Abel James was a twenty something living in Austin, Texas when his life fell apart. His apartment building burnt down. He lost all of his belongings. On top of that, he was suffering from high blood pressure, thyroid problems and working in a soul-sapping job. He knew he couldn’t control much so he decided to focus on his health. In fall of 2011, Mr. James stopped his prescription drugs, ignored everything his doctor told him and became the Fat Burning Man. By using Twitter to drive traffic to his site and a mobile app, he built a $500,000 business in just 2 years.
Mr. James studied brain science and psychology at Dartmouth College and decided to become his own personal health experiment. He began by eating high fat foods to get lots of nutrients and switched his workouts from running marathons to sprinting for 5 miles. “I couldn’t believe how much muscle I built by exercising less. I needed to spread the word that people can be happy and healthy at the same time so I put together a manuscript for the 30 Day Fat Burning Man and started blogging,” said Mr. James.
To build an audience, Mr. James gave away an Intro to Paleo book on his website. He leveraged his background in music to create a podcast and by February of 2012, he was earning enough to replace his 6-figure consulting salary. The book, 30 Day Fat Burning Man has become a #1 Amazon bestseller in the men’s health category and the podcast now has millions of downloads. To further grow the business, he developed a strategic partnership with two friends and created a mobile app, Caveman Feast.
The app came about after consistently hearing from customers what they wanted – fast, simple, easy to execute Paleo recipes. The app launched in July for $2.99 with over 200 recipes and the first day had 10,000 downloads and is now up to 37,000. The app cost $5,000 to create, much less than what the average company spends annually on marketing. It’s over 10x ROI for the business in three months including the lead generation, customer database gained, purchases of additional products and the long tail sales potential.
Caveman Feast is a cookbook on your smartphone. You open the app and it displays different categories of food. It provides different options including ingredients and how to prepare the selected dish in 20 minutes or less. It makes it easy to go shopping because the entire cookbook is at your fingertips. While the app makes money, the real purpose for Mr. James and his friends is to generate qualified leads. They capture names and email addresses through the mobile app, and many of the users after entering their sales funnel become loyal customers, buying one the six books they have developed or joining the Fat Burning Tribe, a coaching community with over 200 people that pay a minimum of $27 a month.
Mr. James said that he is continuing to publish books on Amazon and they’re also working on an updated version of the app for Android. His company now has 4 employees. “One of the most exciting things about getting into the App world is that I took my business from competing with bloggers and podcasters to beating Disney, Warner Brothers, Angry Birds, Minecraft, in a major marketplace. It’s incredible what you can do from your living room these days”.
When I asked Abel James what advice he had for other small business owners interested in developing mobile apps, here’s what he had to say:
- Just do it: Mr. James suggested that people are always afraid of developing apps. It appears to be a lot more expensive and complicated than it actually is. The best advice that he said he could give was “to just do it, it’s not as bad as you think.”
- Build a team: Abel James pulled together a friend who was familiar with the technical side of app development and another who was an expert chef. Because there were three of them involved they could split the cost thereby mitigating the risk and minimizing the world load on one individual.
- Understand your goal: Mobile apps aren’t always a profitable project so the team decided instead of focusing on revenue that they would focus on lead generation opportunities. The app captures names and email addresses and puts potential customers into their sales funnel to buy products and services well above what they could ever charge for the download of the app.
“Creative Light Bulb With Cloud Of Colorful Application Icon” courtesy of KROMKRATHOG / www.freedigitalphotos.net