In our latest success story, we talk to Temi Alanamy co-founder of a nutrition based app called Whatsinit?. She talks about the biggest lessons learnt and how having a partner can challenge you to do better.
What inspired you to invest in apps/app building industry?
We had the idea for Whatsinit? in 2015 when I and my husband Rob were made redundant and financial constraints forced us to buy and eat cheap, processed foods. Prior to this time, my genetic condition, called Sickle Cell Anaemia, meant that I had to be very careful about what I ate and I had always tried to eat fresh, nutritious food. Having to eat a lot more processed food was a bit of a shock and I would research every ingredient label on the foods that we bought to ensure that I understood exactly what I was eating. But the more I read ingredients labels, the more we realised that we had no idea what many of the ingredients in these foods meant. So, we decided to build an app that helped us, and others with allergies, quickly and easily identify and understand food ingredients. We partnered with professionals in the food and health industry and over two years we built the Whatsinit? MVP which was released in May 2017.
How did this role vary from your previous roles?
I am a trained academic with a PhD in History so on the surface, my background and my venture into tech seems a world apart. But my background prepared me for my role. I still do a lot of research, I, and my co-founder Rob, co-ordinate a large project with lots of moving parts in an industry that changes in the blink of an eye. Finding people who care enough about your work to fund it is also very similar to life in academia.
What were some of the lessons and skills gained from the whole process of getting your app out there?
I learned that a business is much more than an idea. Taking an idea from conception to reality is a long, complicated process that no one can do alone. You need mentors, cheerleaders, a good co-founder and employees that are as excited about your project as you are. I have learned to be patient, much more than I ever was, to listen to the advice of those who have done this and sometimes, to just go for it. Whatsinit? was conceived well before its time so many people were sceptical about its viability. I learned that if you find a gap in the market and you think you have that idea that can fill it, you just have to go for it.
How did you decide on your target customer? Who is your target customer?
Since Whatsinit? was developed because of my sickle cell, our immediate target audience was anyone with allergies, a diet-specific illness like diabetes or dietary restrictions like vegans and vegetarians. As my life evolved, we began to see that many other people would benefit from knowing exactly what was in the food that they ate. When I became pregnant, I only wanted to eat food that was beneficial, or at the very least, would not harm my baby, so I used the app every day to check ingredients labels before I ate. As I weaned my baby, I needed to make sure that the milk and foods she ate were good, wholesome and nutrient-dense. Whatsinit? made it possible for us to find out in seconds. So, we expanded our target audience to pregnant women and new parents. Right now, Whatsinit? will benefit anyone interested in knowing what lies beyond the calorie content in food.
What are the advantages of having your own app business?
Having my own business has always been an aspiration of mine. Being a techpreneur was something that happened by accident. Building a business from scratch into something viable is a great accompaniment and being able to help the thousands of people who have downloaded Whatsinit? is great.
What were some of the biggest challenges faced, as you didn’t have the security of being an employee?
I and my co-founder Rob Renton, built Whatsinit? over two years in the evenings and on weekends alongside our day jobs. Asides from saving the funds we needed to build the app, one of the biggest challenges we faced was finding the motivation to forge through nights and weekends when we were exhausted from a busy week to keep building the app.
What would you say are the main pros and cons of being in a partnership, rather than doing it individually?
One of the best things about being in a partnership is that you can bounce ideas of one another. You might think an idea is great but your partner may find holes in it or even have better way to execute it. Having someone whose skills complement yours is also a big plus. Rob’s background in tech was a great match for my research experience. However, two people will never have a singular idea about the vision for a business. You will have to work through a lot of differences and disputes before you come to an agreed vision. If it was a one-person venture, there would be no disagreements or compromises. You simply execute an idea as you conceive it.
Can you briefly explain what the development process of the app was like?
Once we decided to build Whatsinit? we researched what food and health and fitness apps were out there. We found that there was a huge gap in the market as many companies focused on calories, ethics or additives alone without effectively explaining every single ingredient in food. Since neither of us are nutritionists, the first thing we did was hire nutritionists to work with us to create the content. Rob singularly designed the entire app and user experience and then we found developers who shared our vision to build it with us. It took two years but what we produced an MVP that has been described as the ‘nutritionist in your pocket’ so it was well worth it.
What advice would you give someone who is interested in making an app business?
If you find a gap in the market and no one has filled this gap effectively, then go for it. Its best if you learn how to code but if you can’t, find a designer and developer who share your passion for the project. Only then can you make your idea a reality.
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