A business owner needs a certain amount of trial and error.
Just ask Edwin Williams.
His latest app, ZenHammer, is a linchpin of his previous product Perserbid, which is designed to help homeowners and contractors find each other and manage payments.
“Long story short, it didn’t work out the way we imagined,” said Williams. “We were just about to finish it and contractors in the area I had worked with told me I didn’t quite have it.”
They suggested a different approach: instead of attracting customers, contractors needed help managing their customers. Compared to other apps on the market, Williams said, contractors wanted a management system that was easier to use and had a better user interface.
After speaking to his consultants and other friends in the business community, they decided to focus on the contractor side of Perserbid and design a platform that would eventually become ZenHammer.
The app helps contractors manage their workflow, track critical elements, and simplify communication and invoicing. The app has two other co-founders: Matthew Mayfield and Robert Pryately. You are planning a larger kick-off event in summer.
Williams said the app now has a little over 30 users and they average two to three logins per week. He expects these numbers to continue to rise.
Prior to Perserbid, Williams worked on another product through a company called GetFit Gadgets, which he founded while living in St. Louis.
It offered a smart fitness ball that could hook onto dumbbells or hook up to cable machines and help people modulate their workouts that could be managed through an app. However, the project ultimately ran out of money.
“I think the consolation prize is that someone else apparently came up with the exact same idea and is selling it,” he laughed.
He returned home to Johnson City, where he grew up regrouping and working on Perserbid.
Williams is now a member of a growing startup community in Johnson City, where he co-founded startup Tri-Cities. The group serves as an entrepreneur support organization and was recently renamed a not-for-profit organization called FoundersForge.
Startup Tri-Cities attracted local startups through an event called Pitches and Pints, a competition that gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to sell their ideas to a jury for prize money.
FoundersForge is now planning a revamped version of this event called Pitchers and Pitches, which will take place on May 6th at the Johnson City Doughboys Ballpark.
Entrepreneurship has grown in prominence in Johnson City since Williams returned in 2013 – back then, he said, many people he met didn’t even know what a pitch competition was.
“Everything has become much more organized and ubiquitous,” said Williams. “We see more entrepreneurs, we see more community interaction, more help.”
He believes that many local startups working today could grow into big companies in the next five to ten years.
Williams said he knew he wanted to start his own business, but initially didn’t know how. In St. Louis, he met a number of entrepreneurs who urged him to start GetFit Gadgets.
His interest in the software side came when his mother had bad experiences with remodeling the bathroom years ago.
“I thought, ‘Well, I think I can find out,” he said, and decided to build a platform to help her find contractors.
At the same time, he heard horror stories from friends who were contractors about bad customers and realized that he could potentially kill two birds with one stone.