Nothing in life–or business–is free, but it can be cheap.
Andre DeBarros, a senior finance major, and alumni Gabe Medina, ’14, co-owners of Schoolflow, a homework organization app, explained their frugal startup to 27 prospective entrepreneurs at the BlackStone LaunchPad Feb. 12.
Schoolflow uses an application-programming interface, or API, to connect with the online learning platform Canvas.
Canvas’s API allows Schoolflow to access certain information, like assignments and their due dates, after a user authenticates their Canvas account. Schoolflow organizes these assignments and sends notifications to the user when an assignment is nearing its due date or when it is graded.
When startup costs seemed daunting, the pair found several ways to cut costs and promote business growth.
“We probably spent less than $500 in the first three months of Schoolflow,” Medina said. “And he [DeBarros] thought we were splurging.”
Medina and DeBarros credited free softwares, including Trello, Harvest and Slack, with streamlining the organization and task assignment for their business. Their promotional video cost $30, $5 of which paid a Fiverr user for his voice-over.
“As far as marketing, we spent a lot of time on social media promoting in college groups,” DeBarros said. “We experimented with Facebook ads, but it ended up costing us $1 per new user of the app, which was too much cost per user for a free app.”
Another way Medina and DeBarros cut costs was to conduct hundreds of interviews prior to establishing the app.
“That way there was no wasted development time,” DeBarros said. “Everything you make is already wanted by someone.”
Medina and DeBarros also spent a lot of time forming business relationships through pitch competitions and with professors, which allowed them to recently expand Schoolflow to University of Florida.
“There are a lot of free resources out there to prospective entrepreneurs,” said Scarletta Thomas, the speaking coordinator and operations administrator at the BlackStone LaunchPad. “The LaunchPad is a free resource. You have to do a lot of research to find these things, and they did.”
Jerome McLeod, a junior integrative business major, said he had not realized how easy starting a business could be.
“Getting capital isn’t as hard as it may seem, and you can get it as long as you remain dedicated,” he said. “I want to be an entrepreneur myself, and I am glad I learned how you can change and pivot your ideas and find one that’s going to go somewhere without spending a lot of money.”
Marcus Elestin, a junior finance major, plans to start taking advantage of resources he learned about at the event.
“I just saw today how tangible the goal is,” he said. “You can achieve becoming an entrepreneur just by taking advantage of all the free resources out there.”
Schoolflow is used by approximately eight percent of iOS users at UCF. Schoolflow expects the Android app will be available for download by the end of the semester.