Laura: Hi everyone, I’m Laura Max Rose and you’re watching The Business Makers Show, brought to you by Comcast Business, built for business. I’m here today with my guest, Jarrell Liner. Jarrell was 32 years old when he woke up one day in an Extended Stay America. Only 13 months prior, he had a successful job in oil and gas, and when he lost that job, he lost his home, his car, and his marriage, found himself down and out and was looking for inspiration. Well, Jarrell is one of those incredible individuals who decided to create the inspiration he was looking for when he created the app Goodspire. Jarrell, welcome to the show.
Jarrell: Thank you for having me.
Laura: So, many of you have probably seen the #Goodspire or #iamgoodspire floating around the internet on Instagram and Twitter, and you are the creator of the Goodspire app. It’s an honor to have you on the show today. Tell us what the app is about.
Jarrell: Well, the application itself, which is available on ITunes and GooglePlay, it’s a app that gives our users daily motivation, or what we call, Goodspiration, to be better in their daily lives and every facet of life, and our goal with #iamgoodspire is basically empowering people to get out and, not only utilize the tools that you receive in the application to be better yourself, but also to better the people around you and in your community and, of course, ultimately our goal is to better the world with that.
Laura: So, inspiration is a word that we hear a lot in today’s world. People are always trying to inspire us. There are tons of inspirational apps. Your app is different though because it is actually encouraging people to pay it forward.
Laura: How are they doing that? How are they paying forward this kindness through your app?
Jarrell: In so many ways and really, it’s amazing to see how it’s growing on social media now. It really started just by encouraging people to get out and do small, random acts of kindness; whether it be, giving someone a free hug, or maybe leaving a short note, maybe a co-workers desk or something of that nature. Now, it’s just expanded to where now we have people in talks with doing some events and things of that nature. You ever heard of like flash mobs and stuff like that?
Jarrell: Where you go out and do random acts of kindness in maybe the park or something like that, so it’s growing every day and it’s just amazing to see how people are really getting involved and it, you know, just allows us to really see that there is goodness still in this world even though there may be some negativity happening around us every day, and just to see people want to get involved and want to give back and just want to feel good every day, and that, you know, that’s the whole point of Goodspires inspiring people to be good, and, you know, that’s what we’re doing and we’re going to keep pushing every day.
Laura: So, when you decide to make the world a better place in the way that you have, usually there is something that’s motivated you to do that. Perhaps you’ve been in the depths of despair. You’ve experienced challenging times yourself. What experiences did you have that really led you to creating this app?
Jarrell: Yeah, speaking of the depths of despair, I was over and down, I was in the deep see of that, but definitely, if we go back to when the concept of Goodspire came about. We go to the end of 2010 and, you know, I was really kind of on top of the world in my mind, so to speak. I had a nice job, I was married, had a house and things of that nature, but then something happened that really kind of drastically changed my life and that was that I actually lost my job, and at that point, it really became, like, this spiral, almost like it was out of control, so to speak, because I ended up losing everything in my life; you know my marriage, my house, my car, everything just tumbled down over the next 13 months and, you know, I found myself in that depth of despair, so to speak, or at the bottom and I was asking, you know, why me? Why is this happening?
Bob: No, we were about to go skiing the next day and we get a phone call from the manager saying that we needed to come down to the restaurant right away and we said well how come and he goes well there’s a fire. My first thought was well go put it out, we’ll be down there when we can.
Ann: Small grease fire which is not uncommon in the industry.
Bob: And he said by the time you get here there’ll be nothing left. And so of course we cancelled our ski trip and we had to deal with all that.
Russ: Oh my goodness, and so, I mean that set you back I assume?
Ann: We were terribly under insured, we had a million dollar, um, insurance policy and we had borrowed a million dollars from the SBA. So basically it was a wash once we paid it back and we were…
Russ: So you didn’t owe anything but you didn’t have anything?
Ann: Correct, correct.
Bob: Just like we did when we started
Ann: So we were back to square one.
Russ: Well, I love stories like this. So that just put you back to zero?
Bob: Back to zero, back to ground zero.
Russ: Sometimes zero is good
Bob: And the building that we’re at now was an old, abandoned restaurant; used to be called the Lynchburg Ferry Crossing Restaurant. It was abandoned a few years before that and it was vacant so we approached the landlord and asked if we could remodel and remodeled it and cut a lease and
Ann: We were able to open in March so we were open; oh, it was about 12 weeks later as opposed to building a free-standing building from the ground up and taking a year, year and a half and borrowing another couple of million dollars and going further into debt.
Russ: Okay so – but all this was 25 years ago, right?
Russ: All right, really impressive. Okay, so from what I understand too this isn’t necessarily your first food business operation, you both had a history once you both moved to Houston from where?
Ann: Upstate New York
Bob: Rochester, New York.
Russ: What motivated that?
Bob: I originally moved down here to go to law school so I was going to get my residency, live here for a year then go to law school. During that year transition time worked in some restaurants, started making some money, sous chef in a couple places and she was working a couple different restaurants, next thing you know we were let’s put off the law school thing and see what happens. And so that all worked out well and we saved out pennies and a couple years later I started a catering business and we started catering motion picture locations so that was exciting. It was a lot of work
Russ: Okay, what motivated that?
Bob: Just happened to know the right person at the right time, but we had a small little catering business, they asked us if we wanted to do catering, motion picture catering at some odd location where they film commercials here in Houston. Well the same people that worked the commercials also worked the movies when they come into town and we had a good reputation and next thing you know we started getting phone calls from all over the country for – to do movies; and so we went from basically having a small little truck with sporadic business to 3 18 wheelers with full kitchens in them doing movies from Los Angles to Massachusetts.
Russ: Wow. Okay, so does that make this business today seem boring compared to that?
Bob: Yes. Yeah, the catering business in the movie business is a difficult job. The money’s worth it but it’s very physical, demanding, long hours.
But, you know, I had to realize that certain things happen in life for a reason, and for me it was a very humbling experience, and, to be honest, it took me awhile to learn to dance in the rain, so to speak, because, when I say it was raining in my life, it was a storm, you know, it was heavy rain.
Laura: There was a lot going on. You were actually living in the Extended Stay America. Is that true?
Jarrell: Yes, I was living in an Extended Stay, here in the city of Houston. Didn’t have anything and, you know, at that point, you know, I had to decide, hey, is this the end of my road? Is this what it’s going to be? Am I just going to be this guy that fell from the face of the earth, so to speak? And never climb back, but then, you know, I had to realize and understand, once again, that everything happens for a reason and there is a purpose behind this. What can I learn from this? What lesson can I get out of this? And how can I use it to better myself?
Laura: Well, you decided that it wasn’t the end of the road for you and part of that decision making process was that you were spending a lot of time in Starbucks. That was where you were going to look for jobs; the unemployment center of America, as many of us who have been unemployed know, and you were looking for inspiration. You were looking for things that would make you feel better, and so you went ahead and decided to create what you needed.
Jarrell: Correct, because, as you stated, I would spend all day, literally, at Starbucks. I mean, they knew me by name, but I never bought anything. But I would use their internet until they would kick me out and, like you said, it was just this task, so to speak, of every day trying to find information, knowledge or resources that I could use to better myself in every area of life because, as I stated, I really fell in every area, and I couldn’t find what I needed, or that consistent resource that I can use on a regular basis to give me what I needed and that’s when I had kind of this ‘aha’ moment, so to speak, and said, you know what? I can’t be the only person out here that’s looking for information, and knowledge, and wisdom, and I’m inspired to be better, and I know there’s other people out there that are as well and that’s where I had this idea of Goodspire, and that’s where it all started.
Laura: Well, I hear the word consistent, and that has a lot to do with what your app provides. It provides consistent inspiration for whoever downloads it. What is your, if I were to download your app right now, what’s in it for me? What does your app provide for the user?
Jarrell: The app, every day, every morning actually, when you wake up, you’ll get a notification from Goodspire, saying, ‘Hey, it’s a wonderful day to be great,’ or something of that nature, and at that point, that’s when we also upload what we call our daily Goodspiration. Now, that Goodspiration could be in one of several different facets of life. It could be in career, relationships; it could be as far as your mind frame is concerned. All the areas of life that, you know, we walk in on a regular basis and every day you get a different little token of Goodspiration, and that Goodspiration can contain a short video clip, a short little note that you can read, as well as, you’re able to see our Good Wall, which is the images of people uploading the good deeds that they are doing and the acts of kindness that they’re doing, and you have access to archives of other videos and things of that nature.
So, it’s really an interactive type of application that allows you to get what you need, and then you can see how other people are going out and utilizing that knowledge to better the world around them.
Laura: It’s like a community that you’ve created. And so, if I want to download your app, I go to Goodspire.com. There’s a place to go there to download your app. I can do something like, buy somebody a cup of coffee at Starbucks and, what do I do to make sure that the Goodspire universe and the rest of the world knows that I’ve done this act of kindness?
Jarrell: Well, if you wanna join the iamgoodspire campaign, what we encourage you to do is go to our website, and, on the website you can download what we call The Good Cards, and they’re little card that you can give away, basically stating to the individual that receives them, ‘you’ve been blessed by a random act of kindness. Now we challenge you to get out and do the same and leave this card behind.’ And, you know what that does is encourage people to get out. So, like you said, if you buy somebody. But if you do buy somebody a cup of coffee, and then you leave this card with them, you know, now it’s, the ball is in their court, so to speak. I’ve been blessed. How can I bless somebody else? How can I maybe by the person behind me’s cup of coffee and we all heard of the pay it forward type of movement, and, that’s really what it is, it’s just really bringing that back and kind of reviving it and making Goodspire that platform that continues to spread this on a regular basis.
Laura: Well, this is really going to help people pay it forward. People who don’t otherwise have the inspiration to do that are going to get it from this app. So, if I wanna download the app today, what does it cost me?
Jarrell: The actual application itself, it’s completely free. So, what you can do is go to either ITunes or GooglePlay and download the application. That’s no cost to you as a user and we encourage you to use it every day.
Laura: So, my question to you then, as an entrepreneur, is, since Goodspire is your primary focus, what is your plan to monetize Goodspire, going forward?
Jarrell: That’s a great question. There’s a lot of different avenues that we’re looking at as far as monetization. Right now our focus is on growing the user base and really kind of expanding our reach and exposure, and then at that point, or at a certain level, that’s when we will implement some monetization options that we are considering at this time.
Laura: As far as the app world goes, do you find that nowadays it’s much more challenging to get somebody to pay even one or two dollars for an app because so many of them are free?
Jarrell: Absolutely. Absolutely, you know, there’s millions of free applications out there and, you know, there’s millions of free resources on the internet alone. So, getting somebody to pay for something initially is a bit of a challenge and, you know, for us, our goal is to inspire you. We don’t wanna charge you at this moment. We wanna just have you, exactly, have you feel what Goodspire is, you know, get that iamgoodspire feeling in you and really understand what the application is because whenever you’re introducing anything new, whether it be a product, or service, or an application, in a sense it’s always good to give somebody access to that before you demand any type of payment from them. So, once again, that’s our goal right now, is really getting it out, growing our exposure, and increasing our user base.
Laura: Thank you so much for being on this show Jarrell. You can download the app yourself, www.goodspire.com and join the Goodspire movement. Thanks for joining us today. I’m Laura Max Rose, your host of The Business Makers show, brought to you by Comcast Business, built for business.
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