Shopify Devs sent me a package of swag, and I feel like I must reciprocate as best I can.

This is the story of how I finally built and shipped my first actual revenue generating app.

Swag from Shopify Devs

The year was 2020, a dark and infamous year of course; but simultaneously a golden age of side projects. I was a dad to be and with faced with a lot of time to think about the future.

The small, teeny tiny motivation

I had always wanted to build a small project that actually generated revenue. I knew I could either spend my off time playing a ton of videos games, or I could focus and actually ship something.

Before this I didn’t have constraints, I just had irregular free time without a real goal.

I would fail to build the MVP (bad), or fail to find a market (worse). Either way it was hours wasted.

I knew I didn’t have a large window (9 months) and still working full time.

I needed to leverage an existing market and build something folks needed, and focus on using my dev skills to build something to easily plug and play.

And I knew I had to take advantage of what was in front of me:


Lots. And lots. Of uninterrupted socially distanced time.

What 2020 felt like

Micro apps can grow a large fund

I also didn’t need the app to earn a ton of money. I could contribute up to $4,000 per year to max out tax free contributions individual Ohio 529 plan.

$4,000 / 12 months = ~$333
$333 / $10 per merchant = ~34 subscribing merchants

By focusing on a small goal, for once I was able to ship and deliver a small revenue generating app.

$333 per month at a %6 growth rate without taxation for 18 years will grow to around $153,225. At $10 per subscription, I just needed 34 subscribers to reach my 529 contribution goal.

Ohio 529 assumptions

It’s not a crushing goal of trying to replace a full time job, but at the same time it’s a meaningful amount of money given enough time.

Enter Shopify Apps

I’m half ok at building stuff, especially extending existing systems. Give me a set of API documentation and I can figure it out.

But I wasn’t then and I am still not an eCommerce merchant.

Because of my limited timeline and limited goal, I swallowed my pride and made an app for an exisiting category that I thought was totally oversaturated with solid high review apps.

After all, I only needed to capture a small part of the market to reach my goal. Why take a big swing where a ball might be an instead take a stab a pie you know is there?

I can compete?

This ended up being a great decision. My entire devtrepreneur experience, I had been trying to swing for home runs each at bat.

I would whiff, but extremely slowly and with great effort.

I shipped the MVP of my app in a few weeks, and it was approved in another two weeks.

I was live, and much to my surprise I was getting a small trickle of installs - even subscriptions 😮

Small differentiators matter

My little app never will overthrow my well entrenched competitors. They will always outrank me in the SEO & Shopify App Store rankings.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t find a market with 2nd, 3rd, or 4th place.

My app was never top 10, but it resonated with a few merchants that had similar values that I tried to strive for in my app:

  1. No Shopify app should ever need to alter your theme code
  2. Don’t make me think
  3. You shouldn’t feel like you’re in an app. Use Shopify’s design system.

Following a set of rules gave me a similar but different app than my competitors, which was enough to make me and my awesome customers happy.

Did you reach your goal?

Yes, 4 months after launch 🎯

Thanks to feedback and asking questions as much as I could, I found a set of must have features that others weren’t supporting, and did my best to deliver.

Finding your motivation

2020 was a great year for side projects - some picked up frisbee golf, some ran indoor marathons, some bought out entire shelves of toliet paper, and others tried to start businesses.

Looking back, sure the pandemic had an influence on my first profit generating app. But several other internal & external factors had played a part:

  1. I had a small yet possible goal
  2. I had a clear MVP objective by looking at competing apps
  3. I had quite a bit of free time
  4. Building on an established platform allowed me to focus on just building

5. They send you awesome swag!

My son opening up the Shopify Swag

So long story short, like Sublime Text 2 I will ride out my micro app until it dies. But until then I’m just glad knowing that I built something that will widen my son’s horizons just a little, or at least give him more options.

Getting started building Shopify apps

Checkout and the Shopify App Store and don’t forget to read the forums for finding pain points.

Thanks @ShopifyDevs for the awesome gifts and support over the years, and helping me build my first micro business.

That’s my story of building my first Shopify app, best of luck and happy building 🔨