Two years ago, Lily and Graham Wood didn’t own a single smart phone.
But Lily Wood knew the app market was a growing industry—and she suspected her husband had the technical skills to carve out a place in that industry. So she asked him if he could create apps.
The answer, it turns out, is a resounding yes. The Hopkins couple started a business called Wood Apps and recently leased office space on First Street North three blocks away from their home. Now work is rolling in from companies looking for someone to develop their apps.
“The ability to have work doesn’t make me nervous. Now it’s just the ability to keep up with all the projects,” Graham said.
At the time he started delving into apps, Graham was a software engineer in the aerospace industry creating “embedded software” for electronic flight bags, tablet-like devices that carry vital information and tools for flight crews. Before that, he’d worked on navigation systems.
Graham got an iPod Touch and started trying his hand at apps. App programming had a learning curve—but not an insurmountable one because the apps use a similar programming language to the one used by the electronic flight bags Graham programmed at his day job.
“The leap wasn’t very big for me,” he said.
From the day Lily thought of developing apps, the couple started writing down ideas for apps they wanted. Because they had a young child, they first thought of children’s apps, such as programs that would let kids hear farm animal noises or play with pots and pans.
“Unfortunately, nine out of 10 times, you go to the App Store and they’re already there,” Graham said.
Still, the apps they developed gave them valuable experience. Then they got a big break when they went to a wedding in San Francisco in April 2011. A friend who does interactive graphics mentioned that the market was big market for freelance app developers.
When the Woods returned home, Graham e-mailed the friend for some contacts and they started going to Meet-Ups every month to network. Graham had enough work to leave his full-time job in October.
“Once I had enough work, it was hectic. I thought, ‘Why not take the risk?’” he said.
Working through a Minneapolis branding company, they developed an app for Medtronic. They also did an app for BuzzFeed that rose to the 35th most-downloaded news app in the App Store. Most of the apps were commercial or enterprise apps, such as marketing apps sales people can use to show off products.
Business continues to boom. Lily does the marketing, accounting, public relations work and graphics for the company’s own apps. The couple plans to hire at least one full-time person to help with the workload.
But even with all the work, the couple’s new company allows them to spend more time together and with their children—3-year-old Sebastian and 7-week-old Charlie.
“There’s definitely much more family time,” Graham said.
Said Lily: “It’s great. We just had a working lunch without our newborn at Curry ‘N’ Noodles.”
Of course, now that they’re in the app-development business, the Woods family at last has smart phones in its home.
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