Our new software development kit will allow you to get your app into the heart of our 243,000+ merchants’ businesses. We’re taking the technology we used for our integrations with Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and Amazon, and we’re handing it over to you.

    Here’s what you’ll get from our new SDK:

    Product Listings

    Create a catalog of products to sell, plus let merchants choose to publish entire collections, individual products, or both.

    Real-Time Checkouts

    Build a fully customized checkout experience with the ability to create a cart, reserve inventory, calculate shipping and taxes, and process payments for merchants.

    UI Kit

    Design an integrated onboarding experience and account dashboard within Shopify so merchants can manage and grow their business with you.

    You can monetize your channels with our latest Billings API on a one-time, monthly, or per-order basis. Read more about our new Billing API here.

    The Sales Channel SDK will be available in the coming weeks — sign up to be among the first to test it out or explore our documentation.

    Sales Channel SDK in action

    A few years ago, we started asking ourselves: “What would commerce look like on Pinterest? On Twitter? On Facebook?”

    In 2015, we became pioneers of contextual commerce, creating industry-leading partnerships with those very three companies. This allowed any business on Shopify to sell through those channels.

    Since then, we’ve seen first-hand how these important shifts have helped Shopify merchants stay ahead of their competition and succeed. Over 50% of Shopify merchants are now selling on more than one sales channels.

    And we’re just getting started.

    Here are some examples of how people are already using our Sales Channel SDK:

    • Wanelo: Users can discover and buy products from thousands of Shopify merchants without leaving Wanelo.
    • Ebates: Customers can check out directly within the Ebates app improving the conversion rate.
    • Houzz: Merchants can start selling in the Houzz marketplace, putting their products in front of 35 million monthly users.

    Build with us

    Our mission statement is to make commerce better for everyone. That includes our merchants, shoppers, and you – our partners.

    This is an invitation to start building the future of commerce. What will you build first?

    Learn more about our Sales Channel SDK

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    How Bold Commerce is Innovating in the Present, and Dreaming Big for the Future [Part III]

    How Bold Commerce is Innovating in the Present, and Dreaming Big for the Future [Part III]

    Bold Apps: 2016

    When we first met Bold's co-founder Jay Myers in part one of this series, he walked us through the humble beginnings of what has now become a massively successful company.

    He then took us through the growing pains of scaling the business and choosing how to diversify their service offerings without disrupting their core services and trying to be all things to all people.

    In this final edition, Jay will give us a snapshot of where the company is at right now, and what they’re excited about for the future. Whether you’re just starting up your own business or are well on your way to building a big company, these tips will help you pave the way to your ideal setup.

    Bonus: Read to the end for nine apps and tools that the Bold Apps team thinks you should use to increase productivity and improve your workflow.

    You might also like: Partner Spotlight: Fifty & Fifty Designs Site for Kickstarter Product

    Location, location, location

    Bold Apps: Office in Winnipeg
    Office #5: Day one in Bold’s current office in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

    It would be easy to assume that attracting world-class talent and building a sustainable business would be best done within tried and true markets like San Francisco and New York City. I’ll bet Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada didn’t pop into mind when thinking of the ideal spot for a tech company. But has their northern location hindered their success? Not so, according to Jay.

    He was visiting San Francisco recently, and speaking with a fellow Shopify Partner.

    The friend asked, “How have you been able to grow so fast?”

    Jay replied, “What do developers in San Francisco make? We can hire four for that price. How much do you pay for rent? We pay a quarter of that.”

    Although Bold isn’t offshore, they’re able to compete with companies in more expensive markets — and they’ve even been able to recruit a handful of employees willing to relocate to the Great White North for the opportunity.

    “Yes, it’s been a little tougher finding talent in Winnipeg,” Jay said, “but it’s been an absolute blessing to be where we are.” 

    A video highlighting Bold as an example of a successful Manitoba-based business.

    Creating office culture

    Everyone who shows up in Bold’s office takes off their shoes. There are couches; free lunches; video games. Espresso machines and an arcade. These perks are often described when talking about the culture at Bold — but Jay insists there’s more to it than that.

    Bold Apps: Collaboratively
    Working collaboratively around the office.

    “We’ve struggled to define the culture here,” he said. “All the perks are cool, but that’s surface-level culture.”

    What really matters, what is truly at the core of the company’s culture, is the level at which employees feel as though they can add value to the business, and to grow professionally.

    “That’s culture,” Jay says. “The no shoes and food, that’s just cool stuff that makes it a nice work environment — but culture is what makes our employees thrive and grow. Playing games isn’t culture.”

    This philosophy is best exemplified with the company’s Pitch Days, where employees can pitch a crazy business idea. If it gets chosen, they get paid to work on it, and are given $1,000 or 1% of whatever the business idea makes. Some of these crazy ideas have actually panned out — and have made up an entirely new and experimental division of the company. It’s called Bold Labs.

    #InnovateOrDie Days at Bold.

    You might also like: Partner Spotlight: Squashed Pixel's Award-Winning Site for Rue Marcellin

    Bold Labs

    Back in part one of this series, Jay mentioned that he will often choose projects based on whether or not they are “fun.” Sounds silly, but everyone will work extra hard on a project they’re enjoying.

    One such “fun” decision is Bold Labs. The company takes 20% of their resources, and devotes them to experimental research and development projects.

    “The only rule we have about them is that they have nothing to do with ecommerce,” Jay says.

    The idea came because the founders and most early employees were all tinkerers. They started their work on Shopify as a hobby in the evenings, and they vowed never to lose their desire to work on exciting projects on the side.

    Bold Labs is the home to fun projects including a wireless beacon solution for hospitals and restaurants, so that you can log onto WiFi and see the menu. There’s a project called Inviid, taggable video software that allows you to click on a product and be taken to a shopping cart to purchase it.

    A recently launched one that Jay is very excited about is called KickBooster — the first affiliate program available for the crowdfunding website Kickstarter. Previously, Kickstarter didn’t allow affiliates, as you couldn’t add a script to track referrals. Jay’s team figured out a way to "hack" Google Analytics to allow people to share a link to a Kickstarter project, and earn a referral payment when people back it as a result. It's even been picked up by TechCrunch already!

    Bold Apps: Kickbooster
    Kickbooster, a Bold Labs initiative.

    “These projects are all experiments,” Jay says. “We have a lot of failure on these, but that’s the nature of the department. Most will fail — but one might take off.”

    Biggest failure

    Some Bold Labs ventures never get off the ground, but those aren’t true failures. They’re learning opportunities; investments into an entrepreneurial education.

    But what is the biggest failure Bold has faced since the start? It’s tough to talk about, but it’s important.

    On the company’s first Black Friday, their servers went down, leaving many merchants with apps that weren’t working.

    “That was our darkest day ever,” Jay said. “It was an oversight; we simply didn't expect the increase in traffic that we received. .”

    The only thing to be done was to make sure it never happened again. The company invested in an incredibly powerful server setup; they spared no expense. Their setup is similar, or even better, to what Fortune 500 companies rely on.

    “Now when our clients go on Shark Tank and ask if our servers will go down from the traffic, we laugh a bit on the inside,” Jay said. “We're so confident in our setup now. Our clients run SuperBowl commercials and it doesn't even tickle them.”

    They’ve also shared their lessons learned in an article about how to avoid getting caught with your app down on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

    The pains of success

    With their growth has come a number of copycats — those trying to duplicate their apps at a lower price. But one of the things Jay has learned is that he can’t bother being distracted by these wannabes — he needs to remain focused on the loyal customers that know better than to go with a cheaper knockoff.

    “It’s been so tempting to try to compete with them, but we have to know what we’re worth and charge what we’re worth,” Jay says. “You have to hold the value. You never win when it’s a price war.”

    Although Bold is one of the largest app developers on Shopify, they’ve never looked at total number of users as a very important marker. They actually consider it a vanity metric. What they do consider essential metrics of success are how long their users keep apps installed (churn), how happy they are with them, the percentage of users that have more than one app, and how many take advantage of additional services Bold offers.

    Focusing on these types of metrics has been key to helping Bold grow exponentially month after month. Because of this focus, they now get as many new users in a month as they used to get in an entire year.

    Looking forward

    Bold’s employee headcount has been skyrocketing alongside their app sales and revenues. Today, the team consists of 76 employees — a far cry from the original four founders working out of a basement and interviewing candidates in the local Starbucks. They doubled their company in the first six months of this year. They've signed four leases for new buildings in the past two years, one as recently as May 2015, and are already outgrowing them all.. In fact, I found out that between the time of doing this interview and publishing it, they've acquired a new 26,000 square foot building that they'll be moving into February 1st. This building will handle up to 230-240 employees. Hopefully that will hold them for a bit.

    Bold Apps: Christmas
    A team photo from last Christmas.

    Every department is ramping up, and Jay’s conservative estimate is that they will reach 230 employees within the next 24-36 months.

    The long-term goal is to open a technology park in Winnipeg, and open up office space to other startups in the city.

    “There was so much stuff we didn’t know when we started, and we had to figure it out on our own,” Jay says. “Bold Technology Park would allow us to help other startups get through that phase. We would share a cafeteria, share a board room, and collaborate on gained knowledge such as server infrastructure for example.”

    It’s a way to give back to the tech community, and to come full circle from their scrappy beginnings.

    Jay has said that he knew the money was in making the tools, and that’s why they focused their business on building apps for Shopify’s platform. But it appears as though the money is also in the people — those who are willing to seize opportunities in uncharted waters; those willing to make the leap into the unknown; and those willing to stick along for the wild ride that ensues. Check out this timeline of the company’s milestones and growth.

    A recap of how it all began.

    To avoid getting too mushy, let’s go over some tools Jay’s team uses on a daily basis and would recommend to improve your productivity and workflow.

    Recommended Tools

    1. Slack: For internal communication. Initially, they used Google Hangouts, but Jay said it became too distracting having multiple text boxes popping up at the bottom of their inbox screens.
    2. InVision: For app mockups and design iterations.
    3. ZenDesk: For support and ticketing.
    4. Intercom: For event-triggered customer communication. For example, instead of sending off a mass email to different time zones, the email is triggered upon login so the user receives it when they’re active.
    5. New Relic: To measure many different areas of app performance.
    6. JIRA Software: For agile development any time they have a feature to add to an app, or a bug to fix.
    7. Trello: Used as an idea board. If it’s a good idea, it becomes a JIRA task.
    8. GitLab: For coding, testing, and deploying.
    9. CrowdFire: For social media engagement tracking.

    What tips do you have for others attempting a freelance career? What was it like when you finally quit your day job? And is there such a thing as too much growth? Share your thoughts in the comments below — we’d love to learn from you.

    You might also like: Partner Spotlight: ReCharge Launches 5-Hour ENERGY Subscriptions

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    Major Gains and Growing Pains  — How Bold Scaled Their Team Sustainably [Part II]

    Major Gains and Growing Pains — How Bold Scaled Their Team Sustainably [Part II]

    Bold Apps: 2016

    In Part I of this series, Bold Apps co-founder Jay Myers shared the story of how him and three friends launched a freelance business building apps for Shopify, and how they navigated the early success of their efforts.

    Next, Jay shares insights on scaling the business as app sales continued to increase, as well as deciding to diversify their service offerings to clients. Where should you look for new hires? What skillsets are the most important to recruit for? And how do you get over the uncomfortable hump of going from a handful of friends to a legitimate business? Jay walks us through these questions and more in the second part of this blog series.

    Bonus: Read to the end for five pieces of advice that Jay wishes he could pass along to his younger self (and you). In a rush? Skip ahead to Jay's tips.

    The interviewing process

    In the early days, when Bold was still working out of Jay’s house, they conducted employee interviews down the street at a Starbucks.

    “We’d say to them, ‘Are you okay working in a basement? We’ll have an office one day.’ That made it tough. It’s a little weird to ask people to work in your basement.”

    While it may have been awkward, there was a very important upside of asking if people were okay working in a basement. It filtered out the candidates that weren’t a good fit for the company anyhow — the ones only interested in the job as a means to an end. Jay found that this allowed them to find the “builders” — the ones who wanted to grow alongside them.

    “It was a blessing in disguise. Instead of asking about benefits and vacation days, these were the people who would ask, ‘When can I start building? Where is the hammer? Where are the nails?’”

    You might also like: How to Hire Employees: The Essential List of Resources for Agency Owners.

    Recruiting strategies

    Winnipeg, Manitoba (where Bold is based) isn’t known for its technology sector, so finding local talent was tough. Instead of working with a headhunting firm, which would charge 20% of the employee’s first year salary, the Bold team decided to try a different tactic.

    They decided to make their office an incredible place to work. That included investing in things like free lunches, beer kegs, arcade games, and Hack Days where employees can work on side projects they don’t usually get time for. It was a pull method, rather than a push.

    Bold Apps: Lounge
    Bold App’s lounge.

    The team put ads up around the city. They started speaking at local meetups as well as their three local colleges. They showed up at career fairs. These days, if a student is taking Computer Science in Winnipeg and asks their professor where to apply post-grad, the answer is always the same: “Bold.”

    Referrals from existing employees have been a massive boon to hiring as well. Although they don’t offer a hiring bonus, the motivation to get your friend to come work with you is often enough, Jay said. Plus referrals offer a prescreening — Jay trusts that it’s worthwhile to pursue someone a team member has personally vouched for.

    Bold’s recruitment video.

    Focusing money and attention on the company is one of the things Jay believes the company did right.

    “You can’t only focus on building the product,” he said. “You have to build your company too. You’re selling to customers, but you’re also selling to your employees, and a lot of people forget that.”

    Traits to hire

    These days, Bold receives about 30 resumes per day — the bounty of their word-of-mouth and company-building efforts. But digging out the best fit for the team from a mountain of resumes is a challenge in and of itself. To navigate this, Jay and his team have implemented a controversial strategy: Hire for character, and train for skill.

    “You can’t change a person’s personality,” Jay says. “We would hire a mediocre dev who has the best attitude — I’d take them ten times over an amazing dev with a bad attitude that will clash with others.”

    While this means that individual skill sets might need building, Jay believes it makes them stronger as a team, and better as a whole.

    Growing pains

    In the early days, up until about 20-25 employees, Friday afternoons at 4 PM would see the entire office having a beer and playing games together. It was different every week — Monopoly, or beer pong, or foosball. They kept score, and there were prizes. It was a family event not to be missed.

    Bold Apps: Foosball
    Foosball action at Bold’s office.

    But when they crossed into 30+ employee territory, things began to change. Jay noticed people drifting away on Friday afternoons. There were just too many of them.

    There came a point when the company decided that, although they were still one big team, they could spend time in smaller groups to be more inclusive overall. Now, walk around their two offices and you’ll spot sub-teams playing Cards Against Humanity or just chatting over beers.

    For Jay personally, his biggest growing pain has been the realization that he needs to stop working in the business and start working on the business. Even though (given his marketing background) he’d prefer to be creating an email campaign, managing social media, or launching Facebook ads, he’s learned to take a step back and focus on the road map: Where does the company want to be in six months? A year? Three?

    “It’s hard, but it’s important,” Jay says.

    Diversifying client services

    Another area where the company has grown is the number of services they offer to clients. Originally, Bold was all in on apps, with the goal of creating one new app each month. They’d get requests all the time to build shops or customize apps for an individual merchant’s needs, and the answer was easy: no.

    But the requests kept coming. For every 100 people who installed an app, they’d receive one request to customize it. One of their team members, named James, made a suggestion that changed the company’s trajectory: “Why don’t we just say yes?”

    The first month, they sold $15,000 worth of app customizations. The next month it was $30,000, then $80,000, and it just kept growing. Now, Bold has an entire department of 16 developers and designers, doing nothing but custom development work.

    This custom revenue stream adds to app sales from their 20 apps in the Shopify App Store, and 20+ private apps that have been built specifically for larger clients.

    The company now has a team of 16 people that focus on leads they receive from the Shopify Experts Marketplace, and they’ve also started a webmaster service for those Goldielocks-sized businesses: too small to have someone on staff to focus on running their ecommerce store, but big enough to be able to hire someone externally to do it for them.

    Bold Apps: Team working
    Hard at work.

    Up next? Bold Social — a service including social media, video production, and marketing.

    Despite these recent service additions, Jay says the company remains focused on their few verticals, without wanting to be all things to all people. This has been a strategy that Bold’s clients have responded well to.

    “We don’t lose customers by saying, ‘We don’t provide that service, but here’s a recommendation for someone who does,’” Jay said. “Clients will respect that much more than you saying yes to everything.”

    To wrap up this post, Jay shares some advice he wishes he was able to give to his younger self about entrepreneurship, building a business, and taking more time to focus on small wins.

    You might also like: 8 Things I Learned at Beyond The Code

    Jay's advice to his younger self (and you)

    1. Be 10 times more focused than you think you need to be. “There are a lot of projects I’ve taken on that made a bit of money, but I wish I hadn’t spent four months on. Find a way to have no problem saying ‘no’ to projects and people.”
    2. Figure out your value. “We didn’t know our value in the beginning. When you’re just getting started, you have to think about this — what are you worth? What’s an hour of your time worth? Almost everyone will undersell themselves at first, so don’t be afraid to charge more until you start getting pushback.”
    3. Plan for growth better. “For a long time, we were spinning our wheels trying to catch up. It was like, ‘Okay, we’re three months behind, we need to hire four devs.’ But now we say, ‘Where are we going to be in three months? Let’s hire for that.’”
    4. Remember the 80/20 rule. “80% of your revenue will come from 20% of your users. Don’t forget about that 20% — you don’t need to make everyone happy. In fact, if you are making everyone happy, you're probably doing something wrong.”
    5. Celebrate the small victories. “In the early days, we were so good at this: high-fiving each other every time someone installed an app. But then it was just expected, so we’d celebrate when we hit a major milestone. Small victories are so important for morale, though. Otherwise, you can go a long time without a victory. By celebrating the little things, you create a culture of winning. We come up with a goal every week, and we win at it. Then we celebrate, even if it’s just a small win.”
    Bold Apps: Celebration
    Don’t forget to celebrate victories, large and small.

    Next up, in part three, Jay will join us in the present and take a look into the future. What tools do the team use? How has their location impacted the success of their business? And what crazy inventions are they dreaming up in their innovative new division called Bold Labs? Stay tuned...

    You might also like: How to Build Your First Shopify App

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    How Bold Commerce Built an App Development Company From the Basement Up [Part I]

    How Bold Commerce Built an App Development Company From the Basement Up [Part I]

    Bold Commerce: 2016

    “I believe that the money is in making the tools. They say during the gold rush, the people that made the most money were the ones selling the shovels.”

    Jay Myers, co-founder of Winnipeg-based app development company Bold Commerce, told me this in February 2014. He had just hired their 15th employee — not bad for a company that started with four guys working nights in a basement, building an app for a platform they took a gamble on.

    Today, they’ve hired more than 80 employees, and have diversified their service offerings to include custom apps, store builds, a webmaster service, among a few other things. But how did they get there? What mistakes did they learn from along the way? And what can we learn from them about how to launch a freelance business, quit your day job, and scale a company from one to many?

    Jay shared his thoughts in an in-depth interview for a three-part blog series about Bold’s beginnings, growth, and the future. This is how they did it.

    The outtakes version of the company’s About Us video.

    Bonus: Read to the end for six tips from Jay about how to launch and grow a freelance web design or development business of your own. In a rush? Skip ahead to Jay's tips.

    Let's start at the very beginning

    Jay has been selling online since 1999, back in the days when everyone was scrambling to eBay. The business? Heartland Archery, his family’s company in Winnipeg that sold archery products.

    On eBay’s online marketplace, Jay realized that while he was getting sales, he wasn’t really building a brand. He was "renting customers."

    “No one knew who we were,” he said. “They were just buying the item with the lowest price.” In the end, there was no value to the business he was creating. Essentially, it was only worth as much as the last product he listed.

    To fix that, he decided to build an online store in 2005.

    Bold Commerce: Heartland Archery
    Heartland Archery, Jay’s family business. Note the young, fresh-faced Jay in the middle of the bottom photo.

    While seeing some level of success, and iterating on the design multiple times, he finally closed down shop in 2010. Margins were too low, and dropshipping wasn’t a thing in the archery world back then, so he was paying to ship products to Canada and then back to the states (where most of his customers lived).
    The next step was joining a software company as an SEO specialist.

    “In those days, SEO was not something you took in university. You just figured it out,” he said. He taught himself organically from his years running the family’s online store. And although he shelved the archery business, he never gave up the idea of running an online store.

    A month after he was hired at the software firm, he was at it again, launching another online store (www.supremearchery.com — he doesn’t own it anymore). Jay got an email from his email marketing tool announcing their new Shopify app. That was the first time he heard of Shopify. He liked the idea of a web-based ecommerce tool with its own App Store, and he went to visit. Jay searched for a product comparison app — one that would compare products based on features like size, colour, and weight — but couldn’t find one. He thought, “Maybe I could build one.” Of course, without a background in app development, he couldn’t find a way to get going, and gave up on the idea for the time being.

    A month later, Jay found himself in a pub with one of his best friends, Stefan Maynard.

    “I’ve got a really good idea,” Jay told Stef. It was a Friday night, and they were a few beers in, but after sharing the concept of building a Shopify app, Stef instantly got excited. The two men brainstormed until 2 AM. By the time they left for home, they had a list of about 10 apps they wanted to build.

    “Stef had two friends who were brothers and also developers,” Jay recalled. “We thought, ‘Let’s give this a try. It’ll be beer money on the side.’”

    They brought Eric and Yvan Boisjoli on board, who would complete the founders’ foursome that would later become Bold Apps.

    Bold Commerce: The Four Co-Founders
    The four co-founders.

    You might also like: 7 Secrets for Balancing Freelance Projects With Your 9 to 5

    The first app

    So what app would they start with? Traditionally, those in the Shopify App Store were geared toward storeowners — back-end tools like shipping integrations that made things easier for the merchant. But what about a tool that would be used on the front-end of a store?

    “I came at it 100% thinking like a store owner,” Jay said. “What would make people more likely to buy, and therefore make me more money as a merchant?”

    Their first product idea was a simple product upsell app. They called it… Product Upsell. The owner of the app store, Blair Beckwith, told them he’d never seen an app like it for Shopify; that it was the best kind of "hack" on Shopify’s API he'd seen.

    Each of the four co-founders were still working their 9-5 jobs when the app first went live. Within the first week, Jay says he knew it would turn into a full-time job for them all someday — even when their very first customer left a negative review.

    “I remember the exact store, and the guy’s name,” Jay said. “We launched on April 18, 2012. He installed the app, and within five minutes, he left us our first negative review.”

    It was hard not to be disheartened, but it turned out to be an easy fix. They’d forgotten to upload one of the app’s instruction pages, so the merchant had no idea how to use the app. Oops.

    “Their review turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to us,” Jay said. “It woke us up. These were real stores, owned by real people, making real sales. If our app doesn’t work, they’re screwed.”

    This lesson served as the solidification of their motto to always provide excellent customer service and products that would help merchants succeed.

    You might also like: How to Build Your First Shopify App

    Quitting their day jobs

    Jay always knew he would be an entrepreneur.

    “For me, it’s in my blood,” he said. “At Thanksgiving dinners, we often reflect about how every single person around the table owns a business. My wife owns a dance studio; my sister owns a fitness company; my uncle owns a furniture business; my father owns a retail store; my mother has music studio.”

    But quitting a stable job for an experimental venture was a risk, especially since the co-founders were starting families. The wives of the four men behind Bold had very specific requirements in order for their husbands to quit their jobs: You can do it, as long as you don’t take a pay cut.

    The co-founders went from Eric's basement, to Stef's, and finally ended up working from the unfinished basement of Jay’s newly purchased house, trying not to wake his five-month pregnant wife who slept upstairs.

    Bold Commerce: Eric's Basement
    Office #1: Eric’s basement.
    Bold Commerce: Stef's basement
    Office #2: Stef’s basement.
    Bold Commerce: Jay's Basement
    Office #3: Jay’s basement.

    With the early success of the Product Upsell app, it was time to choose their next project — a product discount app. What did they name it? Product Discount, of course.

    Eric was the first to quit his job. As one of the developers, it made sense to have him on full-time. He had a newborn at home, and had previously been working from 11 PM to 3 or 4 AM, but in October of 2012 he quit his job to focus full-time on Bold Apps. Stef became full-time soon after in November. Yvan joined the team as of January 2013, and Jay followed suit in March of that year. But they didn’t stop there — by May, they’d hired two additional employees.

    Within 10 months of moving into Jay’s basement, they relocated into their very first, true, office space (which they outgrew in three months, but that’s a story for later).

    Bold Commerce: A Real Office
    Office #4: A true office.

    Building a gazelle

    “As soon as we could afford to hire someone, we hired someone,” Jay said. “Our mindset has always been to put 100% back into the company.”

    There are two ways to run a business, according to Jay. You can build a lifestyle business — the four co-founders could have continued running the ship, hiring the fewest people possible, and finding a way to maximize profits.

    Or you can build a gazelle company, the technical definition of which is, “a high-growth company that is increasing its revenues by at least 20% annually for four years or more,” according to Investopedia.

    Bold Apps decided to become a gazelle.

    “You have to pick one — lifestyle or gazelle,” Jay said. “Otherwise you’re going to wonder whether to hire every time, and stumble over other decisions. If you decide early on what kind of business you want to be, it frames the decision. The answer, for us, is always yes.”

    This business decision laid the groundwork for Bold’s rapid growth. But how did they decide who to hire, and from where, and when? How did they scale their company sustainably to hold on to their roots and culture? That’s up next, in part two of this series.

    Before you go, here are some pieces of advice Jay has if you’re thinking of launching or growing a design and/or development business from the ground up.

    Jay's advice for launching a design or dev business

    1. Pick a niche and focus on it. “We said no to so many people who asked, ‘Can you build my restaurant website?’ It wasn’t ecommerce, so we said no — we’re going to be the ecommerce development shop. That was our original niche. We've found that customers like to to go the ‘expert’ in a field. So we picked ecommerce as our field.”
    2. Define your ideal customer. “A lot of people think, ‘What services do we want to offer?’ instead of, ‘What services does my ideal customer need?’ If you’re targeting a small business owner working out of their home, make your pricing clear and offer prepackaged hours of work. Even down to the language you use — if you’re going after the smaller players, in your welcome email say something like, ‘Don’t worry, there’s no big contract for you to sign. Just give me the go ahead and I’ll start on your site tonight.’ This is the way they like to be talked to. For big enterprise clients, they definitely want to sign something first.”
    3. Take on projects you’ll be proud of. “I would encourage people to take on projects that you can blog and brag about, not just the ones you can make money on — especially in the early days. Your first few projects will end up in your portfolio, and those projects will define the next projects you get, and the next. Take the projects that look cool and that people will talk about, not just the ones that make the most money.”
    4. Do projects that are fun. “I know it sounds silly, but when you’re having fun, you end up making a better product. We have a queue of apps to build, but we choose the ones that make us say, ‘Oh, that would be fun.’ Whenever that word comes up, we know it’ll be a good project.”
    5. Avoid any decisions that could make you say, “I wish I would have…” I like to weigh the pros and cons by thinking to myself, ‘Okay, in 20 years, would I look back and say, “I wish I would have done it”?’ If I stayed at my job as an SEO specialist, I definitely would have said that in the future. To me, this makes it crystal clear what I have to do. That’s my barometer for making decisions.”
    6. Don’t be afraid to say no to clients. “Some people will just say yes to everything, because they think it will open doors and lead to amazing opportunities. That may be true, but you only have so many resources. Make sure your yeses are focused and strategic based on your business goals. We have a fun saying we use: We don't mow grass for money. By that I mean, we could all go out and mow grass for money, but it doesn't grow the value of our company. Our measure is always: Does it grow the business? Not just make us money, but will it help us grow? If the answer is yes, then that’s our answer too.”

    In Part II, Jay will walk us through the growing pains of going from a small freelance business to a thriving multiple-employee company that is always looking to hire. What are the pros and cons to developing a gazelle business, and what takeaways does he have for businesses of any size? Stay tuned...

    You might also like: Starting Your Own Web Design Company: How to Freelance, Find Clients, and Grow Your Business

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