This fun and insightful conversation with Lacey Ellis, founder of Loom Gift Notes, is one you won’t want to miss. First, she comes from producing an app for the iPhone and Android to creating a plugin for WooCommerce. At the same time she is new to the WordPress/WooCommerce ecosystem and brings her own entrepreneurialship to the table as a non-tech founder of now, two products, sold on different marketplaces. And lastly, when was the last time you got a IRL note from something you ordered online?
Lacy Ellis, Founder of Loom Gift Notes
Mendel and Zach talk with Lacy about:
- Lacey’s introduction to the WooCommerce ecosystem [00:50]
- What is Loom Gift Notes? [01:45]
- The journey to a WooCommerce plugin [03:45]
- The experience of getting an extension into the WooCommerce marketplace [06:55]
- Differences of selling a plugin on the marketplace and an app on the Apple and Android marketplace [07:55]
- The plugin in a demo environment [14:40]
- From close source to open source [18:50]
- The next build, Apple/Android or WordPress? [21:05]
- Future planning with products [23:50]
- Getting customer feedback [25:06]
- Launching a product during a pandemic [27:35]
- Where Loom Gift Notes is going in the next 6 months [30:25]
Connect with Lacey
Thanks to Our Pod Friends
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Zach: Well, welcome back everybody to Do the Woo. Let's see. They have me back. Mendel, how did this happen?
Mendel: I don't know. All I can say is woo!
Zach: That seems appropriate. So, who are we talking to today, Mendel?
Mendel: Well, today on the show we have Lacey Ellis. She has a cool thing going on, this Loom Gift Notes. It's new to me. It's probably new to everybody on this show and we're excited to get into it. Lacey, tell us, I don't even know if you do the Woo, but tell us how you do the Woo.
Lacey’s introduction to the WooCommerce ecosystem [00:50]
Lacey: Well, how I do the Woo? I am just recently even learned what the Woo is. I am so new to the Woo. We recently launched this plugin, have an itty-bitty tiny little startup, and we launched this plugin called gift notes for WordPress and e-commerce, and that's how I do it. Thankfully, I have brilliant developers that I work with. I'm more on the design and the creative side and the user experience and all the design piece of it, but this is how I recently got introduced to the whole WooCommerce ecosystem. I'm excited to be a newbie here and to learn and to meet you guys and to be a part of it. So yeah, that's my quick little background.
What is Loom Gift Notes? [01:45]
Mendel: That's cool. So, tell us a little bit about this $99 a year plugin. It must do something really special for 99 bucks a year.
Lacey: It does. So, it actually allows you to give your customers an option to create a gift note whenever they're purchasing gifts. A lot of shop owners, I think, are probably getting requests, at least that's what we're hearing from people that a lot of times when someone purchases a gift, they want some kind of a little personalized note that goes along with it, because of course, they're not there to actually write a note in person or to wrap it and make it look special. I'm sure a lot of shop owners are already doing some kind of gift wrapping and stuff like that, but this is really cool because it saves you time. It allows them to say, "Yes, add a gift note," and it opens up our software. And so, they can pick from all kinds of different occasions. Say, it's a birthday, for example, and you want to add a little note. You want to have a happy birthday message and you can even add a photo.
So if you have a cool photo, say, you're sending it to your mom, you might be sending it to other family members and you have a fun photo you want to add, you can just totally personalize it. It's a little five by seven card and the shop owner can just print it out. We even have great recommendations on card stock and printers, but the best part is that you can price it at whatever you would like. So we recommend 4.99 a card, but it actually creates an extra little revenue stream for you as a shop owner and it saves you time because you're not having to handwrite a personal note. You can actually allow your customer to create their own gift note, and then you just print it out for them.
Mendel: Okay. So just to clarify, this is not the paperless post of gift notes. This is you producing as a shop owner this gift note and attaching it with the physical product that you're shipping out.
The journey to a WooCommerce plugin [03:45]
Mendel: It's super interesting. I look at the site and I see this is the card stock and this is the printer. It's kind of a two-step plugin, right? Step one is actually putting it on the website. Step two is figuring out how to produce these things as a new physical product to add on to the existing product. So before I let Zach step in and ask some questions, talk a little bit more, I want to know if you could tell us about your journey from basically the womb all the way to this plugin, how you got here. Feel free to skip parts in between. Otherwise, it might be a very long podcast.
Lacey: Yeah, we might need to skip if few pieces of that story, but it is interesting. I would like to tell you guys a little bit about how I came to learn about this wonderful thing called WooCommerce. I actually started an app about eight years ago that helps parents capture quotes and conversations with their children. It's called LittleHoots and it essentially does what our gift notes generator does. It takes words and images and puts them all together to create an end product. Really, that idea all came from the fact that 10 years prior to that, I worked in an advertising agency as an art director and a designer. So my mindset is problem-solving and creative problem-solving specifically. So when my son started saying hilarious things at the age of three, I'm like, "Why is there not an app where I can just type this in and it auto designs, and it saves to my camera roll?" So, that was my first product. That's what I created with LittleHoots.
And then, along that journey, I was introduced to an investor who had a gift box company called Lemon Drop Gifts. She loved what we were doing with LittleHoots and said, "Couldn't we repurpose this so that it actually creates a gift note instead of a memory?" And I said, "Yeah, that's brilliant." So, that's really how gift notes was born about three, four years ago. We created it for her site specifically and she uses it at Lemon Drop Gifts. And then we realized as we were developing that that, "Man, this is something a lot of people really need." We had some really cool advisors tell us that they thought WordPress and specifically WooCommerce would be a good place to introduce this into the world to allow people who are on those platforms to start using it as a plugin on their sites. So, that's how we got from the whole memory keeping space into this gift note space and specifically on WordPress and WooCommerce, because we know there's just so many people using this, that why not? Why not just offer it up and see how it goes?
The experience of getting an extension into the WooCommerce marketplace [06:55]
Zach: Now, they recently made the process of becoming a vendor selling a plugin on the WooCommerce marketplace a lot easier than it used to be. I'm just curious how that experience was for you getting your plugin listed.
Lacey: Yeah, it was fairly easy. There was a Slack channel that we were invited to and it was really a collaboration between me and my development team that I work with. And so, part of it, I was able to figure out. There were a few pieces that started to go over my head like, "I don't know exactly what they're talking about here." So I need to bring in Matt, who I work with. He's my developer. So between the two of us, we were able to figure it out pretty easily and get everything set up. It was nice. Yeah, it was a good process.
Zach: Yeah. You had fortuitous timing because before that, the marketplace was a little more closed. It was harder to get in.
Lacey: Oh, interesting. I didn't know that.
Zach: Very fortuitous timing.
Differences of selling a plugin on the marketplace and an app on the Apple and Android marketplace [07:55]
Mendel: Yeah. So, it's interesting, you're in two marketplace and one of the marketplaces is becoming notorious, the Apple App Store. And then the WooCommerce marketplaces, I would say it's not yet mature. It's still growing. It's still expanding. It's still trying to find the voice within the entire ecosystem of marketplaces and freemium and premium and all that stuff. So if you could talk about the difference between the two marketplaces and your experience, and then also maybe just some of the surprising things that you didn't expect. Maybe it's around billing and bookkeeping, or maybe it's around selling on your site versus... I don't know if you sell anything direct-to-consumer or not, but talk a little bit about those differences because I think it's an interesting thing to be involved in both marketplaces at the same time.
Lacey: Yeah, that's a good question. So, the first thing that I ran into was the business model and pricing with gift notes. Just to back up a little bit, something I learned was LittleHoots, so we're available for both Android and iPhone, so we're at Google Play and iTunes. Those are different in and of themselves, right? But over time, we learned we were free for a long time. And then we had to push it to subscription model for the LittleHoots product. And so, we went with this whole free trial sort of business model. It made a lot of sense to me. I don't think people really want to pay until they've had a chance to use it, right? So it's worked really well for us on the LittleHoots side. We switched about two and a half years ago.
So over there, people can do free trial. We never sneakily, this is what we call it, sneakily, we'd never sneakily charge them if they forget to cancel their subscription on the LittleHoots side. We do that very intentionally and it's working well. I mean, it's just one of my convictions as the owner. I don't want to go that route. And so, that's been great because people can try it. They can create memories. They can then decide if they want to go ahead and push it to subscription and then they can go ahead and subscribe to the app. However, when we launched the gift notes, I had the same idea in mind. I really wanted people, and I'd love to get feedback on this because this is kind of just going off of a few people we asked and are gut feel, but I really wanted a way for people to try it for free first. And then we could have a subscription model set up so that it could just be a monthly fee versus a yearly annual deal.
However, that wasn't available to us when we set it up through WooCommerce yet. They've told us that it's in the works and they're getting the infrastructure set up so that we can do some kind of a free trial that then converts over to subscription. I'm really looking forward to that because I feel like just from a consumer standpoint, if I were on the other end, I would want an opportunity to use it, to ask questions, and then decide if I want to go ahead and pay monthly or annually.
Mendel: Yeah, it's interesting. A lot of people do this in the regular app repository, right? They put a non-premium plugin up there and then they have a push to purchase. But when you list with the WooCommerce marketplace, I'm not familiar, do they restrict you from selling anywhere else? Do you have to then only sell on the WooCommerce marketplace?
Lacey: I don't think so. I didn't see anything that indicated that, so not to my knowledge. That is the only place where we're selling it right now. But yeah, I didn't see any that as in went through the process, so I don't think so.
Mendel: Yeah. By the way, anybody that's listening, at the end, Lacey is going to give her, hopefully, maybe a Twitter or an email or something like that. So hit her up and give her your opinion on whether how to do free trials. Fools to ask about this sort of thing... Zach's looking at me. You can't see it, listeners. He's looking at me like, "You call me a fool?" Anyway. So yeah, hit Lacey up. Let her know your thoughts because I mean, it's like an age old question. Do you trial it? Do you just have really great social proof and make sure that people know what's up before they purchased? These are age old questions. Yeah. So you went through this freemium model or I guess trial model with the Apple App Store. You wanted to do the same thing with WooCommerce. It is interesting that maybe that's not a request they get a lot. I don't know. But you coming from another app store had some additional insider, some sort of additional requirements for your product, so that's pretty cool.
Lacey: Yeah. It's also been really interesting so far because I'm getting questions about the way the product works. That seem to be pretty consistent. Two consistent questions, actually. People would love to be able to upload their own designs, which makes a ton of sense to me. And so, we're definitely putting that on the roadmap for future, because right now, we've provided designs for different occasions, like happy birthday, or we have these generic categories, like birthday, love, which could incorporate anniversaries and all kinds and stuff and then some other generic categories. So, that's interesting. And then language, different languages, we need to make it available in other languages besides English. So, those are the two major things that I'm hearing so far, but I'm loving this process of learning and I'd love to hear from people too, if they look at it and they go, "Eh, I really wish it would do X, Y, Z." Man, I'd love to have that feedback too, because I want to make it useful for everyone.
The plugin in a demo environment [14:40]
Zach: That's awesome. So going back to the thought of possibly offering a trial of some sort, it seems like the real magic is in the gift message builder experience, building that gift message and being able to print that. I think for most store owners, just being able to trial that even outside of the plugin in a demo environment would be more than enough to get a good feel for whether or not it would be a good fit for their store.
Lacey: I guess I can do that. Yeah. We do have a little demo that you can click through on our website and just brings up the demo and you can go through it to really going to feel for how to use it, but I think what you're saying is if they could actually push it live on their store maybe, and just see how it works. Is that what you're saying?
Zach: I think both work. I mean, I'm looking at the SDK demo here and it looks like it's got the full experience. I mean, that should be enough for most store owners to decide if this is a good fit for them or not.
Zach: So being an agency owner that works with store owners pretty exclusively, a lot of times, I've heard both sides of the conversation of whether or not monthly subscriptions or annual fees are better. The feedback that I hear the most frequently about monthly subscriptions is that generally while they're smaller, they end up being larger over the course of the 12-month period. So it's really easy to say, "I'm going to spend $20 a month on this app that I'm going to use with my store," and then not realize that that $20 a month is really coming out to $240 a year. That's the biggest piece of feedback. There's an entire ecosystem of people that build products that way in other e-commerce platforms, so I don't think that it's a horrible way to go either. Two sides to the coin there on whether or not it's a good thing or a bad thing.
BobWP: Hey BobWP here and I’d like to take a moment to thank to of our Pod Friends for their support of Do the Woo.
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And now let's head back to the show.
From close source to open source [18:50]
Mendel: I guess the other thing that I wonder about is the open source versus close source and the development process and the development specialty that you have to have when you're developing for WordPress. Did you have any moments, where you thought, "Wow, this is a lot different," or "This is interesting." When you were developing the plugin now, of course, you're not coding things. You said that you're a non-technical founder and you have people working for you. So, how is that process compared to the Apple or Android process?
Lacey: I definitely know my developers could speak to this more, but I certainly heard as we were working through, I work pretty closely with them because I design the interfaces that they use and test and iterate, it was different for sure. They are just getting into the full WordPress, WooCommerce development space because they did create our app for the Apple Store, as well as Android. So, they were figuring it out as they went. There were a few things that were confusing, I know. I wish I could remember what they were. It just took us a little while the figure them out. We had to really rely on that Slack channel that they gave us, which was hugely helpful. But I don't remember anything being so confusing that we couldn't get through it.
There was a way to ask questions. There were a few places I remember where we got stuck. I had to set up several things. There was some vocabulary that I didn't understand as the non-technical founder. And so, I had to bounce that off my developers and they were like, "Well, I don't know. Let me try to figure this out." So it was certainly different. It was, but it wasn't anything we couldn't figure out. We were able to repurpose it fairly easily. I think it wasn't more work than what I expected it to be, if that answers your question.
The next build, Apple/Android or WordPress? [21:05]
Mendel: Yeah. So I guess in the future, clearly you're not going to stop at Loom because you've been building things for a while. So, do you think if you had the choice to build within the Apple, the Android or the WordPress ecosystem, where do you think you would put your effort in the future on your next product?
Lacey: I think that really depends on what the product is specifically. So it was interesting to build a product that was direct-to-consumer and go down that path and then switch and build a product that's B2B, because this is a very different following. In a lot of ways, I like B2B better because it takes a lot of capital to go direct-to-consumer. And so, I'm not talking so much at this point about developing the product itself. I'm just talking about the strategy and marketing behind taking a new product out to an audience, right? I'm still struggling with it on the B2B side, just like we struggled with it on the direct-to-consumer side, because we're not extremely well funded. I'm not actively trying to raise money. We're just trying to bootstrap this right now and prove that it works.
So, I'm at this point where I'm brand new to the B2B world, I'm brand new to WooCommerce and WordPress, but I know that there's this very specific group of people, like you guys, who are developing on this platform all the time. So I'm trying to figure out what's the best way to get some awareness, right? I'm sure like everybody in my position is in the exact same way. It's just, how do you do it? How do you get out there? I've done it over here in direct-to-consumer world and we had a lot of ways were really successful for us, like PR efforts and it was dead way different, right? Because if you think about memory keeping, our number one audience was moms. And so, we were out talking to mommy bloggers and doing stuff like that to get the word out and create awareness.
Now, I'm over here in this different space, where I'm looking for both the shop owners and the developers who specifically are selling gifts and I'm needing them to know that I exist, right? So I'm just trying to find creative ways to do that and to get in front of them so that they know this plugin even exists. And then once I get in front of them and if I can get them to start using it, my next most valuable thing is to start to get feedback because I think the product's fantastic. I think we've done a really good job with it, but I know there are still a few things that are going to need to be tweaked so that it can be super valuable for folks.
Mendel: Yeah. Discovery is important. Absolutely. Go ahead, Zach.
Future planning with products [23:50]
Zach: Oh, yeah. Yeah. One of the things that I'm seeing is that it looks like some of the future updates are new designs as well in general, new design templates, which I think that really is a great way to expand the service and make it even more valuable to store owners. Future planning is just so much fun with products like this.
Lacey: Yeah. I want to know what people want, right? Because when I developed it, I was just trying to cover off on all the different occasions that you could possibly have when somebody gifts. If you think of all the holidays, all of the other gifting occasions that crop up throughout the year, we're having to cover off on all that with designs. But I think maybe I'm starting to learn just from feedback I'm getting through purchases and questions that are coming into the site. People have very specific aesthetics as it relates to their particular shops. I'm sure you guys know this, just working with store owners, I need a dashboard, I think. I need a way for them to get in and upload their own designs and really make it their own. I think that's going to be really interesting.
Getting customer feedback [25:06]
Lacey: I also think it's going to be interesting to start getting some feedback on the printing itself. Mendel, you are getting on that a little bit at the beginning. We found the very best paper stock that we think reproduces, especially for photographs, and we have recommendations on printers, but I'm really interested because I've heard from a lot of people they already have colored printers for other purposes. No matter the size of their shops, if they're small, medium, large size, they have some kind of printing out already. So I'm really interested to even hear back from the people who purchased the plugin and started using it. How is that printing process going? I'm nervous about the printing process, to be honest with you, because I've done it. We've created it. We've done our own testing and it's working well for us, but I'm super excited to start getting some feedback from people that are actually using the plugin and actually printing these things and selling them. I haven't heard anything yet, so I don't know if that's good or bad.
Mendel: Yeah, it's interesting. So, what does your feedback process look like? How do you collect that feedback or how do you ask for the feedback?
Lacey: That's a really good question. I wanted to talk about that a little bit because I don't always know actually who is purchasing the plugin. That is one area that I would like to change. Maybe it's a privacy thing. I'm guessing it is. Because it's similar when we sell the app over on the LittleHoots side. I don't get any of that information from Apple and I'm sure that's a privacy thing. When someone registers with the app, I get their email address so I can reach out to them. However, I've sold several plugins and I don't know who it is unless they reach out to me through my website.
Several people have, because they have questions and I get to know them. I save their email and I just touch base with them, and I learn a lot that way, but there's been a lot of people that have purchased the plugin and I don't know who they are. That's a little bit of a point of frustration for me because I really want to talk to them and make sure that they're happy or see if there's anything I can do. I know they can reach out. I think they can reach out actually directly through WooCommerce to me. And then almost everybody that's wanting to has found the site and they have reached out.
Mendel: That's cool. Yeah, I think collecting feedback is hard, especially when you're in a marketplace.
Launching a product during a pandemic [27:35]
Mendel: It makes sense that you're still searching for that. If you're technical, there's certain ways to do it. If you're a product, there's certain ways to do it. If you're a service, there's certain ways to do it. So, understanding that is probably key. I guess the other thing I'm curious about is it comes as no surprise to anybody at this point that there's a pandemic going on right now and that a lot of people aren't hanging out in the spaces that they normally hang out physically. And so, I'm curious what your experience has been launching a product during the pandemic and looking for those marketing avenues and getting in touch with those businesses in a time when we're completely virtual or at least most people are completely virtual.
Lacey: Well, honestly, if anything, I think it's helped a little bit because people are really willing to talk to me, jump on a Zoom call, give me feedback. It's been kind of hard because I was hoping to find some groups that I could get plugged into, and I have. I have so far. Bob has been extremely helpful. Actually, he's the first person who was willing to talk to me and just he was so kind to just be on a Zoom call with me for an hour and just really talk to me about this community. He obviously loves it, because he just went on and on about all the wonderful people. He's given me a lot of insight, honestly, because I just do this as I have time and I try to figure it out as much time as I possibly have.
I'm your classic entrepreneur. I'm just bootstrapping it, just trying to figure it out, and I think Bob may have sense that and he was just so kind to tell me about some people. I haven't even had time to reach out to all the people that were on the list. Post Status, I joined that to try to get familiar with people. I tried to get on there as much as I can to weigh in and just get to know the community a little bit better, right? So I don't know that, back to your question, if the pandemic has really impacted it that much. I probably would have been doing these things virtually anyway since a lot of people are just spread out all over the country. I happen to be located in Kansas City, Missouri. I don't even know where you guys are. How cool is that, that we're having this conversation right now and we're all over the place? So I don't think that it's hurt anything. I think that if anything, maybe it's given me a little bit more dedicated time to focus on it.
Where Loom Gift Notes is going in the next 6 months [30:25]
Mendel: Yeah. Where are you taking this product? What can people expect? Before we get your details on how to catch up with you, how to contact you, where's this thing going? What can people expect from you in the next six months? Why should they be excited? I mean, it's a cool product, but why should they be excited in the next six months? What are you going to be up to?
Lacey: Well, we're going to find a way to translate it into different languages and we're going to find a way to create a dashboard so that you can get on there and actually put your own designs in those spaces on the layouts. So, I think that'll be really cool when people can really start to customize these so they're not just the templates that we provide you. So it really, to your customer, becomes a huge value add because you can really give them exactly what they want. Yeah, it's a new revenue stream. I mean, if I were a shop owner, especially if I were selling gifts, I think I might get most excited about that because, hey, why not? Why not make an extra $5 every time somebody purchases a gift, right?
Mendel: That's right. You know what, I should just start selling only these cards, right? That would be super amazing.
Lacey: You're good. You're good.
Mendel: I'd be like, "Hey, don't buy anything for me, just buy a gift card and I'll mail it to you for five bucks." I feel good about that. It sounds shady, but they know what they're buying, right?
Lacey: There you go.
Zach: Technically, from what I'm seeing, you could do that. Once the custom design feature is out, you could start a greeting card company with this easily.
Mendel: I guess I just got to go buy the software now. So, there you have it, everybody.
Lacey: There you have it.
Zach: Mendel's WordPress themed gift cards.
Mendel: That's right. Gift card. Or you know what would be epic is I could have a gift card product and then have a gift card add on for the gift card, right?
Zach: So you can buy a gift card to buy gift cards with?
Mendel: No, no, no, you could buy a gift card for the gift card. So you could say, "This is from me," and then the gift card goes to somebody. I've got an idea. Okay. I've got an idea. New shop is called Gift Card Inception.
Lacey, it has been an epic pleasure to hear about your journey through the WordPress ecosystem. I think in some ways, it's pretty eye opening to some people, hearing about what it takes to build a product on WordPress for the first time and seeing that you look at it in a different away, it seems. "This is a new product and this is the best place that I have to launch the product and build something." And so, super awesome. We're excited to see you hanging out around the virtual water cooler a little bit more. So, let people know where to send you their pricing opinions, because the WordPress community has a lot of opinions. Where can they get ahold of you?
Connect with Lacey
Lacey: Oh, man, all over the place. So, we have a website and it's just called loomgiftnotes.com. You can learn all about us there. You can reach out through the site. I'm on Twitter @LoomGiftNotes. I'm on Facebook @LoomGiftNotes. I'm on LinkedIn. You can find me there, Lacey, Loom and LittleHoots founder and CEO. So, I'm everywhere. Wherever you would like to reach out, please do. I would love to hear from people.
Mendel: Cool. And if you're an existing customer, also reach out. Tell Lacey what you think. Because she wants find you.
Mendel: Do that. Don't do it through your credit card company. Do it through a direct message on Twitter or something like that.
Lacey: Yes, I want to talk to people.
Zach: Yeah. You can be the first member of the Loom customer advisory board.
Zach: All you have to do is send a message to Lacey.
Mendel: That's right. Yeah. We're virtual round table people. Well, Lacey, it's been a pleasure. Have a great afternoon.
Lacey: You too. Thank you. Thank you so much.
BobWP: Hey everyone, thanks again for tuning in to today's show. I would like to give one more shoutout to our two Pod friends. Need to manage multiple websites, do check out the Hub at GoDaddy Pro . And stay on top of both team and client changes on any Woo shop with WPActivityLog.com.
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