How I started an app- while unemployed, no technical skills and living in a small town away from Silicon Valley. Part 1.
Almost everyone has ideas they want to turn into businesses. And many of those ideas are apps. That can be good and bad. Because who doesn’t love a good app?! And who doesn’t love the idea of their app becoming successful (this is subjective, but we will define “successful” as whatever you’d like it to mean)? I know I did. Here is my short story of how I started my own app with no technical skills, all while unemployed.
I did it!
From a young age I have always loved technology. I wasn’t sure why I was drawn to it so much, but I always was. As I got older this didn’t change. I loved all things technology. ‘Till this day my friends and family give me a hard time for carrying a laptop everywhere I go. In High School and college I realized that I wanted to do something with technology. At first I thought I wanted to work at a technology company. I soon realized I wanted to create my own technologies. I wasn’t an engineer and sure didn’t want to become one. I am impressed by engineers and those individuals that discipline themselves enough to get through such studies, but it just wasn’t me (nor do I have the math skills to do so. Just for reference, in community college I failed intermediate algebra SIX times.)
In the Fall of 2011 I transferred to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California. I had a great friend from high school at Arizona State University that introduced me to startups and entrepreneurship while I was in community college. While in community college, I wasn’t aware (or maybe I just didn’t look) of many resources that could help me learn about startups. I attended community college in Salinas, CA, where I grew up. Salinas is known as the Salad Bowl of the country for providing a majority of the lettuce and many other agriculture products to the US and rest of the country. In the 2008–2012 U.S. Census Bureau rated Salinas amongst the poorest and least educated in the United States. Now that I was at the university level I wanted to take advantage of the available resources. I found the campus entrepreneurship club. I pretty much figured out that I wanted to be involved in startups. I wanted to join one or start something of my own. I was hoping to figure this out during my career at Cal Poly. December 2013 came and it was time to graduate. I did it! I knew I wanted something with entrepreneurship and startups but I wasn’t able to figure out what exactly during those two years.
It’s go time!
After graduating college it was time to work. I hadn’t figure out a project to work on, but I had to start working to pay my student loans and help my family. As a first generation college graduate from Hispanic parents that migrated from Mexico, I wasn’t as prepared to deal with post-graduation life as I would’ve liked. After almost a year of struggling to find a job, I got lucky and was recruited by an old friend to work at the largest solar energy company in the country- SolarCity (now Tesla). It was go time! I started off as a lead generator and worked my way up to Senior Consultant. I never thought I’d do sales, but I ended up liking it! I worked at SolarCity from 2013–2016. For the next three years I spent my time doing outside sales, but I was always infatuated with startups and the idea of doing my own project soon. I read every TechCrunch article and kept up with every popular tech blog/news site. I was constantly on the lookout for solving problems and looking for business opportunities. I was sure one would come eventually. I had saved up a few thousand dollars, so I figured at least I was a little prepared for when that idea finally struck. The money didn’t help, because no perfect business idea was coming.
The next big app, finally!
Late into 2015 and it finally came to me! I finally figured it out! I had found a problem I could solve through building my own app. I sat on the idea for a good while though. This is when I realized that money isn’t the real reason (though it can be in some instances) people don’t start their own business. I had some money saved up, enough to [at least] get started, but I just didn’t know where or how to start. After reading so many TechCrunch articles, I had a good idea of things startups go through and what they do, but no real blueprint to follow. Sitting on the idea for a few months, I finally realized that if I didn’t jump on this, no one would do it for me. I did research and got some baby steps going. I researched the market, designed a logo and did some mock-ups. I used tools like the website www.proto.io to build the wireframes. I used www.fiverr.com to find a freelancer to help me design some logos. For $20 I had several freelancers design me various logos. I went back and forth with them until one of them finally designed the right one! I also used www.Hatchli.com to get feedback from people. Hatchli is a community for up/down voting ideas and giving your feedback on it. I got a ton of up votes and positive comments. The founders of the Hatchli even contacted me to let me know that my idea was one of the most popular on the platform. They wanted to do an interview with me and send it out in their weekly newsletter. I went back to my community college and spoke with students and showed them my mock-ups. Also got great feedback there. It all felt amazing! It truly felt like I was gaining some good traction to keep me super motivated. I was headed in the right direction. I finally got to the point where I felt ready to develop the idea into an MVP.
Lets get to buildin’.
I was pumped!!!!!! I was ready to get to coding this thing! There was only one small problem. I have absolutely no coding skills. Not any to build an app any way. I had some HTML/CSS skills form the MySpace days and a few hours of practice on CodeAcademy.com that I had completed while at Cal Poly on my spare time, but not nearly enough to even begin building an app. I had been pitching the idea to anyone that would give me their time and had gotten good feedback, so I knew that I wanted to take a shot at this no matter what. My friends tried to convince me to learn programming, but I knew this wasn’t an efficient way to get this app going. I jumped on CodeAcademy.com again to start learning some skills, but I knew I couldn't do it on my own. Especially not the app idea I had in mind. I decided to look for a technical partner. I spent weeks and weeks looking. I looked everywhere I could think of; online, at schools, community events, Craigslist. NOTHING. I couldn’t believe I was this close to starting work on my dream, yet it felt so far.
…Part 2 coming