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CinchShare: How a Stay at Home Mom Built a $5M ARR SaaS Company – with Jennifer Johnson [235]

Jennifer Johnson - CinchShare

CinchShare: How a Stay at Home Mom Built a $5M ARR SaaS Company

Jennifer Johnson is the founder and CEO of CinchShare, a social media marketing product for home-based direct sales businesses.

In 2013, Jennifer, a stay-at-home-mom was trying to use Facebook to get more sales for her side-business. The more active she was on Facebook, the more sales she seemed to get.

But this often meant spending over 2 hours a day scheduling Facebook posts. And as a mom of 4 kids, it was really hard for her to find that much time every day.

So she signed up for different social media marketing tools such as Hootsuite, Buffer, and PostPlanner. But they didn't actually save her that much time.

She wanted a tool that would simplify and speed up all the repetitive tasks she was doing. Her husband didn't have experience building software but was technical enough to eventually be able to create a simple tool to schedule Facebook posts the way she wanted.

And overnight, she went from 2 hours to just 20 minutes a day to schedule Facebook posts.

Eventually, they built a website and started selling this tool to other home-based business owners. And their new SaaS business started growing and attracting more customers.

Things were looking great.

Until one day, the couple rolled out an update to their tool and everything suddenly broke. They had hundreds of people complaining and many of them were really angry.

It was a lot of pressure for both of them. Jennifer ended up in tears that day and her husband felt so much pressure on his shoulders that he was hyperventilating.

They weren't sure if they could get through this situation or even how to fix it. And suddenly they had a lot of doubts about whether they were cut out to run a software business.

But eventually, they did get through that situation. They rolled back to a previous version of the tool and the kept their customers informed and did their best to put things right.

Today, Jennifer's business does over $5 million in annual recurring revenue. The business is bootstrapped, profitable and she's taken zero outside investment.

It's a terrific story. I hope you enjoy it.

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Transcript

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Omer Khan [0:10]
Welcome to another episode of The SaaS Podcast and Happy New Year. I'm your host Omer Khan. And this is a show where I interview proven founders and industry experts who share their stories, strategies and insights to help you build, launch and grow your sass business. In this episode, I talked to Jennifer Johnson, the founder and CEO of CinchShare a social media marketing product for home based direct sales businesses. In 2013. Jennifer a stay at home mom was trying to use Facebook to get more sales for her side business. The more active she was on Facebook, the more sales she seemed to get. But this often meant spending over two hours a day scheduling Facebook posts. And as a mom of four kids, it was really hard for to find that much time every day. So she signed up for different social media marketing tools like Hootsuite, Buffer, and Post Planner. But they didn't actually save her that much time. She wanted a tool that would simplify and speed up all the repetitive tasks that she was doing. It was a simple idea. Her husband didn't have experience building software, but was technical enough to eventually be able to create a simple tool to schedule Facebook posts the way that Jennifer wanted. an overnight she went from spending two hours to just 20 minutes a day scheduling Facebook posts. Eventually, they built a website and started selling the tool to other home-based business owners. And the new SaaS business started growing and attracting customers quickly. Things were looking really good. Until one day the couple rolled out an update to their tool and everything suddenly broke. They had hundreds of people complaining and many of them were really angry. It was a lot of pressure for both of them. Jennifer ended up in tears that day and her husband felt so much pressure on his shoulders that he was hyperventilating. They weren't sure if they could get through the situation or even how to fix it. And suddenly they had a lot of doubts about whether they were even cut out to run a software business. But eventually, they did get through that situation. They roll back to a previous version of the tool and kept their customers informed and did the best to put things right. Today, Jennifer's business does over $5 million in annual recurring revenue. The business is bootstrapped, profitable, and she's taken zero outside investment. It's a terrific story. I hope you really enjoy it.

Omer Khan [2:42]
Real quick. Before we get started. Don't forget to grab a free copy of the SaaS Toolkit, which will tell you about the 21 essential tools that every SaaS business needs. You can download your copy by going to theSaaSpodcast.com. Secondly, enrollment for SaaS Club Plus is now open. Plus is an online membership and community for new and early-stage SaaS founders. As a member, you get access to our growing content library, video masterclasses, a private community live group coaching calls every two weeks. And you also get one to one coaching with me through private messaging. So if you need help launching and growing your sass business, and you want to connect with other founders around the world, and the recurring revenue faster than join me inside, plus, just go to SaaSclubplus.com. Alright, let's get on with the interview. Jennifer, welcome to the show.

Jennifer Johnson [3:32]
Hi, thank you so much for having me.

Omer Khan [3:35]
So do you have a favorite quote, something that inspires and motivates you or gets you out of bed to work in your business?

Jennifer Johnson [3:40]
I do. I actually have this quote in frame in my office, and it's by Gary Vaynerchuk. And he's kind of an idol of mine. And it just says, “You can't beat what you copy”.

Omer Khan [3:52]
Love it. Love it.

Jennifer Johnson [3:53]
He got I've always kind of locked to the beat of my own drum and I think that so many others would soar if they did the same. So I just love originality, and it kind of just makes you just want to do you all day.

Omer Khan [4:06]
So for people who aren't familiar with CinchShare, can you tell us like, what does the product do? Who is it for? And what's the main problem that you're helping to solve?

Jennifer Johnson [4:17]
Okay, yeah. So CinchShare is a simplified social media content management and scheduling app, and our main audience is direct sellers because the app is built for independent business owners. It's built for business owners who would be doing their own scheduling or their own posting to social media versus having a social media manager or an agency do it for them.

Omer Khan [4:40]
What is a direct seller? Like? Can you just define that?

Jennifer Johnson [4:45]
Okay, so we typically work with like direct sellers and network marketing professionals often to direct sellers are part of a party plan company. Typically companies like Avon or Pampered Chef, Mary Kay Tupperware, there's a whole bunch of different companies where there are independent consultants, they go by different names, some of them are considered distributors or representatives. And they market products and market a product that's not theirs but as a product that they're able to sell,

Omer Khan [5:12]
Got it. And a lot of your customers are like stay at home moms?

Jennifer Johnson [5:17]
Yes, lots of them are stay at home moms or grandmothers or, you know, really anybody who is trying to be in that business and sell another product or have a side hustle and they are teachers or nurses during the day but then work at night. But yes, a lot of our audiences is specifically women and many are stay at home moms or work from home moms.

Omer Khan [5:39]
Okay, so the product launched in 2014. You've bootstrapped the business, you still own 100% of the business, and you've taken it from zero to over $5 million in ARR in that period of time, which is pretty amazing when you think about, you know, you and I were talking a little earlier that, number one, there are a lot of social media products out there that do similar things in terms of helping to schedule post or that sort of stuff. Yet, what I love about your story is that you found, a market a niche, and really focused on serving the needs of that business really well, which I think has been an obviously a big driver in the growth and the success you've had. So tell us a little bit about like, how did you come up with the idea for this business?

Jennifer Johnson [6:40]
Well, it's kind of interesting. I was kind of poking around on Facebook, trying to learn a little bit about how to market your business on Facebook so you can drive traffic to your website and I ended up following some network marketing professionals and saw how they were marketing a product on Facebook and posting and we're making an income on the side while they were able to, you know, raise their babies and stuff and stay at home. So I thought, Hey, I can I can do this too. I'm going to check this out and see you know how this works. And I started doing it. And within the first month, I saw amazing results. And I saw I think I made like $400 in my first weekend. All right, so yeah, it was pretty amazing. So I what I found was the more that I posted, the more active I was on Facebook, the more money I made, the more people I reached. And so I had four children. I didn't have the ability to post on Facebook all throughout the day and night. So I started looking into scheduling my posts and my content so that I could plan ahead and work at night once my kids were in bed, and then schedule everything and then have it go out during the day. And so I started using you know, some of the other social media apps that are out there. I started using Hootsuite and I started using Buffer and I started using Post Planner and I in and I use it a handful of other software's that are still around today and have a ton of customers and clients and I used their software. And even though they worked, they didn't necessarily save me any time, it still took me about two hours to schedule my posts for the next few days, which was just a lot of time it kind of took up my whole evening. So my husband and I, we sat down and we just simplified and we just took out the steps of what I was doing the processes that I was doing over and over, for example, and we just found ways to simplify it so that it was less clicks, which took less time and and we created what is now CinchShare the software and so when we created it, I started using it for myself and I went from spending two hours a night scheduling content to spending less than 20 minutes it completely revolutionized my time and saved me so much time and getting the same job done. So it was so helpful for me that I started sharing that with my upline and other people on my team and they're like wow, I want to use this because they were using the other services and they were even using Facebook scheduler and it wasn't time-saving, it was very time consuming, actually kind of using some of those other software. So we just changed it and altered it to how I was doing marketing and, you know, simplified those steps and built what is our kind of simplified software that it is today?

Omer Khan [9:21]
Did you your husband have any experience in building software,

Jennifer Johnson [9:24]
My husband is a self-taught developer, he worked for the Cherry Creek School district in Colorado and was a Data Analyst for them. And somehow like through you know, things that work he was just kind of thrown different projects. And so he just he's really quick learn so he just pick up things and he just taught himself how to simplify small processes. So when we created CinchShare it wasn't, we didn't have the idea that it would be this business and then we would go on and sell it and have other people have access to it. It was literally something that he built on my computer for me to use and it was to simplify my processes and save me time and it did And so we just like I said, we literally built, you know, where the place up, there's a place to pose, there's a place to have a message and a link and all the things that you have that you're posting on social, but then we just simplified the clicks that it took to get all that time. And so, you know, we didn't have a ton of experience. And so that's why we, you know, had some challenges as I as we've grown, but no, it was just literally something that we just sat down and created in November of 2013. And so we spent about two months on it before we open for business.

Omer Khan [10:29]
So the initial idea was just, hey, let's build a tool to save you some more time. It was a business idea. Yeah. So how long did he did he spend on building that first version of the product for you?

Jennifer Johnson [10:42]
The first version, probably he spent maybe four weeks.

Omer Khan [10:47]
And that was in full time.

Jennifer Johnson [10:48]
Well, no, he worked full time during that time. So that was kind of an evenings and weekends and stuff.

Omer Khan [10:53]
Okay. And so then, tell me a little bit about like, what was different about this. Like how we're you able to save time.

Jennifer Johnson [11:01]
Okay. So for one example, when I was using some of the other software, I knew that I was scheduling my posts for later date and time. So but I had to click on their software, I had to click a little calendar button for the calendar to pop up. So it's just little things like that, where I'm like, Well, if I know that I'm going to be scheduling, why do I have to click on the calendar button to then have the calendar pop up and expand. So then I can click my dates, let's just have the calendar open on the screen visible, so we can just remove that click. And so that's kind of what we did through every process of what you would be doing every step of the way. and reduce the amount of clicks which is what reduce the amount of time that it takes to actually schedule it can because when you're scheduling a bunch of content to multiple places, you know, it's a lot of clicking around that you end up doing, which takes a lot of time. So less clicks was the last time so that's what we did.

Omer Khan [11:56]
Okay, and then at what point did you realize that there was this opportunity to turn this into a product and a business.

Jennifer Johnson [12:05]
Well, inside these Facebook groups that I was joining because of the network marketing business, I found myself in dozens of Facebook groups and in all of these Facebook groups, were network marketers and direct sellers who are selling their product, different product, the same product. But they all had the same question of will. I'm busy during the day I do this, I do that I need to schedule. So what services are using you using and it was just a common question all the time and all the groups and communities is, you know, what, what are you using to schedule and plan your content? What do you using to organize all your posts because, you know, you can't just create something and just put it out there once and never see it again. You know, you've got to save it so you can reuse it. That's just a common question. And so I saw that question being asked all the time, and because I had something that worked so well for me. I also had other people in my team. Like I said, my upline I talked to her about that I showed her and she was like wow, I want to use it , can I use it? And she told a couple people so there are other people on our team who are selling the same product who are like, well, I want to use it too. I'm using Hootsuite, I'm using Buffer, but I'm looking for an alternative. And so that's when I'm like, well, gosh, let's, let's throw up a website. So we just spun up a website. And that's when we started funneling everybody who was interested, we just start saying, hey, well, here's a Facebook group we created, if you're interested, come join this group. We're going to be talking about the features, what we can do, and we want to answer questions and just talk to you. And so we had, I think we had about 600 people join within the next couple weeks when we were kind of talking about it. And then

Omer Khan [13:40]
They joined the Facebook group.

Jennifer Johnson [13:42]
Yeah, they don't have Facebook group. And so they were all in there, ready to join. And then when we were able to officially launch we, you know, open for business and we announced it in that group, and that's when people just started going to our website and signing up.

Omer Khan [13:55]
Okay, and so tell me about the process you went through to build the product. That you were going to let other people use both in terms of how did you figure out what you needed to build? And secondly, how did you then go and build it? Did your husband build that? Or did you try to find some help?

Jennifer Johnson [14:12]
You know, it's interesting at first we I mean, we've done everything ourselves. So at first, we just, we'd had no idea really, that it would take off. I mean, I knew that there were, you know, handful of people at first that wanted to use it. And so when we're like, Okay, well, let's let other people use it. My husband, you know, he researched and looked into, you know, some small scale servers. And so we looked at like in kind of an intro service and so we signed up for that and we just built the website ourselves if you search CinchShare, if you Google CinchShare, like look, scroll back to find all of our old stuff from our early years. It was way hideous our website, but we launched it and you know, but people didn't care what our website looked like. They just wanted to use the software that they knew was going to save them a bunch of time. And so we built it just for me and a handful of other people. So we didn't really We think wow, this is going to grow to be something huge. And so we didn't go out and spend any money. We again, we were a family of six living on one income, we didn't have extra cash to go spend money on servers that you know, we didn't know if people would actually use it that we would need. So we used our home computer at first and then when we outgrew certain things we you know, we, we grew along the way so the software that was built for me, it just needed a front facing website so that people could you know, click to sign up and enter a credit card and and actually get in the front door. And so there really wasn't a whole lot to make which is why we were able to spend it up so quickly. So we started creating the software in November and then we worked on it and worked on our website and again by January we we open for business. So when we first started, we had I forget now we had several hundred people sign up in the first day and we we experienced growing pains. We had server crashes. We had issues with payments. And you know, we just, we were like keyboard, warriors and just going on there and responding to everybody and letting everybody know that we, you know, we're helping and, and we're there and we're going to get to them. And so we kind of had some bumps but along the way we just grew and grew and grew and, you know, made the changes when we needed to upgrade to bigger servers or make changes. I knew that when we, you know, when we were on for business, and we were in it for a couple months, and we were onto something I'm like, okay, now we need to look at it. Now we need to go get branding, and, you know, so we just kind of learned as we went.

Omer Khan [16:33]
Okay, so if I understood this correctly, when you decided that this was going to become a product, and you're going to let other people access it. You didn't change a huge amount. With the product itself. You just built a website. So there was a place for people to go and sign up and get access. Yes, but essentially they were using the same tool that you had been using.

Jennifer Johnson [16:59]
Yes.

Omer Khan [17:00]
A lot of the times, entrepreneurs and founders are very nervous about launching a product, which is not ready because of the kinds of things you just described, you know, the product crashing, or there being kind of weird bugs in there. And some of those things, if you're using the product yourself, you might not notice them. But once you have, you know, 10 2030 people using it, people find stuff, right. So I'm curious that, like, How do you feel? Did that hamper your success? Did people experiencing these problems early on? Do you think that that created any long term issues for you were people going around saying, Yeah, I tried it and it wasn't that great or the server crashed or whatever.

Jennifer Johnson [17:48]
You know, in our first year, we didn't really have anybody that had signed up for our free trial that didn't become a customer and an actually finished through with the trial. Sign up as a customer. So we had a really because of our Facebook group community that we had built, I think we had a really good place to communicate with our customers. And so we weren't communicating via email, we were communicating right on Facebook, right? Where they were doing business, right where they were wanting to even use our product. And so we were communicating with them every step of the way. And I think that what we find most of the time is that when people have an issue, there's something wrong, they want to let you know, and they just want to know that you heard them and that you are working on it, even if you don't have a solution right away. And, you know, as we started our business, you don't know what you don't know. And so I had no idea that we were going to have a growing pains. I could have guessed it, but I didn't you know, so I just, I'm kind of somebody who just pulled the trigger and goes for it and you know, you go over the hurdles as they come and that's really what we did. And because we've been so great at communicating with everybody along the way that the beat didn't have anybody who was upset. We did end up having it was in 2015, May of 2015, we had experienced basically what I guess we would say our worst nightmare it was when we had tried to go to like a second version, like version CinchShare version two. And it began, it was still my husband and I, it was just the two of us. And we tried to move to version two and kind of create some upgrades and some changes. And on that day, when we made the switch, we had some sort of bug that was creating additional bugs. And it was, you know, this compounding problem, the longer that people were on it, it was creating issues. So in the span of like four hours, we had hundreds of people emailing us saying, you know that something wasn't working. We had people actually angry for the first time and it was extremely hard to hear. I think, at one point I was in tears and my husband got really nervous that he felt all this pressure on her shoulders because he was the only person I could Turn to, and he actually started hyperventilating and he was freaking out. And I turned to him and I grabbed his shoulders and I said, You've got this, you can do this work the problem, sit down and find the bug, I will work the community. And so he sat at his computer, and he just focused on finding the problem. And I sat down at the computer, and I just talked to every single person I could and I said, Thank you for your, you know, letting us know there's an issue, we're working hard. And after that experience, there were probably about 50 or so people in our community that really stepped up and had our back and they said, you guys CinchShare has been working really hard. They've been you know, making this change for us. Yeah, they had an issue today, but it's been like the first issue and so we had a bunch of people who were like able to kind of calm other people down. So we got a bunch of their addresses and we sent out tons of gift cards to all these people in our community and we sent out tons of happy mail and a we got Starbucks gift cards, and just showered them all over the Contrary to firmware, all of our users were in community was and so it was fantastic to have have that there, you know, but that again, that was just a growing pain that we couldn't foresee we wouldn't have known was going to happen. But it ended up being such a big deal that we rolled it back and we said, okay, we're not doing version two 2.0. Right. Now let's roll it back to where everything was working smooth. And so we did. So other than that, for our hiccup that, you know, did spur a whole bunch of angry customers at that time. And we did lose some people, but then we did have people come right back, because, you know, it's just, it's tech. That's what happens with tech. I mean, there's bugs, there's glitches, there's things that happen, but as long as you're there providing excellent customer service, you know, that's the best thing that you can do when those things happen, right.

Omer Khan [21:43]
Totally. Do you remember how much you were making with the business at that time? So you said in March 20 or May 2015.

Jennifer Johnson [21:51]
2015, I would say, well, we definitely had over 1000 customers, monthly customers, I would say We probably were about 1300 maybe or so, or maybe even a little bit beyond that, actually, we started growing really, really, really quickly in our second year. So our first year it took us took us about the whole first year to get our first thousand customers. And then we grew really, really fast with our second year from that first 1000. By the end of the year, we had 10,000 customers. So,

Omer Khan [22:23]
Wow!

Jennifer Johnson [22:24]
We, we grew a lot in that second year. And it was midway through that year that we started that we tried to go to version two and couldn't do it on our own. And that's when we went to go try to find help and ended up signing on with an agency that wasn't the right fit either. But that started our search with like trying to expand beyond just my husband and myself.

Omer Khan [22:43]
Okay, a lot of stuff to unpack there. He just said so, first of all, how did you get the first thousand customers did that come through the Facebook group?

Jennifer Johnson [22:56]
Yeah, the first thousand customers came strictly from Facebook and communicating with people on Facebook.

Omer Khan [23:02]
And was this because when people were joining your group or or it was a combination of people coming and joining the group that you had created to talk about the product, and then also these other Facebook groups that you were a member of where you're you're sort of basically your target customers were hanging out. Was it a combination of those two places where you found those first thousand customers?

Jennifer Johnson [23:21]
Yes, yes, we had people that we were funneling into our own group, for people who are interested in CinchShare or social media marketing. And then in the other groups are happy customers, you know, when that question came up, they would say, Oh, I'm using CinchShare, they would start throwing our our name our service into the mix. And so then other people would start being like, Oh, well, what is that? I've not heard of that and come over.

Omer Khan [23:44]
So currently you charge $10 a month for the product. Were you charging that same amount back in 2015?

Jennifer Johnson [23:51]
Yes.

Omer Khan [23:51]
Okay. So now let's talk about how in one year you went from 1000 to 10,000 customers What was the biggest driver of that growth?

Jennifer Johnson [24:03]
Well, I think that it's a combination of two things. I think that word of mouth has always been a really big driver of customers for us happy customers share what's working for them. And our customers being in the nature of being a direct seller and often having a team of people that they work with, they share with their team and so their downline will use our software, their downline, will use whatever their team leader is using. So that, you know, it's just easy that it's what they're if you're a leader, you recommend something that is working for you, you know, your team is going to use the same thing. So word of mouth has always been just a really, really good driver of traffic for us. And then in 2015, that's the year that we started actually hosting Facebook classes to teach our audience you know how to do certain things, how to market their business on social media, teaching them tips, tricks, how to things like that, and then Amongst those classes we would throw in how our software can help do that faster, easier, things like that.

Omer Khan [25:06]
So, I'm not familiar with Facebook classes tell me a little bit about like, what's the setup? How does it work?

Jennifer Johnson [25:14]
Okay, so you may have heard the term Facebook party. Have you heard that?

Omer Khan [25:17]
Yeah.

Jennifer Johnson [25:18]
Okay, so Facebook classes, Facebook trainings, Facebook parties, they're kind of all the same thing. Our customers being in the nature of their most of them being in the party plan companies and party plan direct selling companies where oftentimes they you know, do a home party in someone's home and sell product with their network of friends. That way, they've moved to doing that virtually on Facebook, where people are communicating and that's where people are hanging out. So returning basically, bite size pieces of information, you know, in a series that you do at a given time at a given location is what's considered a Facebook party or a Facebook class. And so what we've done is for example, we've take our blogs that we write a blog on a specific topic how to do something that our audience can read how to do. And we take little pieces of that blog, and we put it into small, just little bite-sized pieces of content that we can put into individual posts. And we create a series out of it so that we can create a story, we have a beginning, we have a middle, we have an end, so that people who come to our Facebook party or Facebook class training, whatever you want to call it, when they come to our event at that time, they can see you know, our series of content being dripped to them. So if they're there in that moment, they can stick around and stay with us and learn what we have to offer. And then it's also available for people who maybe didn't have the ability to come and attend at that time, but it's still there so they can come back to it and access it at a later time and date and they can consume that content at their own convenience.

Omer Khan [26:51]
Okay. And so that's great. You're taking your your target customers and you're finding ways to educate them, help them with their marketing. How did that translate to people signing up for CinchShare? Was it with with the classes about how to use the product? And then people were like, Okay, great, that sounds great. I'm gonna go and use it, or was it a combination of, you know, here's some product-related stuff. But also, here's just some general marketing related stuff that might help you and oh, by the way, we have this product. So I'm just trying to understand like, what was that sort of experience? And how did somebody go from attending one of these parties or Facebook classes to them becoming a customer,

Jennifer Johnson [27:31]
Great? So oftentimes, we've have new people all the time who are new to their direct sales business, that's the nature of direct sales is it's kind of a constantly moving bucket where you know, new people are coming in and signing up to become a consultant. And so they are learning how to be a consultant. They're learning a lot about their products. They're learning how to market it on Facebook, and they're they're learning a lot of information and they don't know really what exactly to do the right way to market and being the nature that our Software connects with social media platforms and allows users to pre-schedule content to be delivered to those platforms. We felt that it was our job to make sure that we were sharing best practices with our community so that they knew that when they were posting on Facebook that they were posting the right way that they weren't doing something overly spammy. And doing something that's going to maybe get them blocked or maybe get them you know, people to tune them out and not be interested, you know, and then ultimately to help them grow because if they're successful if our customers are successful marketing on on Facebook using our software, that's a long term customer that we've created because they're successful. So ultimately, what we wanted to do was to teach people how to effectively market on these platforms that our software caters to and so as they get in and they start marketing on Facebook, let's say they learn what they're doing and as soon as they start doing it and they start doing more of it, that's when they get the need to schedule it. Because it becomes very time consuming, it becomes like engulfs you with all the things that you have to do, because they're great, great things to do. And you definitely want to be there. That's where attention is. But obviously, we all have lives, we all have other things to tend to. And then there's other business aspects that we have to tend to as well, we can't spend all of our time on Facebook. So as people's business grow as their success on social media grows, they grow into the need of needing to schedule into the meat of our products. So we focus first on just educating about the platforms and about social media marketing, because even though they may not be our customer now, and they may not be our customer yet, if we have earned their trust over time teaching them the right ways to do things when they are at that point where they're like, wow, this is working. This is working great. I need to do more of this, oh, I need to schedule this out because I can't do more of this. That's when they start looking and then obviously we're that service who can step in and help them. And so along the way, we've earned their trust to be in our community and earn their attention. You know, they grow into being a customer that way. But oftentimes we have a leader, a direct sales leader who, you know, signs up a new recruit under them a new team member, and they just say, Hey, this is what I'm using for my business, it helps me save time, you should sign up to and so we often get a lot of new people who come on board, and they may be not quite ready for actually using our software yet, but we help them along the way by teaching them what to do and how to get started. So we kind of want to cater to the customer, even before there are customers. So our goal is obviously to have them be our customer. But through these trainings and through everything that we do with educating, we start with ultimately just, we want everybody to be successful on the platforms themselves and do everything correctly, because that's going to lift up our industry. It's going to lift up our businesses and everybody else's businesses too.

Omer Khan [30:55]
Yeah, no, I like that. And I think that's much more of a long-term view to building a business and relationships with your potential customers rather than how can I get the sale today every time,

Jennifer Johnson [31:09]
Right?

Omer Khan [31:09]
Which is not gonna happen anyway. Sounds really great. So I had three things that helped you drive growth and sort of get to that 10,000 users like number one was like the word of mouth, just being part of this community and being very focused on a, a market niche rather than, hey, here's a social media tool for everybody and anybody. That was the one thing Secondly, it was being part of the right Facebook groups where these target customers were hanging out, as well as creating your own Facebook group and giving people a reason to join there. And then thirdly, was running these basically they're doing this education and these classes on Facebook, just to help whether they're Customers are not figuring out how to help them with their marketing to be more successful with their businesses. Beyond that, did you do any kind of advertising where you're running paid ads on Facebook,

Jennifer Johnson [32:13]
We have boosted posts for our business page. And every week, we've not always done this, but this is kind of what we've been doing for the past year, we typically boost our, our Facebook class, our Facebook event. So we host every Tuesday night on our Facebook business page, we host an event and at 9pm Eastern Time and so we just kind of because that's just a standard running training that we do every single Tuesday we boost that one so that we can make sure that we're reaching our audience and getting people to come and attend and and join over and over because we pick different topics every week, so it's not the same so we have people who just come literally like they're like we come to your every Tuesday night training. So it's it's pretty cool.

Omer Khan [32:55]
Let's talk about the evolution of the product. When you decided that, okay, or maybe when your husband decided he needed some help, and you were going to go out and look for someone, you mentioned earlier that you you hired an agency. That turned out to be a bad decision for your business. Tell me a little bit about like, What happened there?

Jennifer Johnson [33:18]
Okay, yeah. So after the terrible day in May of 2015, when we tried to go to our version two and had issues and enrolled back, we started searching for help, and really didn't know exactly where to turn. So just kind of started making phone calls and had some meetings and ended up finding an agency in Boulder, Colorado, that's where we lived at the time. And we found an agency that, you know, talk the talk, and we were like, wow, this is going to be great to get some help. But when we, you know, got on board and started having meetings, it just everything was going very slow and they couldn't move fast enough. And being that we are connected to Facebook and a tech company. We just moved very quickly and so we ended up having to cut ties with that agency because they couldn't seem to get the job done. But luckily, through that process, we ended up finding a developer that we really enjoyed working with and was familiar with our product through that agency. And so we were able to end up hiring him on as our CTO in 2015, towards the end of 2015. So, actually, I might have even been January, but it was closed. But anyways, we ended up hiring our CTO and, you know, got a completely different experience than with the agency.

Omer Khan [34:35]
Tell me about some of the challenges you had with the agency. Like you said it was slow and they weren't able to move the right pace, but like, how long did you work with them? What did they do or not to?

Jennifer Johnson [34:49]
You know, it's been a few years that that was it has been several years ago. I'm really good at pushing out bad things and just moving on from them. What they did didn't do, they really didn't do anything. It was very costly. We we lost a good chunk of change. And we didn't end up having them complete anything we walked literally walked away with nothing. I would say that I think we worked with them for probably eight months, a little bit longer than we wanted. But we were trying to, you know, definitely play nice at the end because we found the one of the developers that we wanted to work with. And so we ended up asking for permission to reach out to him because he was on his way to working with another company anyways, and so we got their blessing to reach out to him at least and so that's how how we did get our CTO was we reached out to him after we got their permission, but it was because they literally delivered nothing and and we spent a good deal of money with them, and they just couldn't ever get the job done. They were always like really close really close. And then they just needed more requirements. And it just ended up being meeting after meeting after meeting and nothing got done and we were used to my husband and I would see a need and say oh wow, we need to Go do this, and my husband would put his fingers to the keyboard and go fix it and change it. And we'd have happy customers. So when we tried to bring on some extra hands, and that wasn't happening, it, we weren't able to hand the reins or even get help with other people because they didn't have that same dedication or that same work ethic that we had.

Omer Khan [36:18]
Yeah, and I guess eight months, we're not I guess, I know, eight months is a long time to not have any thing to show. So it sounds like there was a lot of planning, and maybe designing and discussions going on. but nothing actually shipping.

Jennifer Johnson [36:39]
Yes, no actual things getting completed in and being shown to us. So it was just a lot of the run around. It was unfortunate.

Omer Khan [36:48]
And the team today like how, what's the size of the team?

Jennifer Johnson [36:52]
So we have a very lean team. We have a single developer and he's our CTO and kind of runs everything. My husband still, you know, helps him and they kind of get in and do some things together. But our CTOs over the course of the last few years, rewritten the code we've changed, made a lot of changes. And so it's really kind of in his hands and and my husband helps a little bit, but we really have that main developer. And then we have our CMO and we have a customer support staff, and that makes up our team.

Omer Khan [37:24]
And because you're based in Florida now, right?

Jennifer Johnson [37:27]
Yeah, we're in Melbourne, Florida.

Omer Khan [37:28]
So is the entire team located there or is the team remote.

Jennifer Johnson [37:32]
The team was all remote pretty much for the last six years. Our developer lives in Colorado. So we traveled to see him a couple times a year and he travels out here to see us a couple times a year and then we just work remotely and talk on the phone and stuff and then my new CMO, she is here in Melbourne and our customer support team is here in Melbourne and so everybody's in Melbourne now except for our CTO, but in the past. We had team members in Ohio and New Jersey and South Carolina. So we had kind of some team members all over, but I kind of solidified our marketing team and reduce that a little bit so that we can hone in. And so now we've got a little bit of a smaller team and almost everybody's here in Melbourne except for one.

Omer Khan [38:15]
Now, one of the, I think the challenges of building your type of business, which is heavily dependent on social media platforms, is that you're heavily dependent on social media platforms. You know, whether they're making changes or to the API, or the integration isn't working, or their Terms of Use changes, and you can't do something that you were doing before. How much of a challenge has that been for for you and your business?

Jennifer Johnson [38:47]
I would say that our dependency on the social media platforms is the number one most challenging piece of our business. You know, it kind of takes an average business a normal everyday business and to Multiply it by 10. Because there's, you know, those platforms, they're all different. They're all moving at the speed of light and changing every day. And you know, they can't even keep up. I mean, Facebook, the whole world's on Facebook, it has glitches all the time, and all these different things, you know, and people have, you know, grown accustomed to them, but they're constantly changing and making changes and on the fly, and sometimes they tell us, and sometimes they don't. So that's really the hardest piece is our dependency on them. Because, you know, that's what our product is built for. And that's what our customers use our product for is connected to these platforms. And so you know, just staying on top of every platform changes, as well as those changes that affect not only our app, but that also affect, you know, things that we need to change in the app store, you know, being in the Apple App Store, the Google Play Store. Those are additional challenges now that we have a mobile app because, you know, as platforms make changes, and then we adjust our software to make changes we then have to adjust and make changes and submit back to the Apple Store and the Google Play Store. And so there's just all of these processes in place, which just increases the workload increases the time involved and how fast we are able to make changes and things like that. So it's incredibly difficult and super challenging.

Omer Khan [40:17]
And when you don't do all of that, you've got four kids.

Jennifer Johnson [40:21]
Yes, I do. How old? Are you kids? My oldest is 15. And then I have a 13-year-old 11-year-old and my youngest is seven.

Omer Khan [40:28]
Wow, we have two kids. And I can't even imagine what life would be like within with the third. And like, four fourth is unimaginable. So…

Jennifer Johnson [40:40]
Just a lot more laundry.

Omer Khan [40:44]
All right, let's wrap up. We're gonna go into the lightning round. And I'm gonna ask you seven quickfire questions. So you ready?

Jennifer Johnson [40:51]
Okay. Yeah.

Omer Khan [40:52]
All right. What's the best piece of business advice you've ever received?

Jennifer Johnson [40:56]
I guess the best piece of business advice I received was My dad and he said to, “Just go for it”, he says, it's only money. You can make more of it.

Omer Khan [41:08]
Just go for it. What book would you recommend to our audience and why?

Jennifer Johnson [41:12]
Direct sellers who are looking to increase their business with Facebook parties should absolutely check out of Lynn Bardowski skills books, Linda Bardowski wrote “Facebook Party Secrets of a Million Dollar Party Girl” and she goes into all sorts of tips and tricks of how to post Facebook parties to grow your direct sales business. So I would definitely recommend starting there.

Omer Khan [41:33]
What's one attribute or characteristic in your mind of a successful founder?

Jennifer Johnson [41:37]
Someone who is able to change their mind? I think sometimes people, you know, think that their mind is made up and they've got a completely follow through to the end, even though things have changed. And so you know, just being able to change your mind, I think is something that every entrepreneur needs to be able to do.

Omer Khan [41:55]
What's your favorite personal productivity tool or habit?

Jennifer Johnson [41:58]
I don't really have a favorite tool I have to say that my best habit for productivity is to start my day with some sort of activity. So my husband and I are fortunate where we you know, don't have to set an alarm and we can kind of choose our hours and so we wake up and we get to go walking or kayaking both things we love and we you know, kind of get to set out the day and talk about certain things and through that time you're I'm active getting fresh air and able to kind of set up my whole day so that when I'm getting to my computer, I am super productive.

Omer Khan [42:31]
Yeah, and probably outdoor life in Florida and December is probably a little bit more pleasant than Colorado I guess.

Jennifer Johnson [42:38]
Yeah, a lot more positive. It's it's gorgeous outside.

Omer Khan [42:42]
Oh, what's a new crazy business idea you'd love to pursue if you had the extra time?

Jennifer Johnson [42:46]
It's funny that you say that because I don't have time but I am pursuing another business actually, at the same time. My husband I due to the success of sin share have been fortunate to purchase a vacation rental property. So here in Melbourne, we love to kayak. We were kayaking one day and saw this house on the water that was for sale. So we decided to go check it out. We've always loved real estate and had a passion for real estate. So we checked it out. We had ideas of hosting retreats there for our business for CinchShare we've been hosting conferences, we've hosted social media marketing retreats, and we were flying all over the world actually all over the United States to go to retreats and be a speaker at retreats to teach direct sales teams, social media marketing. And so then we started thinking, well, we could host them ourselves. And so through this property, it was a single-family home, but it was huge. And so we bought it and we renovated it and we have hosted our retreats there. And now there's other teams and other direct sales industry leaders who are hosting their team retreats there and workshops and things and so it's kind of this business that's part of sincere and part of the community that we've created over here. With this CinchShare business, but it's also a vacation rental down to it. So that's something that we're doing like on the side, my side hustle. And it's, it's we launched it in January and it's it's taking off to and being really fantastic and growing in ways that I never imagined. So it's not really something I would do in my spare time. It's something I am doing in my spare time.

Omer Khan [44:21]
That's very cool. What's an interesting or fun fact about you that most people don't know?

Jennifer Johnson [44:26]
I worked my tail off in college and graduated in three years so that I could graduate with my fiance who is not my husband and he's a year older than me so totally that you know, most people you know, it takes them three, four or five longer years to do college, but I hurried up and graduated in three years so that I could graduate at the same time you really do just go for it, don't you when you decide you want to do something? Yeah, I do. Full speed.

Omer Khan [44:51]
And finally, what's one of your most important passions outside of your work?

Jennifer Johnson [44:55]
Honestly, just being outdoors. My husband and I are enjoying kayaking. We never kayak in Colorado, we were born and raised there lived our whole lives. And when we moved here to Florida, we bought a kayak and we have a tandem kayak. And we absolutely love it. We go kayaking, we take our kids kayaking with us. And when family comes in town, we go and we just built it into our life. So we probably go three or four times a week, and I'll just enjoy it super something that we love to do when we get suited together. So..

Omer Khan [45:24]
Yeah, I mean, I live in Seattle, and I got into kayaking a few years ago, probably longer than it should have taken. But here it's really a summer activity.

Jennifer Johnson [45:35]
Oh, yes. I can imagine

Omer Khan [45:36]
You don't get to be able to do it all year round.

Jennifer Johnson [45:39]
A little cold in the winter.

Omer Khan [45:41]
Yeah, totally. All right. So if people want to find out more about CinchShare, they can go to cinchshare.com. And we'll include a link to that in the show notes. And if people want to get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that?

Jennifer Johnson [45:56]
Really any way reaching out to us on our website or Facebook Page or just email me at Jennifer[at] cincher[dot]com.

Omer Khan [46:03]
Wonderful. Jennifer, thank you. It's been a pleasure. I loved hearing your story and how all of this started, I guess because you weren't happy with how much time it was taking you to post on social media. That's, that's where it all started, right?

Jennifer Johnson [46:19]
That's really how it all started. How can I simplify this and make it take less time? That's right. Yes. Thank you. Yeah. Thank you so much for having me.

Omer Khan [46:27]
It's been a pleasure. And I wish you all the best of success.

Jennifer Johnson [46:29]
All right. Thank you so much. Cheers.

Omer Khan [46:33]
All right. Thanks for listening. I really hope you enjoyed the interview. You can get to the show notes as usual by going to thesaaspodcast.com, where you will find a summary of this episode and a link to all the resources we discussed. If you enjoyed this episode, then please subscribe to the podcast. And if you're in a good mood, consider leaving a rating and review to show your support for the show. Thanks for listening. Until next time, take care.

The Show Notes

Omer Khan

Hi, I'm Omer, the founder of SaaS Club and host of The SaaS Podcast. I help early stage founders and entrepreneurs to build, launch and grow successful SaaS businesses. Join me on this journey.