Annie Forrest is an extremely driven and multi-talented serial entrepreneur. Her entrepreneurial journey started when she self-published a children’s picture book and it took off! Since then she has launched gaming apps based on her book as well as her current project, a luxury retail app. Since launching it 8 months ago, she has already had incredible feedback and support from designer JW Anderson, jeweller Monica Vinader, and online retailer Shop Bop. Read our interview with the lovely Annie below…
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
My app publishing took shape after I self-published a children’s picture book, Rosie and Wizzy, 2 years ago. Wizzy, the main character, proved so popular that I decided to bring it alive as a gaming app. Wizzy Jump is a free adventure app designed for IOS and Android. It went up the Appstore charts in 88 countries upon release. I was inspired by the first Nintendo game my father bought me – Donkey Kong! I grew up in Mauritius into an entrepreneurial family. My mother is my biggest source of inspiration and her work ethic rubbed off on me. When I was a child, I used to discuss all sorts of business ideas with my mother who encouraged me to dream big – her motto was “if you can dream, it you can achieve it, but take your brain with you”.
Tell us about your business.
Dinky Dot Ltd is a young app publisher. I believe in the uniqueness, entertainment value and quality of a product. The first app I launched was a free adventure game for all ages – Wizzy Jump shot up the Appstore charts in 88 countries and is still attracting players worldwide. Our loyal supporters are from Australia but this game is present on every single continent through word of mouth mainly.
I also launched a retail app 8 months ago after spotting a gap in the app store. Gift Avenue is a real cracker, it is a unique retail app offering a world of high street retailers and luxury brands at your finger tips. I don’t believe in curating products, instead I chose to open up a world of options for shoppers and put them in the driving seat so they have access to thousands of products. More often than not, those shopping online already know what they want to buy – having options only enhance the shopping experience.
Some feedback received was that the app was too simple but 8 months on, Gift Avenue has surpassed my expectations by attracting the attention of leading social media influencers such as Nicole Warne aka Gary Pepper Girl and other brands such as Agent Provocateur, Monica Vinader, ShopBop, Farfetch and giant online luxury retailer Net-a-Porter. We also receive regular social media support and thumbs up from Celebrity designers, Sharon Wauchob and Michail Sykianis, who had designed a dress for Angelina Jolie for the 2009 Oscars! I am at the very beginning of this exciting journey and am raring to grow Gift Avenue further. It is free to download and exclusive to IOS only.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
Having studied Company Law, it wasn’t difficult to create a company from scratch, understand the different implications of companies under UK Law and getting in touch with the right people. However, I was a novice at app development and coding so I spoke to a lot of people in the industry and had to roll my sleeves up and learn fast. I had to do a lot of research then learn and apply my knowledge into action. It is not a race to set up a business but a marathon. Do your due diligence first.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
Instagram! It is a brilliant way to raise awareness for your business. It is fast and visual.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
It was a real challenge to hire the right team to understand the concept behind Gift Avenue and implement it. I met a few amateurs who ruined the app initially. I quickly learned not to compromise on price and cut corners for a quality product. I hired my previous developers and started the app from scratch again – a major setback and tough lesson indeed! They were very patient with me as I chopped and changed the look several times and drove them crazy when creating the pin board feature of the app as it just wasn’t right. I wanted to achieve the best possible look for a smooth shopping experience for users. Luckily they still want to work with me!
How did you overcome these challenges?
By being perceptive and ruthless when need be because ultimately it is your business and you need to protect it. Listen and communicate your ideas clearly to your team, give them the space to do their job and believe in their skills. There were times when we couldn’t achieve a certain look or font so I would design my own logo or the look and submit it to them to speed things up. I like to be fully involved in the designing and coding process. I communicate with my developers several times a day. We quickly became like a brick and mortar team.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
I take a step back to reassess and I also bounce ideas with those I trust the most. I like to take long walks in nature to disconnect and look inward for answers.
How did you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
I never underestimate competition but I am not hung up by it. I believe in creating unique products for the enjoyment of users. I like my apps to speak for themselves. We recently had the famous designer Antonio Berardi repost our content on his Facebook page without any PR representatives involved. It spoke volumes. Thank you Antonio!
What is the best advice you have received recently?
Be true to yourself in anything you do or put out there and stay humble.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
The secret of life is to fall 7 times and get up 8 times. I have had naysayers telling me I am ‘over ambitious’. There is nothing wrong for a woman to be ambitious if you work hard and abide by your morals and values along the way. Follow your instincts and don’t be afraid to fail as challenges encourage you to grow.
What is your favorite business tool or resource?
Business magazines such as Entrepreneur, INC., and Forbes.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
“The Manual of the Warrior of Light” by Paulo Coelho.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
I am looking at expanding Gift Avenue further as an app and the brand. The focus is currently on marketing and branding – watch this space!