What to Do If You Can’t Afford to Build Your App Idea

This post originally appeared on blog.startupdigest.com.

The following is a guest post by ChopDawg.com, an award-winning app development company that has worked with over 180+ startups and companies from all around the globe, helping them bring their web apps, mobile apps, wearable apps and software ideas to life.

Follow ChopDawg.com on Twitter at @ChopDawgStudios.


I’ve written at great length about the costs of building an app.

Here’s the thing: you don’t have to create a full app right away.

No matter whether you are hiring a freelancer, hiring an employee, or working with an agency, it comes down to this honest question that you need to ask yourself:

What is your necessary minimum budget for your idea to gain traction as a product? Going through this checklist will help you get to that answer:

1. You need to create a business plan.
2. What are you comfortable with investing?
3. Determine the minimum and maximum time frame you are ready to have your app built.
4. Identify and then validate that your targeted audience exists.
5. Come up with a one-pager to explain your concept to your proposed audience. See the response.
6. What is the absolute minimum that you need to do to communicate your vision to an audience?
7. What is your distribution strategy? How will your audience find your app?
8. Can you start with a prototype or do you need a minimum viable product (MVP)?

In some ways, even if you can afford to build a fully functioning app, make sure that you don’t blow money you don’t need to blow.

One of the biggest problems that can happen when hiring someone is that there is too much room for interpretation in the scope of work. Not specifying the exact details of what the project’s production cycle needs to look like can lead to something that I call scope creep.

You shouldn’t be blowing a ton of money to validate whether an idea works, period. But you have alternatives.

Let’s clear this up – there’s a big difference between an MVP and a prototype.

To highlight the difference front and center, we add the word non-functioning to our prototype services.

When some agencies (especially offshore) offer to make you a “prototype,” what they are mostly selling is a crappy, underperforming product. You see, you can only program something in two ways. Correctly, or poorly. When coded poorly, it means if your app does take off in attracting users, you’ll have a userbase that craters quickly. Also, when your app has a shoddy codebase, often the app will need to be rebuilt from the ground up anyway if you want to make something that is ready for the market. That is why we and the best of the industry focus on non-functioning prototypes for pre-market apps.

Non-functioning” is the finalized interactive design that can work on any device, and best of all, once you can secure funding, it’ll be much easy to code it into a working app. It also mitigates your risk, as a non-functioning prototype also allows you to test out app development firms such as us, to ensure you are the right fit before making a much more significant investment.

An MVP, on the other hand, is 100% what your final product should be at a minimum. The MVP needs to follow all best practices when it comes to usability – just because it’s an early incarnation of your vision doesn’t mean that it can be shoddily put together. An MVP needs to be easy to build on when you will eventually want to add new features. When we build MVPs for our clients, we are creating the framework for the app that can carry over to each version. It’s fully-functional, and it can support real users on day one.

So what should you do?

The best thing you can do for yourself is to become more informed about your options. Prototypes have the benefit of being lower in costs when investing early on while allowing you to pick up programming at a later date. MVPs are a complete, entry-level (but market-ready) product to your audience that lets you earn real revenue from the get-go. However, they are more expensive to produce in the short-term.

Talk to as many experts as you can that have been through the process of turning their idea into a reality. We offer free consultations, so if you want to talk about your idea so that you can make a more informed call on what to do next, let us know. I would suggest that you take a look at this page to see how you can validate your product idea in steps. You may not need to invest as much as you think.

1. If you aren’t ready to jump to turning your idea into a product quite yet, I’m offering free 1:1 app idea whiteboard sessions!

2. And if you would like to know more about non-functioning prototypes and MVPs, here you go!

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Real Talk: How Great Products Are Born

This post originally appeared on blog.startupdigest.com.

The following is a guest post by ChopDawg.com, an award-winning app development company that has worked with over 180+ startups and companies from all around the globe, helping them bring their web apps, mobile apps, wearable apps and software ideas to life.

Follow ChopDawg.com on Twitter at @ChopDawgStudios.


The best companies and products aren’t born the same way a strike of lightning hits the evening sky.

No, it isn’t as dramatic, or as magical as Hollywood, newspapers, and the overall media has made an entrepreneur’s journey seem to be.

Instead, the best ideas are born from a problem that you needed to solve, that you couldn’t get out of your head.

You soon realize, hey, perhaps others are facing the same challenges as you, and now you have the solution that can solve it.

Great ideas are born from a need, not from sitting around, waiting until that light bulb on top of your head turns on.

This video breaks down the process of what goes into finding a great idea for an app, company, or product. We also go into detail on this video about the importance of not only finding a great idea with an audience but understanding the value proposition of your idea to that audience. We also dive deep in this video on how to talk, find, and sell to your audience on your great idea, making your idea last into something special.

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Don’t Let Nostalgia Sabotage Your Business

This post originally appeared on blog.startupdigest.com.

The following is a guest post by ChopDawg.com, an award-winning app development company that has worked with over 180+ startups and companies from all around the globe, helping them bring their web apps, mobile apps, wearable apps and software ideas to life.

Follow ChopDawg.com on Twitter at @ChopDawgStudios.


Hey, just wanted to follow up on my previous message. Would love to connect when you have a moment

I had tried for days to get this guy to respond to me.

We had exchanged some emails early on; then he went quiet which was holding up a business deal I was particularly interested in pursuing.

Out of frustration, I sent a follow up in a text message as well.

The result?

I got a text back in about 90 seconds!

A tool that 5-10 years ago would have been an unthinkable method for conducting business conversation has become the best way to reach certain people and for some even their preferred method of communication.

The business landscape has changed so much of the last couple of decades, and the pace isn’t slowing down.

However, so many businesses are still stuck in the mindset of how they are supposed to do things based on how they were always done.

They are more insistent on holding that perfect idea in their head than they are in embracing reality.

Seth Godin talks about this on his blog when he discusses physical books.

He talks about how many of us have this nostalgic draw to hardcover books lining the shelves of our homes on display for all to see.

Row after row of possibility looking back at us on bookstore shelves. And then along came Kindle, shattering our beautiful idea and turning an industry on its head.

Seth talks about people who resist embracing when medium changes versus figuring out how to adapt to it and benefit from it.

Are you still listing a phone number for people to call when you know that you will only check those voicemails once a week (because you hate them) when someone can get a response via email in an hour or less?

Maybe you are still using an old system of index cards or paper binders and catalogs in your business because that is how mom or dad ran it.

You can keep a few for mementos, but you can save a lot of time by switching to more current and efficient means.

What nostalgic idea do you need to put to rest to save money or time in your business?

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Defying Sticky – It Should Be Easy to Leave

This post originally appeared on blog.startupdigest.com.

The following is a guest post by ChopDawg.com, an award-winning app development company that has worked with over 180+ startups and companies from all around the globe, helping them bring their web apps, mobile apps, wearable apps and software ideas to life.

Follow ChopDawg.com on Twitter at @ChopDawgStudios.


Put on your seatbelt.

I’m about to walk you through an idea that contradicts almost everything you’ve ever been told about your business.

This mostly applies to online apps, but it can also be used in other business models as well.

We’ve heard for years that your app should be as sticky as possible — meaning that you want people to use it as much as possible and also for it to be difficult for the person to change to a competitor or to cancel.

Well, I’d argue that is a terrible idea.

Not so much from a financial standpoint, but from a customer happiness and PR standpoint.

What do I mean?

Let me give you an example that most of us can unfortunately relate to.

You have been being charged for a service for months, and you realize you actually haven’t used it, or you decide it isn’t worth the money.

You decide it is time to cancel.

You log into your account online, go to My Account or Settings and start to look for a cancellation link.

Nothing.

You email customer support or jump on a live chat.

They can’t help.

They say that in order to cancel you have to call the number provided in order to cancel.

We all know why they do this.

They have reps that want to see if they can persuade you to stay or offer you a few dollars off each month to keep your subscription.

We know this before we call and yet we have to jump through all of the hoops just to cancel.

One time I even had to cancel my debit card to get the subscription to end because the process was so complicated!

Don’t be that company.

By the time a customer is looking for the cancellation link, you’ve already lost them.

It is like when employees want to leave a company.

Studies have shown that giving them a raise or some other compensation will keep them from moving in many cases, but only for 6-to-12 months. They’ve already left in their minds.

It is the same thing with your customers.

So if you haven’t already dismissed me, you might be wondering, “Well then what am I supposed to do? Let people leave and keep losing money?”

Sort of.

The first step is keeping it from getting to that point with excellent customer service and clear communication. Check in with your customers regularly, hear their feedback and own up to any mistakes that you make as soon as you make them.

Treating your customers like you care whether they stay or go is one way to minimize the people that seek out that cancellation button in the first place.

Take that phone call that you were going to allocate for when they want to leave, and put it earlier in the customer lifecycle as a part of touching base, hearing their stories and problems and improving the experience.

The next step is understanding that some people will call your baby ugly and want never to see it again. It’s going to happen.

At a certain point, it just becomes the law of averages. Sometimes it is your fault. Sometimes it is the customer’s fault.

Sometimes… things just happen.

When they do happen, take the high road. Don’t try to hold data hostage saying they can’t take it with them. Don’t charge customers for exports or insulting them with a bunch of slimy scare tactics.

Where possible, build in an export feature of customer data that they can access or make it part of what happens in the background when someone cancels. Take the time to write out a knowledge base article explaining what they can take with them, what they lose and how they can reactivate (if that is an option).

This all sounds counterproductive, but you never know when someone will want to come back as a user or is willing to recommend you to others if they generally had a good experience. That experience includes how they were treated as they were walking out the door.

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Real Talk: Hiring – Talent vs. Need

This post originally appeared on blog.startupdigest.com.

The following is a guest post by ChopDawg.com, an award-winning app development company that has worked with over 180+ startups and companies from all around the globe, helping them bring their web apps, mobile apps, wearable apps and software ideas to life.

Follow ChopDawg.com on Twitter at @ChopDawgStudios.


One of the things that we’ve most appreciated about here at Chop Dawg is how we have the privilege to work alongside some of the most talented early stage startups and applications on the planet. With this privilege, we are often tasked with not only helping them bring their web and mobile app ideas to life; but as well, guiding them at their early stage on many of the challenges and obstacles that new companies face.

One of the biggest challenges of them all comes down to hiring.

More often than not, if you’re an early-stage company, you need all the help you can get.

Engineers.

Designers.

Marketers.

Lawyers.

Accountants.

Managers.

Sales.

The list can go on and on.

One of our favorite examples when it comes to hiring early is comparing your company to a sports franchise.

Listen, I know, I know, I have done this in the past, on this blog too. It’s true, though.

Think of your company as the team in the NBA with the top pick in the draft.

If you have the top pick, it means you desperately need help.

You’re not a team that has multiple pieces already in place, trying to fill in a need or a want.

You’re a team that desperately needs that star player, and once you have that start, you’ll fill in the other missing pieces.

You will draft the individual with the most talent, the most upside, the most potential.

You won’t even think twice.

The same concept should be applied to how you hire in those early stages.

It’s no secret that as an early stage company, you as the entrepreneur, the leader, the founding team will be wearing many hats.

Get used to that.

Even as you grow, your role will vary and be necessary until you are generating enough revenue to have a strong team. Now I am not suggesting to contradict our earlier advice on hiring first where your weaknesses lie.

That is an absolute priority, but you need to dive deeper.

You need to hire whoever has the most upside, the highest potential, who can not only help you skyrocket your company early and quickly… But be a centerpiece to attract future top talent and hires.

You can’t necessarily just go for that want.

If you’re good enough at sales, focusing on your first hire being sales isn’t the best idea, especially if you stumble upon that superstar marketer who can help scale your digital presence and advertising with a high potential for ROI (return on investment).

This is a mistake most companies make.

They not only hire their first employees incorrectly, but they indirectly also disrupt how their business culture will be by poor hiring practice.

If you focus early on with the most top performing, superstar talent, you are setting the tone for future hires.

It’s been preached time and time again here at Chop Dawg: a talented team is a common thread that you will find with all of our most successful clients.

When it comes to our company priority list, it is number one.

Having a superstar team, keeping them happy, avoiding high turnover, it all translates into your company being more of an asset, better customer retention, better results, more satisfied people and most importantly to your bottom line, more profitability, all without the unnecessary stress.

If you’re a growing company and looking to begin hiring a team, don’t look at your wants necessarily, look at the most talent available, and do whatever it takes to bring them on board.

Be smart about it, still pick the pieces needed, but understand early on, you need all the help you can get.

This is the startup draft, and you have the number one pick.

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Stop Asking The Wrong Questions, Begin Asking The Right Ones

This post originally appeared on blog.startupdigest.com.

The following is a guest post by ChopDawg.com, an award-winning app development company that has worked with over 180+ startups and companies from all around the globe, helping them bring their web apps, mobile apps, wearable apps and software ideas to life.

Follow ChopDawg.com on Twitter at @ChopDawgStudios.


Why are so many entrepreneurs obsessed with others’ routines?

A prevalent question I am asked when on a podcast is how many hours I sleep a night.

Some ask for my morning routines.

Other ask what my average day looks like.

Why does it matter?

I’m not speaking in hyperbole; I mean it.

I mean, on the one hand, I get it.

You want to hear others’ experiences and see how you can adapt it to your own.

It makes sense; it is a great playbook that on the surface, I do believe in.

On the other hand, how in the world is this going to make a difference for you?

Why is someone’s work ethic, output, habits, going to impact yours?

Is it going to be beneficial to you, your career, your business, or are you only procrastinating from something else? Something you should be doing?

Better yet, do you need to know this information or do you already know the keys to your success?

I am willing to bet the latter, which is something I have learned over the last year.

Most of us, and arguably I’d suggest all of us, know what it takes to be a success.

We are all aware what makes us tick.

We all know ourselves better than anyone else.

I know how many hours a night of sleep I need to feel alert.

I know what I need to do to become more knowledgeable.

I know what I need to do in order to be productive.

I know what I need to do in order to see results to what I plan to accomplish.

I don’t need a guru to tell me that. I don’t need to understand the habits of 1,000 successful people to understand that.

I’m not suggesting not to take advice.

I’m also not suggesting to be a student of entrepreneurship.

To the contrary, I am suggesting to start asking better questions.

Don’t focus on the habits, routines, behaviors. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses. Focus on yourself instead. Better understand yourself, what makes you tick, what drives you, what is your potential.

Ask the questions that need answers. How to scale your company in a particular manner? How to find the right talent? How to handle a situation another entrepreneur, or executive was able to navigate. Those are questions based on experiences, not habits.

That is where the secrets lie.

Too many of us punt the hard questions and answer with fluff. Just the cliche, here are the top ten reasons to wake up at 5 a.m. remarks.

Well, guess what. I know just as many successful entrepreneurs who prefer to sleep in as I do early-risers.

What time you wake up in the morning isn’t a character trait to success.

Start asking yourself the right questions, when relevant. Start asking others the right questions, in the right context.

That is how you will see results.

That is how you will grow.

That is how you will reach your potential.

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Become a Business That Will Stand The Test of Time

This post originally appeared on blog.startupdigest.com.

The following is a guest post by ChopDawg.com, an award-winning app development company that has worked with over 180+ startups and companies from all around the globe, helping them bring their web apps, mobile apps, wearable apps and software ideas to life.

Follow ChopDawg.com on Twitter at @ChopDawgStudios.


It’s remarkable to me how many entrepreneurs and companies reach out to us, expressing their interest in making the next big overnight success.

You know, they want to be the next Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, MyFitnessPal, Buffer, Slack, and the list can keep going on and on…

Here is the thing.

These aren’t overnight successes.

Sure, some of these companies grew quickly, but look at their records, and the founders’ paths were leading up to them.

These companies had many interactions, their leaders many missteps and failures, leading up to their growth.

Biz Stone, one of the founders of Twitter, said it best with his famous quote, “Timing, perseverance, and ten years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success.

For context, Twitter didn’t start as Twitter. It was originally a podcasting company called Odeo, turned SMS service to communicate with small groups, into an application called TWTTR, until eventually, becoming the Twitter you know today.

Why is this important?

It’s because the best companies on the planet do focus on growth, and growth isn’t a bad thing. However, the best companies on the globe focus on methodical, scalable, and consistent growth; not a hyper blast into the stratosphere.

If you’re a CEO, it doesn’t matter if you’re an enterprise, Fortune 500, Inc 1000 or a brand new startup; you need to achieve one thing and one thing only, measurable growth each and every day.

If you do that, imagine where you’ll be one year from now, five years from now, ten years from now.

Growth is also much more manageable this way.

You won’t hire too quickly, creating an exorbitant burn rate that burns your ass if you hit a slow-down. Look up at the original demise at Zirtual (before it was acquired after being shut down by the fantastic team at Startups.co).

You won’t begin sacrificing quality over quantity to keep up with speed, translating to poor customer service, terrible products, and less-than-ideal solutions.

You’ll be able to continue focusing on those that matter the most, your team, your clients, your vendors, your partners, your friends in the business.

You’ll be able to make a name for yourself and the impact you want to make in your industry, the right way.

You’ll have a company that instead of inflated growth, grew through real results, actual revenue, methodically and well prepared in the processes that it needs to succeed for the long haul.

Sure, you can name a few superstars that grew up quickly in the spotlight, but you can name many more products, services, and companies that have developed over time. In fact, you can probably name more businesses that blew up and imploded soon after that like a supernova too. Think MySpace, Vine, Rdio, Pets.com, Aereo, Blab, Digg, and the list can keep going on and on.

Businesses that put scale over what actually mattered, foundation. Foundation of a great team, great processes, great quality, great culture, great support, and great customers.

Grow as quick as you can, but do not grow so fast that you ignore everything else that matters. It will catch up to bite you in the ass later, and ultimately, lead to your demise. Instead, be a company of substance. Be a business that stands the test of time, and will continue to exist long after you’re done, gone and forgotten about. That is what matters.

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Most Companies Do Not Understand Customer Service, Even If They Claim That They Do

This post originally appeared on blog.startupdigest.com.

The following is a guest post by ChopDawg.com, an award-winning app development company that has worked with over 180+ startups and companies from all around the globe, helping them bring their web apps, mobile apps, wearable apps and software ideas to life.

Follow ChopDawg.com on Twitter at @ChopDawgStudios.


We have all been in the same position before.

You call a customer support line, only to be informed that the waiting time is at least 15 minutes. You send an email out about a small crisis you’re dealing with on a product, to see an automated response about how important your message is, and that you’ll have a response back within two business days. You send a message on live chat, only to see it read and not responded back too, for hours.

Companies do not understand customer service.

Sure, they know what customer service is. Yes, they recognize the value in customer service. But no, they do not appreciate customer service.

Customer service isn’t just providing a service to a customer. It’s caring about your customers. More importantly, it is caring about your customers in the timely manner that they expect.

Let’s take a step back and think for a moment, what circumstances a customer is in when they come to you.

If they’re reaching out to a support line, customer service email, live chat, odds are, they’re dealing with something at that moment. Realistically, they are frustrated or getting to that point. They need help, they need assistance, and most importantly of all, they are hoping for you to deliver on their needs since, after all, they are have been paying you to do that.

Now when you have them waiting, what happens?

If you aren’t meeting their needs, it can grow from frustration to anger. Anger can translate to a terrible experience once they finally chat to you. Anger will translate into poor reviews, bad feedback left on your social media. Anger will worst of all, translate into sharing the bad news with everyone in their network. After all, you know how the old saying goes, bad news travels much quicker than good news.

This is where it gets truly frustrating, as an entrepreneur of a growing company to see from an outside perspective. Why is it that a prospective customer who reaches out via these methods do not deal with these obstacles? Why is it that you will receive communication back at the highest, most energized enthusiasm? Oh, that is right, because they want your money.

This needs to change.

This is one of the reasons why at Chop Dawg, we’ve ensured that the same people who provide sales and advertising are also doing customer support. It’s the reason why our designers, our developers talk to our clients as much as they talk to prospected individuals. Because everyone deserves the same attention, the same care, the same passion. It’s our job as CEOs, entrepreneurs, executives to ensure this is the company culture that is set.

We’ve all been in a position where we need customer support for a company. It can and will happen, that’s okay. I’ve never met an irrational consumer in this circumstance. We all get it. We’ve also all been in the position where exceptional support, an incredible team, assisted us and went above and beyond. What happened after that? You, as the consumer, are more in love with them than ever. You’ve not only established more trust with someone who is already paying you, but you’ve also realistically increased your lifetime value of them being your customer. Think about that for a minute.

Here is an example. We made a mistake with a client a few weeks back, a relatively new client too. We accidently quoted them for an out of scope item, when in fact, it was already in their scope of work. Of course, at first, they are frustrated by this. After all, we are charging them for something we just informed them wouldn’t cost extra. However, after immediately catching this issue, we didn’t just say oops. We apologized. Sincerely apologized.

We got on the phone, explained what happened, that it was our fault, that it wouldn’t happen again, and honestly said sorry for causing an inconvenience, frustrating them, and the lost time due to the discussion needed to take place.

You know what happened? Not only did they understand (crazy how that works when you share your context, right), their trust in us has grown. We have an even better relationship now for owning up to our mistake, catching it immediately, sharing with their our perspective, and how we resolved it is moving forward.

The level of detail, the response time, the amount of care is your secret weapon as a company. Too many businesses disregard this or put it in automation mode. Do not let the same thing happen to you. If you leverage this right, not only will have repeat customers for life; you’ll have a competitive industry over not just your competitors, but the entire market. Don’t be lazy. Do what is right for the customer, and you’ll always win.

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The Easiest Way to Convert More Users Onto Your App? Think Simple.

This post originally appeared on blog.startupdigest.com.

The following is a guest post by ChopDawg.com, an award-winning app development company that has worked with over 180+ startups and companies from all around the globe, helping them bring their web apps, mobile apps, wearable apps and software ideas to life.

Follow ChopDawg.com on Twitter at @ChopDawgStudios.


If you’re trying to scale your application; you don’t always need to pour more money into your advertising and marketing budget; as most advertising firms would like to suggest.

Sometimes, it’s much easier, more cost-effective, and impactful to simplify something that already exists.

I’m serious.

What’s better to you?

Having 100 visitors with one sign up, or having one visitor with one sign up?

Both have the same outcome, but both paint entirely different narratives.

Having 100 visitors with one sign up means that your outreach has worked, but your conversion sucks. Having one visitor and converting that visitor means your conversion game is on point, but your awareness sucks.

This is the most significant mistake you as an entrepreneur can make. For many of you; you’re blinded by the lack of new users you’re getting. You’re not looking at the actual story taking shape.

Simplify your thinking.

Business, though it is complex, isn’t as complicated as most make it out to be.

Too many entrepreneurs are adding additional layers of complexity that are unnecessary.

If you have a decent number of visitors, focus on how you can increase conversions of that existing traffic instead of obsessing over where to find more and more traffic.

That’s where your attention should be!

More often than not, you have a landing page, screen or registration process that doesn’t communicate effectively or is misaligned with what these visitors are expecting. Focus on this, and you’ll see immediate results.

For the latter group, if you aren’t seeing many individuals but seeing an excellent conversion, focus on the former.

You don’t need to keep tinkering with conversion rates, just to increase by that extra 1%.

It’s the volume that matters for you.

Don’t try it again to fix what is already working; instead, focus where you can and should immediately improve.

Simplify your focus and streamline the process.

Start looking at scenarios with a clear mind, without unnecessary biases or judgments.

The circumstances described above are not only a daily occurrence for our clients at Chop Dawg, but can often be found with most app developers on the web. This concept of simplifying is what separates the successful apps from the failures.

Though this may seem like common sense now, when ego, emotions, and random data get in the way; your judgment will become clouded. When this happens, take a step back and breath!

This will force you to think clearly, rationally, and most importantly, simply.

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How I Lost Over 50 Pounds While Running My Company (And Kept It Off)

This post originally appeared on blog.startupdigest.com.

The following is a guest post by ChopDawg.com, an award-winning app development company that has worked with over 180+ startups and companies from all around the globe, helping them bring their web apps, mobile apps, wearable apps and software ideas to life.

Follow ChopDawg.com on Twitter at @ChopDawgStudios.


Back in the spring and summer of 2014, I carefully documented my journey and perspective as an entrepreneur trying to lose weight. I ended up losing over sixty pounds, going from 220 lbs that March to only 155 lbs that November. The first portion of this article focuses on the original blog post in this entirely; though I have updated the bottom half to reflect what I’ve been up to since, how I’ve not only maintained my body fat percentage, but have gained muscle mass too.

I’ve decided to give this post an update since a lot has happened in three years!

This was me back on March 19th, 2014. The beginning of my new health and fitness journey!

It’s not about just losing weight. It’s about being in tune with your personal health.

A warning to those who are neglecting their health:

You may even feel okay now, but it will catch up with you.

Neglecting my health caught up with me back in February 2014.

Now before I get into the nitty gritty details — it is important for me to go through a bit of legal crap first. I am in no way, shape, or form a doctor, nutritionist, or anything that should be taken word-for-word when it comes to figuring out your exact game plan for losing weight and getting into shape. This is simply my story, what I discovered, and the things that you should consider. Make sure to talk to a doctor or health professional before doing anything that I share below. Now that I’ve covered all of that let’s get started.

It isn’t hard to see in hindsight how I ended up gaining so much weight…

Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. Odds are if you are reading this post, you understand this better than most people. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

Being an entrepreneur means that you dedicate every ounce of your energy, thoughts and time into building something that you can personally get behind. It is a humbling experience. It is an emotional roller coaster ride.

And for those who love the art of entrepreneurship, it is the most rewarding thing you’ll ever have the opportunity of doing in your lifetime.

With that said, you become obsessed. You want always to improve your productivity. You want to earn more profit. You want to find more people to help. You want to build an empire. Everyone obsesses over many different things — but it all has a clear correlation, that being your business, your venture, your product.

Personally, for me, it started five years ago when I lost the freedom of time due to my choice of wanting to dedicate every minute to my company.

I started replacing home-cooked meals with quick, on-the-go options. Sometimes. Sometimes this is a couple of pop-tarts. Sometimes a bag of microwavable pizza rolls, chicken tortillas, hot dogs, hamburgers, whatever you can think of. The point is that you do not want to spend a lot of time cooking because you have work to do. You’re busy. You want to focus on your business, continuing to grow it. That is exactly what happened to me.

The point is that you do not want to spend a lot of time cooking because you have work to do. You’re busy. You want to focus on your business, continuing to grow it. That is what happened to me.

Just one bad habit snowballs into a few. A few turns into many.

My company is a service-based business. Many of my meetings, when in-person, revolve around meeting at a place that offers food and drinks.

Restaurants. Outdoor seating areas. Whatever you can think of, you can probably imagine why. It is an ideal location for a social gathering. You’ll want food that gives you quick energy, which your clients will love — and again, poor habits are acquired.

This also jumps into exercising or the lack thereof. Honestly, I wasn’t big into physical activity before starting my company — so when I got busy, exercise was never on my mind. I don’t think I picked up a single weight nor ran more than ten feet in the four-year period between starting Chop Dawg and getting serious about my health.

Once again, you think to yourself — what is better with your limited time, running your company or focusing on you? You pick the former — though now in hindsight, I can promise you that the latter is just as important (we will get more into that below).

Why it took me 5 years to do anything about my neglected health

One of the things that I’ve thought about now going through this journey is why I didn’t notice and fix my weight-gain earlier? How did I not see a dramatic decrease in energy, lower levels of confidence, barely fitting into my three-year-old pair of jeans?

This one may be a bit more subjective to the individual, but I have a theory for why I never noticed my flagging health:

Most of my meetings are through Google Hangouts, Skype, etc. All that you truly see is your face when using a webcam. Outside of that, I always controlled how I am perceived by carefully curating the pictures that I used on my social media and gave to the press. It was my own, self-curated image.

In hindsight, I look at old pictures of myself and ask how in the hell I was not motivated to lose weight.

This was me at my heaviest (on national television, of course).

Hitting rock bottom in Las Vegas

It was late February 2014 — I was invited to fly out to Las Vegas to speak at the largest conference that I had been to at the time. It was my first time to the Sin City (plus I escaped a brutal northeast winter for a few days and instead enjoyed a comfortable life in the low 70s).

I spoke the first day of the conference and had an entire day to myself. I woke up early that morning, walked around the conference shaking people’s hands, hearing about all their exciting stories, making new connections. I spent the early afternoon checking out the desert, the Canyon, the Hoover Dam. The evening was spent checking out the strip, all the lights, sounds, noises — and of course the highlight of it all, a gourmet steak dinner, courtesy of the conference to say thank you.

I remember slowly heading back to my hotel room, shutting the door and looking in the mirror.

It was then that it truly hit me. I was out of breath. I looked like I hadn’t slept in weeks. My appearance was bloody awful. Above all, I was surrounded by mirrors, showing me in every which way or shape you could imagine (it also had a television in the mirror which was kind of neat).

It was then that the blinders were off, that all of a sudden my brainwaves told me — dude, you’re fat and completely wiped. I remember looking into the mirror for a few moments, but for what felt like hours.

That was the lowest I’ve ever felt. I knew that things had to change. I didn’t sleep that evening. I decided it was time to invest in myself for a change. It was time to change my lifestyle.

I decided that, if I was going to be successful with this new lifestyle change, I had to prepare in a similar way I do in my business.

I had to do the research, the organization, and the documentation. I mimicked all of these processes from building my business.

The research:

I spent early March reading the subreddits /r/fitness/r/loseit and /r/progresspics. These are all great resources. There is nothing else like seeing real firsthand success stories. I could find out what people ate, and what lifestyle changes I would need to make.

The research phase felt like going back to my early days of entrepreneurship, reading books like The Lean StartupThe Four Hour Workweek, and Rework.

It worked for me before; so I was open to it working again. I already knew the playbook to success thanks to previous success stories. Plus it offered great motivation, so why not try to replicate it for my health?

One of the things you’ll discover is you have set amount of calories that you burn in a day. I learned calorie calculators such as this which informed me that to maintain weight; I needed to eat (at the time) 2,400 calories a day. If I wanted to lose weight, well, I needed to eat less.

It took the concept of losing weight and pared it down to the essentials.

The fewer calories you eat under that 2,400 calorie maintenance number, the more fat you burn off. If you start for example working out, you burn even more calories, meaning that maintenance number increases — and if you eat the same low number, it means you have now burned even more calories, which results in more fat being burned. Simple concept, huh?

I also needed a few essential materials to track progress. I set up a spreadsheet on Google Drive that I used to weigh-in every single Monday morning. I recorded the numbers that I cared about and nothing more (just like what we do for metrics at Chop Dawg — no reason to care about things that serve you no value, right?).

I bought the most affordable, reliable scale I could find on Amazon. This is the one what I purchased, for reference.

I made a mental note at the very beginning that I wouldn’t get calories from the stuff I drank.

That meant no alcohol (for the most part). That meant for me no soda. I only drank three items — water (and insane amounts of it), Diet Green Tea and occasionally coffee (and a five-hour energy) when necessary.

Lastly — and most importantly, I needed a proper diet in place.

I bought essentials that I figured would come in handy for me. Protein, I learned, not only helps with muscle mass — but it keeps you full for longer. I decided to purchase anything I could to help with that. I started purchasing protein bars and shakes on Amazon.

I set up a subscription to automatically re-fill me with these items every month.

But we all need solid food too. 

I bought lots of lean chicken, ground turkey, salmon — food I knew I would enjoy, very low in calorie and would keep me full.

I spent three weeks planning, purchasing what I needed, figuring out my proper diet — and then, it was time to officially weigh-in and begin the journey.

My starting point was March 24th, 2014. I started at 219 lbs. My BMI was at 32.3, meaning that I was in the obesity category.

One of the perspectives I had when going into this was that it would take quite some time before I would notice the results myself in the mirror.

Here’s a great concept that I took away from my Reddit research:

Take two rolls of paper towels. Do not touch one. On the one next to it, pretend that one piece of paper towel is a pound. You take one away; you cannot notice the difference between the two rolls. You take around 30-40 pieces, all of the sudden, one stands out like a sore thumb. That’s what weight for the long haul feels like.

For me to accurately lose weight, I decided my ceiling for calorie intake at the beginning would be 1,700 calories. 3,500 calories burned in a week is meant to be a pound lost.

I gave myself a 700 calorie deficit per day, which would mean a 3,500 calorie deficit per week. Over time, I lowered my calorie limit as I was losing weight — until I reached 1,400 calories. I didn’t want to go any lower at risk of hurting myself and not giving myself enough energy for future days.

Don’t ever forget; calories are energy. They are like gasoline for your vehicle. As an entrepreneur, I need all the energy that I can get.

At the same time, I decided I wanted to try burning calories and getting into shape. Cardio was the simplest way for me to do this without needing a personal trainer. I already owned a treadmill, so I decided it was time to dust it off and try it out. Every day I would use it for thirty minutes. I would slowly increase my speed as I got myself into better shape. I started at a quick walk and soon expanded it to jog, light run, into a daily couple mile run.This didn’t happen overnight. Once you chip away at it, though, you’ll be surprised with how far you can go.

Every day I would use it for thirty minutes. I would slowly increase my speed as I got myself into better shape. I started at a quick walk and soon expanded it to jog, light run, into a daily couple mile run. Once you chip away at it, though, you’ll be surprised with how far you can go.

Once it started getting warm outside, I relocated from the treadmill to the outdoors. Also great to get a bit of fresh air vs. sitting in front of my computer desk all day.

Balancing your business while trying to lose weight

The answer to this isn’t as complicated as you might think. I had already been, for years, using a to-do list for managing what I needed to get done each and every day. Eating each meal and going on a run just became another part of my daily to-do list. It became a task that I would check off upon completion.

In regards to finding an hour of my day to run — that was the trickiest part. The solution, however, was rather easy for me. I always scheduled an hour and a half blocks on my calendar for meetings. I decided I would use one of these blocks per day to dedicate to my physical activity.

To not disrupt business, I would use either early in the morning or late in the evening to do this.

It depended on how busy I was going to be for that day and what I needed to focus on to determine whether morning or evening would be more productive for me. However, I refused not to include it on my schedule. I would (and still) run six days a week.

One of the biggest questions I still have is how I handle meetings in-person since they often revolve around food.

I haven’t changed that. I knew if I did, I would be hurting my clients and getting myself, my colleagues and my clients out of their comfort zone. That isn’t a smart business tactic.

Instead, I simply plan ahead. When I know I am going to have an outing like this; I will do things such as overcompensate on my exercising ahead of the event. I will research the venue and figure out the best meal option for me. I will try to eat fewer calories during the day to make up for the increase during the meal.

Hell, sometimes I just cheat. It’s okay. One meal does not ruin everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve. As long as you plan ahead, though, you’ll be alright.

My major milestone after 6 months

By September 2014, I lost 50 pounds. My goal, in the beginning, was to end at 160 pounds and, according to my Google Drive document I mentioned earlier, I did it.

With that said, about a month or so before, I decided I wanted to change my goal to 155 pounds. At the six month milestone, I hit a BMI of 24.2, which classifies me at a healthy weight, right around where I should be taking into account my height and age.

How this changed the way I felt about everything

The difference was incredible. My outlook completely changed. I wouldn’t say I was ever a depressed type of guy, but my state of mind became a lot healthier. I started sleeping better, and according to my Jawbone UP, I was sleeping on average thirty to forty-five minutes more a night.

All of this translated back into my business itself. It improved my client relationships, and I started completing tasks much quicker. I could process things more swiftly than before. I even started closing more sales.

Why personal health matters for your business.

Investing in yourself allows you to perform elsewhere better. Just like you use reading, such as this blog post, to become more intelligent — working out and eating healthy has the same impact on the way you do things.

What I said back in 2014:

“I am much more confident in social gatherings. I have made it a goal to dress better and to discover styles that I feel match my personality. I even had a woman recently hit on me out in public — which I won’t lie, was awesome to experience as I didn’t normally have that happen to me in the past. Overall, I am just a happier dude who happens to be a bit more skinny.”

Me at the end of Summer 2014 (as of August 28th, 2014) when I first shared this blog post.

These were the goals that I set going forward after my milestone in 2014:

“I’ve already begun the same process as I mentioned earlier in this post — planning ahead. I have been researching proper ways to train from weightlifting. Now that I am (just about) the weight level I feel I can be most confident with, be happiest with, and above-all, healthiest with — it is time for me to continue improving myself by adding muscle and becoming stronger.

I have a better attitude now. I am a happier person overall. I have more energy. I am more productive. Above all, I have a better outlook on the road ahead, personally and professionally.”

Six months into lifting at the gym. Finally starting to see some results!

Ok, so keeping the weight off is HARD once you lose it. How am I doing in 2017?

It’s officially been over three years since I’ve embarked on my health journey. I’m proud to say, I’ve seen it through and have no intentions of quitting anytime soon.

The biggest thing mostly everyone notices right away is the fact that I style my hair differently and wear glasses now. Oh, and the fact that I’ve bulked up.

No, I haven’t gained more body fat, in fact, my body fat is the same as it was in November of 2014. However, I’ve added almost twenty pounds of muscle since then. I currently weigh in on a rough day at around 180Ibs, and on a good day, 175Ibs. It depends on what I ate the night before… ?

I’ve stuck to almost the same routine since the end of 2014. I’ve done a lot less cardio in my workout regimen but added a lot of weight training. Chest. Back. Biceps. Triceps. Shoulders. Legs. Abs (well, sometimes). I’ll dive deeper into my routine in a few minutes.

So, what exactly am I doing differently today?

For starters, I’m no longer using the Jawbone UP.

I’ve been on team Fitbit for awhile, and I heartily recommend the FitBit Blaze. It’s been an incredible asset to me.

Not only does it have real-time heart rate monitoring for the most accurate calorie tracking that you come to expect with a fitness wearable, but it also has sleep monitoring, notifications from your phone, and more.

In fact, my Fitbit has provided me more value than my own Apple Watch. Apple Watch isn’t that effective for fitness, honestly, especially because of its poor battery life.

FitBit Blaze has solved all of this for me. Even a year into owning my Blaze, it still retains 3-5 day battery charge, and the 24/7 monitoring has been one of the biggest utilities I have in any electronic device. Fortunately, with the notifications that I still care about, almost immediately after putting my Apple Watch in the drawer for my Fitbit, I’ve never once looked back or had any regrets.

My diet has also changed. I’m usually eating between 2,400 to 3,000 calories a day, which if you recall from above, is slightly above my maintenance level. This is important.

You can’t gain muscle mass without eating a calorie surplus, though if you eat too much of a calorie surplus (and not the right macronutrients), it’s just turning into body fat anyway.

Specifically though with my diet, it’s still highly protein-based. However, I’m not blindly just eating anything with large amounts of protein like I did in 2014.

I didn’t even comprehend the concept behind macronutrients at the time, and I couldn’t have told you about what fat, carbs or protein did outside the basics. I’ve spent months studying this, actually understanding what the right breakdown for me is.

Overall, my focus is to eat somewhere between 160g-180g of protein, a day. I also time my protein intake. Every time after I finish my lifting routine, I have two scoops of Whey Protein. I drink an Isopure Zero Carb at least once a day.

I also eat and maintain a high protein diet of actual food; steaks, chickens, salmon, shrimp. I also try to have a higher fat content, which means, yes, bacon, butter and natural oils, and other healthy food. Carbs I try to keep to a minimum, though I had over the past three years experimented with diets such as the keto diet, paleo diet, etc.

I’ve pretty much ended with a moderately based paleo diet, though I am not too strict about it.

I do try my best to avoid starches, wheat, and other carb-like treats. I do sometimes cheat and eat sushi, but sushi is also one of my favorite foods. All of this though brings you to my biggest weapon so far.

Intermittent fasting and it’s incredible power

Though I didn’t realize it, back in 2014, I was doing IF (intermittent fasting). I would never eat after 8:00 PM, and would wait until 12:00 PM the next day to start my first meal.

I’ve never been one to get hungry in the morning for breakfast, so skipping that time of the day to eat worked perfectly for me. Plus, if you didn’t know, the saying breakfast is the most important meal of the day is a myth, and an advertising slogan that began by Kelloggs years ago (go figure).

I’ve maintained this since, and have loved it. It keeps me at bay and honest with myself when to eat, when not to eat, and not to give into temptations. I rarely break off of this, except occasionally when I go out to eat with my girlfriend.

Over the last two months, though, I’ve fallen in love with the science behind IF.

Kevin Rose released his application called Zero, which helps track how many hours you’re IF, and shows you the data. As you can tell from the many charts I’ve collected about myself over the last few years, I love this. It gives you your daily breakdown, your averages, and how well (or poor) you’ve been doing.

Kevin’s app also breaks down more into the science of IF, which in full transparency, I didn’t take the time to dive into until I discovered he had released this app into the app store. For example, IF is known for helping you prevent certain cancers, especially if you time your last meal around sunset and not eat during the evening/night.

I have much better sleep the earlier I eat the last meal of my day, as my body isn’t breaking down food and expending energy as I’m trying to sleep!

My lifting routine and what I’ve been doing to keep it in my schedule

My favorite thing that I’ve gotten into since the end of 2014, which I must thank Eddie Contento for introducing me to, is weightlifting. It’s addicting to me, and it is intoxicating to me, all at the same time.

My program is as follows:
15min of Cardio, Chest, and 15min of Sauna
15min of Cardio, Back, and 15min of Sauna
15min of Cardio, Triceps, and 15min of Sauna
15min of Cardio, Biceps, and 15min of Sauna
15min of Cardio, Shoulders, and 15min of Sauna
15min of Cardio, Legs, and 15min of Sauna

For the first two and a half years, my actual routine was simple when lifting. I was doing three sets of ten for every exercise. That’s it. I would track every workout, and when I could lift three sets of ten comfortable, I’d increase the weight. Rinse and repeat.

In the last year, I’ve changed my routine to challenge myself a bit more.

I do one set of twelve, followed by three sets of eight. The first set of twelve is incredible light weight to get into motion. The following three sets of eight are the most weight I can lift. Again, if I can do those three sets flawlessly, I know it is time to move up in weight.

I use these incredible red notebooks found on Amazon to track my workouts. I put my phone on airplane mode when at the gym to avoid distractions, and listen to Spotify.

My recent purchase of Apple’s Airpods has been lifesaving. My old headphones were ridiculously bulky and would always get in the way. I’d nine times out of time, yank it out of my ear at least for one workout. AirPods however, are the best of both worlds.

I’ll usually never take a day off from the gym unless I cannot physically fit it into my schedule or traveling.

I hired a Chief of Staff who runs my calendar now, and we’ve purposely placed lifting at the gym at a set time every day for a two-hour window (providing me thirty minutes for traveling to and from the office to lift, followed by an hour and a half workout).

Because of this routine, my body knows it’s about time to workout, no matter how awake, tired, frustrated or energic I might be at that time. Kind of like how your body know when it’s tired or hungry. Motivation turns to habits. Habits turn into routine. Routine turns into success. That’s been my motto to going at the same time, same place, every day.

I still do small amounts of cardio, 15min on a treadmill that is on a steep incline. I picked a gym that is within close distance of my apartment, so I’m able to walk there.

I also found a gym with a sauna.

Using my Fitbit, I monitor to get my heart rate as high up as I can and push myself for the 15min I am in the sauna.

I will use this time to either self-reflect or listen to an audiobook on Audible. Saunas have been a great way for me not only to burn calories, but also to ask myself deep questions, to learn, and to help reset my mood. I could be the most frustrated individual on the planet, but after a few minutes in the sauna, I’ve reset back to my default mode. It’s a lifesaver.

If it weren’t for my gym offering a sauna, I would have never discovered its benefits. The only time I ever break off my routine with the sauna or cardio is when traveling. Sometimes, I am forced only to use the weights, and for obvious reasons, most places do not include a sauna for you to use by default. That’s okay.

Me on the night I was updating this article. (February 14th, 2017)

Eating in social situations does not mean eating poorly, as tempting as it might be

Eating in social situations been my biggest struggle in the over the last three years.

Let’s be real: most social interactions deal with food, drinks, or generally high caloric intakes.

It’s tough because if you take yourself out of this, there goes your social well-being. You can’t do that.

It’s also tough because you can plan ahead to eat healthily, but temptation can get the best of you once you’re out.

It’s even tougher when you’re in a serious relationship, as I have been for over a year now. You want to enjoy great meals with your significant other.

I still follow what I mentioned back in 2014 about planning meals out in advance to be healthy and making sure my workouts are extra intense when you’re sure you’ll be eating out for the night. However, this does not always work. Temptation sometimes breaks you.

That is okay; I’ve found it is normal to enjoy yourself now and then. It just needs to be in moderation

In the last six months, have I’ve gotten into the routine of what I like to call 1-2 cheat meals a week. Not enough to leave real damage, but enough to cure temptation and not make myself crack under pressure. I do not allow myself to indulge in something delicious for too long, I can go off the deep end, and binge eat everything imaginable. By giving myself enough leeway, but remaining consistently healthy and working out, I can allow myself an ounce more of wiggle room. This is something that when I wrote this blog post back in 2014, I truly did not grasp nor would have believed in. Some things can change!

Not practicing your moderation skills eventually encourages binge eating.

By giving myself enough leeway, but remaining consistently healthy and working out, I can allow myself an ounce more of wiggle room.

“Eat to live, not live to eat.”

Benjamin Franklin, my inspiration, and personal idol said it best. It’s a motto that I try to live by to this day.

I’ve managed to keep the weight off since I had lost it in 2014. And I got a puppy!

My new goals as I move forward (in 2017)

My new focus is on adding lean muscle.

I plan to continue my focus of cardio, lifting and to the best of my ability, low carbs. The difference is that over the coming months, especially in preparation for my book release, I also need to cut back calories to begin cutting (trimming fat) again. My schedule has been getting tighter this year, especially with preparing for the publication of my first book. We’ll see how it goes.

The biggest takeaway that I can provide entrepreneurs with is this: take your health seriously.

Make it a part of your entrepreneurial habit. Put a lot of time into your fitness regimen, and your diet. Don’t get lazy and in return, become like I was once. Your productivity decreases, your mindset becomes more negative. You do not present yourself, nor your company in the best light possible.

Being fit has provided me not just with more productive advantages, but business opportunities. Between dressing a bit better and looking better, I know for a fact I’ve closed more work.

Don’t pressure yourself, but make a conscious effort.

Find a fitness habit that you love – you do not need to use my template, as I know weight loss is not one-size fits all.

You do not need to lift. You do not need to run. Find something you like doing and start from there.

Start with a brisk walk while taking phone calls. Hike at a local trail. Use stair masters and ellipticals. Crossfit. Whatever it is, find that out, and try to do it as much as you can.

Fit in your schedule. After that, just try to eat healthy as much as you can.

Remember, it’s not about crash diets.

You are creating a new lifestyle that is healthy for you in the long run. That’s how I’ve kept the weight off. Staying healthy is a pleasurable part of my life that I love doing.

I wish you all the best of luck – I will also answer any questions that you may have. Write your thoughts in the comments, send me a personal email, or better yet, ping me on Twitter!

The post How I Lost Over 50 Pounds While Running My Company (And Kept It Off) appeared first on Startup Digest Blog.








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