5 Lessons I Learned When I Created My App or SAAS: “Your product is not you, and you are not your product” with Sarah Kuhn and Mitch Russo
Your product is not you, and you are not your product. It’s so hard to not take things very personally when this is literally your lifes work. But at the end of the day you have to hear criticism and figure out how you can improve, but not let criticism be the demise of you. On the flip side, don’t be overly confident of praise.
As part of my series about the “5 Lessons I Learned When I Created My App or SAAS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Kuhn. Sarah is the Founder of Juna, a fitness and nutrition app for pregnancy and postpartum. Sarah is a Pre & Post-natal exercise specialist and has spent the last 10 years of her career building, launching and marketing digital fitness products like Beachbody on Demand. Sarah realized there was a serious gap in the market during her own path to motherhood and started on her mission to create the product she wished she had during pregnancy and beyond.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
To give you a little background on me, I have been in the digital fitness space for the last 9 years, I helped build and launch fitness platforms like MyYogaWorks and Beachbody on Demand and most recently was the head of marketing at Fitplan. Over the last 3 years (really 5 because my journey to pregnancy was not a straight path) I have been pregnant or postpartum and I quickly realized that there was no real fitness program or platform that I felt comfortable following. Information was often conflicting or outdated and as a result I found myself either nervous or just plain frustrated every time I worked out. In speaking to pregnant friends and acquaintances I realized I was not alone. I left my job at Fitplan in January and starting working on Juna, a fitness & nutrition app for Pregnant & Postpartum women.
I wanted to build a platform that could educate and empower women to feel their best during pregnancy and beyond. Juna is a subscriptions app with follow along workouts for each trimester of your pregnancy. It also has 3 separate postpartum programs that evolve with each stage of your postpartum journey. On the nutrition side we provide you weekly guidance based on what’s happening with your body and baby and then have a Nutrient to focus on, based on that development with recipes that integrate those nutrients.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
My husband and I had been kicking around the idea for a “Mom Fitness Product” for a while but there was nothing really that salient or no real clear product. His suggestion was to do a “The Skimm” for pregnancy fitness just to test the market before building out at an app. I quickly realized that my whole thesis was that this product needed to be an app. That’s where I spend time and that’s where I do rmy esearch. My computer is for work, my phone is for everything else. To actually test my thesis it needed to be an app. I started mapping out the product and content needs and the product becam very clear to me. So I guess it wasn’t an aha moment, it was just this slow burn of knowing there was a business there and just trying to figure out how to create it.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
My husband has always said I am made for entrepreneurship because I’m the kind of person that just does the work. I hope that’s true. I’m still early on in my entrepreneurship journey as it’s only been 10 months and in the market for 3.5 months. I think deep in my bones I know that this product is helping women during the most special period in their lives. Creating a product that these women love and want to use is my north star.
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Things today are great, I’m starting to see traction and the customers that I have love the app. We are adding more workouts to the app and we are also adding a Trying to Conceive program as well as an Active Mom program so that Juna spans the entire motherhood journey.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our company stands out because we are operating in a very unique space. Our mission is to help moms and moms to be thrive in their new role. Whether that’s taking care of themselves physically or if it’s educating them on the various aspects of pregnancy or motherhood. Having such a clear mission makes every business or product decision easy and also helps us stand out.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Setting clear boundaries between work and home life has been instrumental in managing the burnout. What I mean by clear boundaries is knowing when I am working, and when I am with my family. I put my phone down and do not work between the hours of 6 AM and 9 AM when I have to get my kids ready for their day. I also put my phone and computer down between the hours of 5:30 and 7:30. I know that if I have more to do I can get back on when they are down for the night. Before setting those clear boundaries I felt like I was failing on both ends and that was just stressing me out. I would be short with my son if I was trying to write an email and he was jumping on me, then I’d feel guilty later. Either way, it’s not always easy but I know that I’m better at work and I’m a better mom when I’m following through with the boundaries I’ve set.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Of course I’ll say my husband, because without his support none of this would have happeend. But also my business partners Jake & Hailee Repko have been invaluable. Jake & Hailee started working on the project with me because I needed help with production and foot photography and creative. I had worked with both of them at a previous job and they were having their third kid so I was hopeful this project would be interesting to them. Over the course of the last year they started as just doing paid contract work and they’ve evolved into business partners. I think the only person I talk to more than my husband on a daily basis is Jake. It’s great to have someone to expeirence the highs and lows of entrepreneurship with and to not feel so alone when you’re working out of your house everyday.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?
Haha. Ummmm. Let me be clear, we launched 3 months ago and I self funded this thing. So yes, every dollare we make is being poured back into the product or marketing but our community is not large. We have around 1,600 monthly active users. Our instagram community is ~11k and growing very quickly.
1. To grow our app user base we have partnered with some like minded brands and people to promote the app to their audience. This has worked well for us.
2. We’ve talked to our existing customers A LOT. Our goal is to have our paying subscribers want to refer this app to all of their pregnant friends. So knowing what will make them do that is critical.
3. We’re growing our instagram handle which is our primary sales channel by providing incredibly informative content about pregnancy and postpartum. All the content you see on our instagram will one day live in a feed in our app and the best part is that it will be more timely, i.e you won’t see the recipe for a “Due Date Shake” until you’re around 38,39 weeks.
What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?
Juna is a DTC subscription app (19.99/month, $54.99/quarterly or $107.99/yr) We monetize our users by funneling them into the app store to purchase the subscription. We considered an ad supported model but ultimately I believe in creating the best user experience and that’s really hard to do with a traditional ad model. At some point in the future we are looking to do branded content but we aren’t there yet.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know before one wants to start an app or a SAAS? Please share a story or an example for each.
1. You should have a busines model figured out. Not everyone can be an instagram or facebook, those are unicorns for a reason. Your business model might change but you should have an idea of how you are going to make money before you invest capital in your app. For me this was so clear bcause I had been working in subscription fitness companies. Whenever I was pitching anyone the idea or talking about the business I never even mentioned how we would make money. Every time someone would say “well how are you going to make money” and I would have this “oh duh, I’m so sorry I didn’t mention it, it’s a subscription model” moment.
2. If you can avoid it, don’t skimp on development. I know it’s so tempting to get your app developed overseas by someone that can do it at a fraction of the cost, but ultimately you want to make sure that your engineering is sound. This is the lifeblood of your company, if it’s not working or you have a critical bug being able to act fast is really important.
3. Your product is not you, and you are not your product. It’s so hard to not take things very personally when this is literally your lifes work. But at the end of the day you have to hear criticism and figure out how you can improve, but not let criticism be the demise of you. On the flip side, don’t be overly confident of praise.
4. Be flexible. 6 months ago the direction I thought Juna was going to go was SO different. Now that we’re in the market and talking to users the product is going in a different direction. If I had stuck to my original vision then I’d be building a product that my customers didn’t care about.
5. Know your KPI’s. As a business owner you need to understand your metrics and how to impact each lever. When you’re early stage that might mean just knowing where people are dropping off in the funnel and how long they are sticking around but you need to know the impact drivers to manage and improve them.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to figure out a way to get more people moving. The positive impact fitness has on me and my families lives has monumental. We’re living in a world where anxiety and stress is on the rise and for me the way to combat that is through exercise.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can find my business on instagram @juna.moms and you can find me @mrskuhnbot.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
About the author:
Mitch Russo started a software company in his garage, sold it for 8 figures and then went on to work directly with Tony Robbins and Chet Holmes to build a $25M business together. Mitch wrote a book called “The Invisible Organization — How Ingenious CEOs are Creating Thriving, Virtual Companies” and now his 2nd book called Power Tribes — “How Certification Can Explode Your Business.” Mitch helps SaaS company founders scale their own companies using his proprietary system. You can reach Mitch Directly via firstname.lastname@example.org
5 Lessons I Learned When I Created My App or SAAS: “Your product is not you, and you are not your… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.