Posts tagged "green small business start up ethical business eco friendly business"

Creating a simple mobile App for my small business using AppMakr

I’d wanted to make a simple mobile App for my business for ages but was held back by the fact that it seemed expensive to have one made for me, and difficult to do it myself as I am not a developer. However, I came across AppMakr on the web and decided to have a go at creating an App myself. AppMakr is currently free to use to create Apps: you simply have to pay Apple $99 for a Developer’s license and Google Market $25 for a Google Market account. Your App is hosted directly on the Android Market or in the App Store and you do not have to pay a hosting fee which appears to be the case with (for example) Swebapps. Another free solution, which I haven’t tried yet but am going to experiment with, is Google’s App Inventor, which seems a bit more flexible than AppMakr in terms of what you can create.

Using AppMakr to Create an iPhone App
Creating an App is relatively straightforward using AppMakr. I began with an iPhone App. You will need to know the RSS URLs’ of your blog, Facebook Page or account, Twitter page or Youtube Channel and so on as AppMakr mainly uses RSS feeds to create your mobile App. You can usually find these feeds by logging into your accounts, although Twitter and Facebook have not made this particularly easy! You can add the feeds using the URLs and they will display straightaway on your demo App (shown to the right hand side of the page on an Android style phone). Customised artwork needs to be made to fit the mobile phone screens; I made a Splash screen and a header using graphics created for my website and I will probably create custom icons at some point.

Uploading to the Apple App Store
The tricky part is using your Apple Developer’s account and publishing your AppMakr first to your phone for testing (AdHoc) and then to the App Store. This took me a long time and a lot of fiddling about generating and uploading certificates, and I’m reasonably technically proficient. I can tell you that for some reason, the Safari browser does not work for generating one certificate (why? It’s the Apple browser and I was using a Mac!) and I had to switch to Chrome. My App is now Awaiting Review: Apple checks all Apps submitted to them. AppMakr shows you a graphical display telling you how likely it is to be published.

Creating and publishing an Android App
To create my App for Android I simply copied it over using AppMakr. One Facebook feed refused to work when I downloaded the App for testing, even though it worked in the demo and on the Apple App, so I removed it. I’ll probably add it in a future version (you can upload upgrades to your Apps once they are published). Uploading to Android Market was a joyfully easy process compared to dealing with Apple and took me about ten minutes. I haven’t had many downloads or ratings yet so am hoping for more!

AppMakr was very simple and userfriendly, my only criticism is that they do not have a simple way to add a URL page for your website onto their apps. My website works well in a mobile browser and I would have liked to be able to add it. I am currently looking at ways to add my products so that customers can shop easily online as well, this is a bit of a challenge but I am hoping to come up with a solution. For a blogger or anyone with interesting content to publish I think this is a very accessible way to create a mobile app.

You can download my App by scanning the QR Code with your Android phone using Barcode Scanner or any similar scanning device to install it straight away.

What do we learn from the Apprentice?

Watching the Apprentice’s final episode last night, I found myself feeling, as well as pleased for the winner, a certain unease. Yasmina Siadatan, the bright eyed twenty-something who ran her own restaurant, had clearly been very efficient at her tasks and performed well over the series. But I found myself questioning the meaning of ‘efficient’ in the context of business in the Apprentice. One of her tasks had been to create an event, cater for it and charge for admission. Alan Sugar, in the recap, stated that Yasmina had made an ‘unheard-of’ 200% profit on this event, partly explained by the fact that she sourced the cheapest ingredients for everything, including tuna for the cold canapes. Footage of this particular episode showed guests wincing at the taste, and making complaints, while Yasmina’s presentation was also questioned: the tuna was plonked on the plate without an attempt to make it look pretty. However, as Sir Alan Sugar said, profit was the most important thing here “You made a 200% profit, a few complaints don’t really matter”. Her task in the final episode involved making chocolate and turning it into a chocolate bar. Again, the taste of this was apparently pretty horrific (we have Jonathan Ross’ word for this, and he looks like a foodie to me). The boss’ reaction? “You put price first, then packaging, then marketing and then if the product isn’t right, you can always tweak it. That’s how corporations work” (I’m quoting from memory).

Why did this make me so uncomfortable? Firstly, I am disappointed that someone who runs a successful restaurant should be driven purely by profit considerations about the food they offer customers, rather than by a love of good food and sharing it with others. As a waitress in my teens, I was taught to ‘water down’ tuna in sandwiches by adding ultra-cheap mayonnaise to the mix so that customers’ sandwiches would cost less to produce. It’s this kind of ‘profit before all else’ attitude in catering that leads, eventually, to cutting too many corners and food poisoning. I’m also old fashioned enough to believe that the product and the customer are the most essential thing for sales: of course marketing, packaging (although this is often not eco friendly!) and price also count, but so does the intrinsic quality of the product itself, and good customer service: otherwise, how are you going to lure a customer back? They might eat in your restaurant once, but will they return?

The essence of the tasks in the Apprentice are to finish the task successfully, and make a profit: they’re not about staying in business long-term, or building up a relationship with customers. That, in the end, is what makes me feel that while the show teaches us about how to make sales, it does not necessary teach us about everything that makes a business work. This does not detract at all from Yasmina’s achievement, and I’m sure she will make a great Apprentice, but I think small ethical businesses like mine would do well to take some of the business lessons given by the show with a pinch of salt.

Green small business start-up

Small businesses are cynical about green initiatives according to this blog, which gives the statistic that over a quarter of small businesses think that the cost of green measures will be greater than the benefits of adopting them.

I am setting up a green business, an online sales portal aimed at parents who want to make eco-friendly choices for their children, and on the whole have found that taking green choices does not cost more. I am admittedly still at the start-up phase, and am just applying for funding with my shiny new business plan, but so far none of the measures I’ve adopted seem to be punitively expensive. I am planning to use an eco-friendly courier, an eco-friendly web designer and hosting and offset any unavoidable carbon emissions. Only offsetting and donating a percentage of costs to an environmental charity add extra cost ( and I’m doing that from choice, as I’m setting up an ethical business). Even ethical business banking (I’m looking at the Cooperative Bank at the moment, although I’m researching Smile and Triodos as well) need not cost more if you go for one which offers free business banking for the first two years.

I am going to write up my experiences and give some recommendations as I continue setting up shop – I hope other ethical entrepreneurs will be interested in seeing how I progress!