Most entrepreneurs set out to start their own business. They spend hours doing the ground work, building something up from the bottom, hoping to make something of a new idea. But for Ryan Brooks things sort of happened in reverse – what started off as a simple university project looked to be turning into something bigger, and before he knew his app had over 5,000 downloads and he realised that he had found a gap for a viable business. 

Tell us a bit more about your startup and what it offers

My business is an app called 7 Weeks. It is a habit and goal tracking app (only on Android right now, but iOS is in development with full cross-platform integration) that allows users to enter their goals and habits and track them one day at a time. Users have numerous features at their hands such as the ability to pick what type of day (a completed day – all goals completed, a missed day, or a blank day – with the option of a skipped day coming soon). Users can also track unlimited habits and can add reasons for doing each habit along with having the ability to see detailed statistics for each.

The app is free with a $1.99 upgrade to premium option, although only $0.99 if you share the app on Facebook, Twitter or Google+. Premium brings an even more improved User Interface, quick actions on habits, the ability to add notes for each day they complete, 2 (a third soon) fully functioning home-screen widgets, 15 color themes along with light and dark modes, unlimited custom reminders with custom messages and many more features.  I’m adding even more features right now that allow for users to choose what days of the week they perform their habits along with a certain number of times a week/day/month along with a completely re-vamped User Interface.

And where are you based at the moment?

My app is based in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. I am actually a university student at the Georgia Institute of Technology (or Georgia Tech for short) here where I study Computer Science. I started writing the app here and I plan to open my office very close to here in the near future. Georgia Tech offers quite a bit of help and resources to startups, so I plan on taking advantage of that!

Who is your target audience? Did you see a particular gap and are aiming to reach a certain market?

My target audience is very broad and aimed at motivated individuals who wish to set goals for themselves, break negative habits in their lives or create new positive habits to improve themselves. Anyone at all who is wishing to improve their life or create new positive habits and break negative existing ones can use my app.

While this still is a very broad audience, I’m really trying to move into an even larger audience right now and target individuals wishing to get in better shape, improve their lives or learn a new skill, be it academic or life.

startup_7weeks app

And what makes your app unique in comparison to your competitors?

7 Weeks is unique in the fact that instead of targeting a random time period or a final date to have their habit completed, users focus on completing their habits consecutively each day for a period of only 7 weeks. I chose 7 weeks because while there are many theories about how long it takes to build/break a habit, I believe that 49 days of doing something consecutively will almost guarantee the habit is formed or broken. Plus 7 Weeks is a bit over a month and a half and not a drastic period of time for an individual to begin to change his or her life. I’m currently using the unique concept of doing something for 7 Weeks for a big shift in direction of the app overall. I’m aiming to release this around New Years.

How long have you been working on this idea?

I’ve been working on this app for about a year and a half now. I started it in December of 2013.

Tell us what makes you so passionate about 7 Weeks? Where did the idea for it originally come from?

I’ve always been the type of person who loves a great success story and really appreciates the value of hard work. This app provides a means for anyone to create their own success story and improve themselves in whatever way they wish. I receive amazing feedback from my users about how the app has really helped to change their lives and make it better. Receiving this feedback helps to motivate me and inspires me to make it even better and bigger, so I can receive more stories like that.

And your personal background? How did you come from actually being in university to running your own startup?  

What surprises many people is that I’m only a little over 20 years old. I also began working on this app when I was 18 and it really has become something huge that I never expected it to be. My first year of college, I came in as a Computer Engineering major. This primarily focuses on computer hardware and electrical parts and how they work as a system in a computer. After taking a few Computer Engineering classes for a semester, I realised that hardware wasn’t for me. At the same time though, I was extremely interested in software and creating mobile apps. I switched majors to Computer Science and during my transition I actually created the initial version of the app to teach myself how to program. Since then, it’s been a side project of mine that has come secondary to school or work. But now that it is gaining so much speed and becoming so large, I’m taking fewer classes this year and getting ready to hire my first developers to help relieve some of the burden on me.

I can’t wait to see what’s to come.

What about your childhood and your family background? Do you have any interesting stories there?  Any entrepreneurs in the family who influenced you?

My childhood/family background is nothing too special. I am an only child and was raised by my two absolutely amazing parents who have always supported any idea or venture I’ve ever had since my first landscaping business. Since I was little, I’ve also always had an interest in computers and programming.

In fact, at the age of 13, I built my own computer to play games on that was about half the price of the top computers on the market with the same specifications. Since then, I’ve always wanted to focus my career on technology and within the last two years I decided to lean towards mobile app development.

Was there ever a particular event in the past the inspired you to start something on your own?

I have been inspired on two different occasions to create this app. The first was when I first came into college, I met two other students about 3 years older than me who had developed an awesome game for iOS that I had played on the computer when I was a teenager. Seeing how young they were with an app to their names and the success they had from it made me want to reach the same heights and beat theirs. The second inspiration was actually what started the idea for the app. As I mention above, I decided to switch my major from Computer Engineering (Hardware) to Computer Science (software).

Do you work with anyone else on this idea? 

I am the only one owning the business right now, although I’m in talks with multiple Venture Capitalists and mentors wanting to assist the app and help turn it into something much larger. Being the sole owner, developer, marketer and business development lead is beginning to take its toll on me, so I may be bringing on a co-founder very soon.

Tell us about what you consider the most inspiring or exciting moment in running your business, or even in your life, thus far?

Surprisingly, the moment I hit 100 downloads was the most exciting moment I’ve ever had with the app so far. I made this app to simply teach me Android development and I really never even expected it to get 10 downloads. I now have over 21,000 downloads increasing by nearly 2000 a week which is mind blowing to me!

And the toughest moment?

The toughest moment I’ve had with the app is believing that it was going to ever make it and how it conflicted with my grades in school. Towards the end of last year, I was paying far too much attention to my app development and failed my first class ever in my life along with destroying my GPA. I had to take time in the beginning of this year to calm down a bit and take a break from the app. I never expected to pick it back up, but when I logged back into my developer account after being gone for quite some time and seeing over 5,000 downloads, I knew I had to get back to it. Luckily, I fought through, improved my GPA, got a great Internship and managed to quadruple my downloads – all in the last 4 months.

Through this, I realised that I really needed to step back at times to figure out my priorities and work out what really mattered to me and was important.

And was there ever a strange moment where you felt that you were just destined to do this?

While it wasn’t a big and eventful moment, I knew for a fact that owning my own business was what I was meant to do when I hit 10,000 downloads on this app. The feeling of just this little milestone of success is just something that I can’t describe. It just feels so great knowing that something I have worked extremely hard on is really changing people’s lives and is becoming so popular.

And where would you like to see your business is the next few years?

Currently, I’m pursuing Venture Capital and/or seed funding along with a mentor or startup incubator to help relieve some of the burden on me and help guide the business model. I’m also looking to hire an iOS developer and a graphic designer to expand 7 Weeks to a new platform and improve the User Interface and experience.

Ultimately though, I want 7 Weeks to have become something much larger than it is right now. I want to be able to be a direct cause of millions of people improving themselves or making themselves better in whatever way that would be. I know for a fact that my app will accomplish that.

Finally, what would be the one bit of advice that you would offer someone considering starting their own startup businesses?

Patience. Everything good in life comes with time, and the same applies to business or apps. You’re not ever going to create a million dollar business or a million download app in one day. You have to fight through, put in the time and hard work and know that what you’re making will succeed. Time will take care of the rest.