That is Adam Paul’s one-word answer to why the small-business sector of the American economy has yet to tap into using mobile phone apps to help grow their respective operations. But Paul and co-founder Cecil O’Dell launched their own small business, “Blast Off Apps,” in mid-February with small businesses in mind.
“Typically, an app for a small business hasn’t made sense for a small business because usually the development of one would cost as much as $50,000 and up, and it usually takes those companies as long as six months,” explained Paul, a Wheeling native who graduated last year from West Virginia University with an undergraduate physics degree. “That’s where we come in. We have set our price at $1,500, and we don’t go over that amount like everyone does. Plus, our turnaround time is between four to eight weeks. We try to stay closer to four weeks, but we are not six months; that’s for sure.
“Like I said, the prices those companies are charging is all about greed. It’s a simple answer, but that’s the truth. But our goal isn’t to try to get rich overnight,” he said. “If we become successful doing that, it will be because small businesses enter this industry. By setting our rates so low, we’re not making a lot of money right now, but if we can get a bunch of people to do this, then we can be successful, and they can be successful, and the local economy will be more successful.”
Paul partnered with O’Dell for the launch with Paul conducting the business side of the operation out of his hometown. O’Dell handles the technical aspects from his home in Ravenswood, W.Va., and the pair also works with sub-contractors from around the globe. And when Paul says Blast Off Apps refuses to charge any more than the agreed-upon price, he means it.
“That’s the one part of this that everyone has been really shocked about, but it’s true. Most of the companies will quote you one price that seems kind of affordable, but by the time they are done they are telling you that you it’s another $10,000,” he said. “We don’t do that. The price is the final price.
“It is perfectly affordable, and even if you cannot use a smartphone yourself, a mobile app can increase your generated revenue. We take care of pretty much everything when it comes to how a small business’ mobile app operates,” Paul explained. “Not only do I think every small business should have one; I think every person should have a mobile app too, because I think it could become a new type of social network,” he continued. “On the business end, if a local business gets a mobile app and lets the public know about it, it will give more people the chance to spend in the local economy instead of sending their money out of the Valley.”
The use of mobile apps has dramatically increased in recent years, Paul explained, and he believes now is the time for small businesses to get involved. Alan Lestini, owner and operator of Words & Music Bookshop at Stratford Springs, became Blast Off’s first client, and the store’s app has launched on Android phones. The app will be launched for the iPhone in less than one week.
“Our end goal is to try to actually make the American economic system a little more stable than it is today. I know that sounds like a pretty lofty goal, but mobile has that kind of reach,” Paul said. “Just after Christmas it was announced that there was a 27 percent increase in consumer spending on mobile devices, and it was also announced that there was also a 25 percent increase in online activity.
“There is also a statistic that says that there are more people watching their mobile devices instead of their TVs now,” Paul said. “People who have smartphones check those phones at least 150 times per day. It’s an amazing product that has changed so much in our country.”
The apps developed by Blast Off are not web-based apps that permit tracking and the extraction of client and user information. Instead, Blast Off produces “native” apps that are written specifically for mobile devices. Since Apple introduced apps fewer than 10 years ago, the “native” products have been the higher-priced option for business owners.
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Until now, that is.
“We are set up to allow small, local businesses to get mobile apps because we feel that if we get enough small businesses to a mobile app, their reach will grow worldwide,” Paul explained. “They would also be able to get into their customers’ minds easier. There are a lot of things that an app can bring to the business.
“If small businesses start to get mobile apps, they will be able to take back some of those customers that bigger companies have taken away; we’re here for our small businesses to work with so they can get as big as possible,” he said. “Our community does have a focus right now on local businesses, so we believe this would be a great way for them all to grow, and to attract people who are traveling through on the interstates.”
Paul has watched as the Upper Ohio Valley has welcomed several big-box businesses at retail areas in East Ohio and at The Highlands in Ohio County. Unfortunately, he has also watched as several small businesses have closed because of the new competition.
“I wanted to help local businesses,” Paul said. “And we’re concentrating on local businesses because we want to try to shrink the wealth gap. How’s that for a lofty goal?
“But it is possible because right now it’s such a new idea it can give the local businesses a leg-up in that competition. I thought if we did this and we were successful with it, we could do our little part to make a difference in the world,” Paul said. “It’s my belief that if you are going to start your own business, you have to figure out a way to do it better than the others who have done something similar. We think we have found a way to do just that, and I guarantee that we will be just as professional as those other companies, and we’ll see who wins. I’ll be rooting for the underdog.”
Blast Off Apps currently is concentrating on clients in the Wheeling, Morgantown, Ravenswood, and Pittsburgh areas, and Paul and O’Dell have joined the Pittsburgh Technology Council, a thriving organization that offers the company much assistance with networking and product development.
“We launched officially on Feb. 18, and we are soon to finish an agreement with our 10th client, so the reaction has been great,” Paul reported. “The folks with the Pittsburgh Technology Council are really trying to help us because they believe we have a great product, and I have heard the city of Pittsburgh described now as Silicon Valley East. Google is there. Amazon is there. So we are going to work with as many people who want to work with us.
“One of the best things about heading in the direction we’re heading into with mobile is that people do realize that no one can do everything,” Paul continued. “Everyone helps everyone because we’ve kind of gone back to a nice community feel, and that community is on the Internet. You just have to connect.”
The methods of connecting to the World Wide Web have grown exponentially since the dial-up days a mere 15 years ago, and Paul sees Internet access growing even more in the near future.
“What’s going to happen in the future seems limitless at this point. Google is a great example. Right now they have balloons flying over us trying to figure out how they can give the whole world the Internet, so that should tell us all where the world is going,” Paul said. “If every local, small business gets into it now, then they won’t have a problem in five years when everyone has an app. You’re established. You’re on people’s phones. It will generate you more money.”