By Tina Venema
Elaine Bechthold has always loved math and problem solving, so it’s no surprise that throughout her career, she has naturally gravitated toward work where these skills are helpful -- administering commissions for sales people and being involved with the planning and budgeting aspects of sales and marketing.
When Bechthold and her husband purchased the family farm she was suddenly experiencing firsthand the very same things her clients experienced; fluctuating and seasonal income while the expenses of running the operation remained constant. Tricky waters to navigate.
Drawing from her experience working with sales people, entrepreneurs, and small businesses, Bechthold created a system for managing cash flow for the farm. The program worked so well she began sharing her system with others.
She knew that if she could automate her paper-based system it would make her life and the lives of her clients exponentially more efficient and easier. But how?
“I was totally overwhelmed - as an end-user I know my way around computers, but how to even begin to think about developing software was way out of my league, I had no idea where to begin” Bechthold says.
With the seed planted, but no background in software development or technology, Bechthold set out to find out how a small business owner builds software. Her first stop, the University of Waterloo, referred her to the Communitech Apps Factory.
With a large manual containing her years of experience and her cash flow system, Bechtholdmet with the Apps Factory team. “When I think about it now, I laugh.” says Bechthold “They told me to plan on an hour for the first meeting and I really thought there was no way they would be able to get through this binder, I didn’t even know if they would want to see it, but they asked to see it right away.”
Bechthold’s detailed manual helped give the Apps Factory team a clear understanding of what she was looking for and the wireframing process began. “I was absolutely stunned when I got the draft wireframes back. I thought whoever put this together has to be absolutely brilliant.” says Bechthold.
The team had refined and condensed her manual into a succinct, clear vision for her dream application. From that stage they were able to pull out the necessary features and functionalities to build a first prototype that Bechthold could test with her clients.
Bechthold carried out the prototyping phase with the Apps Factory as well, working with a team of creative student developers and seasoned professionals.
“They were extremely collaborative and inclusive, seeking my input on design and the philosophy behind my system, but they also offered invaluable suggestions on navigation and features that would be useful to my users. They took the lead on development, which I have no expertise in.”
Right on time and to budget, Money Measures 1.0 was born. The application has been developed for use on mobile devices as well as for the desktop and laptop - a personal finance manager wherever you are.
Bechthold could not be happier. “It was an evolution and great learning experience for me. I started out wanting to create an app that would make my life and my clients’ lives easier,” she said. “However, the application has morphed into something that anyone can use and that’s exciting. It will augment my business and be available for a broader audience.”
Money Measures 1.0 is currently undergoing testing in the marketplace. Bechthold plans to continue developing the tool using the Apps Factory‘s brokering service to connect with a suitable developer for the next stage. Her end goal is to have the application available in app stores Fall 2013.
Bechthold already has another app that she wants to build with the Apps Factory. “We will get this one off the ground first,” says Bechthold, “but my experience with the Apps Factory team has definitely made me very confident that even as a non-technical individual, I can turn my ideas into working products that will build my business.”