Soundproof your puppy

Today we have a Guest interview with Amy Smith who has developed an app targeting pet owners in regards to desensitizing their puppies and/or pigs in some cases. With the rise of smartphones and the world of apps basically untapped, we talked to Amy and discussed how she got started, the idea behind it, and how she’s doing now.

Amy, can you tell us a little bit about your app, Soundproof Your Puppy, and how that original idea came about? A little bit about it, if that’s okay.

Amy Smith: Sure. I came up with the idea for the app because in puppy school, especially I think around here on the northern beaches, I would get a lot of tradesmen come through my puppy school. The big thing that they all want to do is drive around with their puppy on the back of the ute/pickup and have that real workman’s dog, and they would want to take their puppies on site, and I would suggest to them that taking a puppy on a noisy building site could be really overwhelming for a young pup. I would go into about my fear of nail guns, for example, I’m very sensitized to nail guns, it makes me very stressed; if a nail gun goes off near me I will jump a mile. That wasn’t great when we renovated. I would suggest to these guys that one thing that I thought that they should do is take their phone to work and record a few sounds, and then come home and play those sounds to the pup; whether it was the power-saw, or the nail-gun, or jackhammers, whatever it was, to get the puppy conditioned and used to those sounds during a meal, or go to the tug of war, or whatever.

From there I just kept saying it, and I often say it out loud in puppy school that I thought that’d be a really good idea for an app.

Dan Rose: That was how it was created, hey?

Amy Smith: Yeah, and I sat on the idea for a long time. I sat on the idea for probably about 12 months before I did anything about it.

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Dan Rose: I know that I personally had CD’s or DVD’s that I purchased online for a similar type of thing, so it’s great that you’ve developed it into an app, and it’s mobile, and everywhere you go it’s there. It’s really awesome. How long did it take, do you reckon? 12 months and then you decided to start the process?

Amy Smith: 12 months I sat on the idea, I used to talk about it, and I’d talk about it to my family who had no dog backgrounds whatsoever, so they’d always try and tell me what they thought their great ideas would be for an app, which was a waste of time, I thought. I’ve got 3 boys, and after I had my 3rd son, I’m home a lot, because you’ve got all the time in the world when you’ve got a newborn and a toddler and a big-kid, so I just thought “I’ll do it. I’ll look into it, and I’ll give it a go.” It probably took me, I’d say about 10 months really, with everything from sitting down and writing all the text and the notes, and making sure that that read well, and having other trainers that were friends read over it, and really trying to make sure it was aimed at pet owners, not for people with a dog training education or qualifications or anything. Really aimed at pet owners so that it was something simple that they could do. All of that took a really long time, the graphics took a long time, the videos took a long time. I think I’d be better if I did it again because I learned so much along the way, but yeah, it was a long process.

Dan Rose: I’ll just take a couple of steps back, if that’s all right. You engaged a company to assist you with the development of this app?

Amy Smith: I did, we had some contacts through the family business. My family’s very affiliated in the IT industry, and this particular company does a lot of advising for companies on apps that they would like to develop or that they could introduce into their business, and that’s who I really pitched my idea to first. I had done some research about, was there anything out there? There was nothing specifically for puppy and dog training to do with sound desensitization, so once I was really confident that there was nothing out there, that’s when I sort of went to her and she advised me on things that would be good for the app, and things that make an app great.

Dan Rose: Awesome, so she was able to guide you through the whole process. The content that you came up with, obviously the content, and you feel that was probably the most time consuming?

Amy Smith: I think so. Getting the sounds was pretty full-on, too. Thinking about what sounds I wanted and having a good variety of different things, and since the app has come out, I’ve launched a whole new page of sounds in a major update, just based on feedback that I got from people, primarily trainers.

Dan Rose: I can just picture you running around with a sound recorder to all these different locations.

Amy Smith: A lot of the sounds, actually, I got a lot of them online, which is great.

Dan Rose: That’s a classic. You mentioned before that if you would do it again, you’d do things a little bit more different this time around?

Amy Smith: I think so, I think just having a better understanding. I would get all my work together, and I’d throw it all into the dropbox folder. By this point we were looking to start getting all the files and content to the developer, and we’d be missing 5 or 6 different graphic screens, and icon buttons. I think the graphics was … I’m no graphics designer, I had a graphics designer work on that; but that was a really challenging aspect, because every button press, every time the screen changes, that’s a whole screen that needs to be designed and put into the actual programming, so that was very complex as well.

Dan Rose: With that graphic designer, the initial company that you went to, did they have those branches, or did you have to find … ?

Amy Smith: They did, and I actually opted to work with somebody here in Australia, just a bit more casual. It’s got quite a casual, friendly feel. It’s very easy to use, it’s not complicated. The person that I worked with I actually know very well, and I knew that I’d get that from him. He’d done an app before, so for him it was a lot of work as well just getting organized with all those graphics and buttons and icons, and things like that.

Dan Rose: I personally outsource some work, some content, some video editing, to a company in the Philippines, etc; but yeah, you’re right. Sometimes I’ve either just got to finish it off and put my personal touch to it, or I send it to a local guy that I have a relationship with just to finish off that nice crisp feel, or personal touch, sometimes. Same with the video, did you do that with the video editing as well?

Amy Smith: I had one set of videos when the app first came out, and I was pretty quick to edit those and change them. I was very nervous originally to talk into a camera, and I had a lot of scrolling text, I had things like that on the screen. For me it just didn’t work well, and in the end I just bit the bullet and I did it, and it wasn’t as scary as it first seemed, and I did all that on my own actually, which you can probably tell in the app.

Dan Rose: Just going off subject for a little bit here, but one of the biggest things that I’m getting from my clients is that going in front of the camera and putting up a YouTube video or something like that, is scary. It’s one of those things, give it a go, you make a mistake, you make a mistake; that’s what editing is for. Don’t stress. One of the biggest hurdles is doing the first video. Once you’ve done the first one, people to be on a roll. I’m hoping for a later date to get some YouTube gurus, if you like, I like that term, on the podcast as well, and we’ll talk about creating videos, but the biggest challenge is getting in front of the camera.

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Amy Smith: Definitely. It’s funny, because since I did it, I make videos all the time. All the time, and I film in my puppy class, not myself, but I do lots of filming, I’m really confident with doing all the editing and throwing together these really cutesy little puppy videos, which are great for promoting my business, especially in the local area, because who doesn’t want to watch videos of puppies?

Dan Rose: I personally believe there’s two major channels, and one is being obviously the podcast, and two is the video side of things. They’re definitely two areas that increase business, and can bring you clients quite simply and quite easily with a one to two minute video on YouTube, etc, using a GoPro or an iPhone. That’s something that I’m really passionate, and for you guys at home, stay tuned in the next few weeks we’ll have some hints and tips on how to get some videos up, for sure.

All right, awesome. You’ve got the Soundproof Puppy app, it’s available on iTunes. Did you go through the process, or did you have the company go through the process of putting it on iTunes or on Google for downloads, etc?

Amy Smith: Actually both. I launched the app originally just on iTunes. I launched it in the September of last year, September 2013, and then I brought it out for Android in March, just primarily because it generated a lot of interest very quickly and had a lot of demand for people wanting it on the Android market. With the Apple version, it’s a very complicated process getting it onto the app store. I don’t ever use the Mac, so I am a PC user through and through. The lady that had helped me, Yvonne, who had helped me all the way with developing the app, she would help me upload it  to the Apple Store. Getting me to do all of that, I’m sure probably shortened her life. I double click, I don’t understand anything on a Mac, and that was really, really hard for me. I can now do it on my own because I’ve written my notes, and if I do an update I can actually do it on my own. That initial time of getting it up was really hard work, and she was very, very patient.

After the Android version, when I had that developed, I had that developed in India, and again through different contacts. The guys that look after that, they put it up for me on Google Play, and they do all the updates and everything, I just send them an email and I go “I need this changed.” And they go “Great, it’ll be up in 24 hours.” And I go “Sweet.”

That’s done.

Dan Rose: From a marketing point of view, do you feel that the app has definitely boosted your profile and also your business profile, therefore leading to more face to face clients?

Amy Smith: It’s certainly given me a name worldwide. People know who I am because of the app, outside of my little area here on the northern beaches. As far as pet owners go, for puppy school and stuff, I don’t know if it’s a major factor for them. I think it would definitely boost my profile a little bit because it’s just cool, it’s cool to have an app, let’s face it. It’s all over my car as well, with my car, signage for my business, so I think that that may also generate a bit of interest, “Oh look, there’s a puppy school business, oh and she’s got an app out, that’s interesting.” All my clients buy the app, which is great.

Yeah, I think it has. When I sit around on Facebook, which is a lot, and I see my app get recommended by other people all around the world in some of those big dog training forums, I just sit there and I still screenshot it, and I send it to my husband, or I send it to my mum, and I go “Check this out. This person in Spain just recommended my app to this person in Germany. How good’s that?” I sit there and I go “That’s cool, that’s just cool.”

Dan Rose: Yeah, for sure. We talk about different dog training methodology, whatever, nobody ever agreeing on certain things. It’s good to have one item, that doesn’t matter what methodology you have in regards to your training, you can use your product.

Amy Smith: There’s no two ways about it.

Dan Rose: That’s really awesome. The peak the other day, you had a little mini-peak? Can you tell us about that?

Amy Smith: That was a random phone call I got. I was in the car, in between puppy classes I think, going to get a coffee, and I got a phone call talking about puppy school, when I had availability, what I teach, what I cover, and then she said to me “Oh, there’s one other thing, it’s not really a puppy.” I sort of went “Oh, this is going to be a pig.” I just knew, because what other animal would go off to puppy school. Yeah, that was interesting experience. He’s actually still in my puppy class at the moment, but I did go and do two one-on-ones with them because I’ve never worked with a pig before, and

I wanted to get a bit of a feel for him and see what it was like training an animal like that. Not that different to a dog, really. He’s come along really well. It’s an interesting pet of choice, not one I would have.

Dan Rose: The app, the noises, the desensitization applied, pretty much is exactly the same?

Amy Smith: Yeah, yeah, the same way. I have a friend in the industry, she’s got a lot of animals that she trains, she’s got an animal talent agency and she owns a quite famous pig called Coco the pig, and she had advised me that one of the things you just had to do is to get the pig really confident and really well socialized, like if we were talking about a dog.

Using the app for that was great for various things, and easy, he comes into puppy class, he doesn’t care about the other dogs, he doesn’t care about the people. That’s not because of the app, they’ve done really well with him, but for an animal that is so preyed on by humans and by dogs, he’s just cool as a cucumber. He’s hilarious.

Dan Rose: If we could all have a little mini pig in our puppy school, that’d be a classic.

Amy Smith: I know.

Dan Rose: No, you’re right. Do you keep track of downloads and stuff like that from different countries?

Amy Smith: I do, yeah. I’ve got access to it, yeah.

Dan Rose: Do you find that Australia is primarily the major downloader, or the US?

Amy Smith: Australia and the US are probably on par, I think because the US is just so big in comparison to us. I get my data come through, and I get the little country codes, and sometimes I go “I don’t even know what that is.” I have to look it up. It definitely sells worldwide, but yeah, you’re absolutely spot on. I think the US even overtakes Australia in sales.

Dan Rose: That’s really interesting. Obviously being based here in Australia and getting a bit of media coverage and stuff like that here as well is going to increase the downloads or the purchase, which is great. It’s awesome to see that the guys in other countries are jumping on board and downloading it, because a lot of the time, Australia like you said is only a very small country, and cracking the US market or some of the larger countries can be quite difficult.

Amy Smith: Definitely.

Dan Rose: Yeah, cool. Would you do it again?

Amy Smith: Would I go through and develop it again if I had my time again?

Dan Rose: Yeah.

Amy Smith: Yes, definitely. Would I do another app? No because I have no ideas for one, and I couldn’t possibly think of anything else. I get a lot of people that contact me about it.

“How did you do it? What did you do?” It tends to be something a lot of people are quite keen to do for all sorts of different reasons. I get all sorts of different friends, friends from school, people that are interested in getting into doing an app or something.

Dan Rose: I know for a fact that quite a few of my friends have asked about “How do I do an app?”

And hence, obviously, they’d mention yourself, and I wanted to get you on the show.

They’re like “How do I do it? How do I do it?” Well, “Have you got an idea?” “No, not yet.”

Amy Smith: Not yet, but they want to make a million dollars.

Dan Rose: That’s exactly right. There are so many possibilities out there. I suppose what I want to do is, for pet business owners, think outside the square a little bit, and say “Hey, yes I’m doing puppy classes, I’m doing adult classes, I’m doing one-on-ones, but what is another way that I can branch out or make an income from a different source or be different, and do something different?” That’s certainly what you’ve done, and it’s really great. Any advice out there for anyone that has an original idea, if you like, and they want to run with starting their app?

Amy Smith: I read a quote once from an app developer, and I can’t remember, it was the person that wrote Angry Birds or something insane, one of the ones that’s just insane. It said that the best apps make people’s lives simpler. They take something that can be a little bit complicated and make it easy, and those are often the best apps. I think, towards the later stages when I was about to launch my app, I stopped sleeping at night, I got really stressed that someone else knew my idea and was going to launch it before me. I was getting very paranoid about the criticism I may get from the industry, and I get it, and I don’t care, it doesn’t phase me now, it’s not much. Things like that. I think if you do have an idea, don’t tell anyone, keep it secret, because people will run with ideas and that would be the worst thing. Just an idea that can make people’s lives simpler, those are the apps that become the great apps. I don’t know if there’s just an idea where you’re just going to go “Boom, I’m going to launch an app and make a million dollars.”

My expectations were quite different when I first launched the app, I thought “Oh, it’ll just start selling.” It’s a huge amount of work to get it out there, and get the ball rolling.

Dan Rose: We’re going to wrap things up a little bit now. Where can our viewers find the app, and also yourself?

Amy Smith: The app is available in the iTunes store, so if you look up Soundproof Puppy Training. It isn’t an app that’s available for iPad, however it will work on an iPad, so it’s an iPhone app. It’s also available on Google Play, same again if you just search up Soundproof Puppy Training. I monitor the Facebook page very closely. I respond and get back, particularly if there’s any technical issues and things like that, because of course when various updates happen with the iOS systems on iPhones and things, that often breaks my app, which can be frustrating, so I’ll need to go to work and go and launch an update or whatever. I don’t know that stuff all the time, I need people to come back to me with that, so the Facebook page is very active, and that’s Soundproof Puppy Training as well on Facebook. Yeah, that’s where I am.

Dan Rose: Cool, if it’s all right I’ll chuck a link to your Facebook page and the iTunes download in the description or the show notes, if that’s okay?

Amy Smith: Yeah, absolutely.

Dan Rose: No dramas, all right. Thank you very much for joining us. It’s been awesome to have you and find out a little bit more about the app business.

Amy Smith: Yeah, no, thank you.

Dan Rose: All righty, thanks a lot.

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