A mobile app that helps moms to store their children’s art ended up taking home the grand prize at this year’s Exc!te Business Pitch Competition, and the mom behind the idea has big plans for expansion.
For this week’s edition of People of Collingwood we sat down with Laura Page-Hamelin, recent first-place winner of the competition for her app, Artopus.
Q: What is your background?
A: I was born in Montreal. I was raised in Oakville. (I lived there) for about 30 years. A couple of years ago, my husband and I decided to leave the city life and take our business north to Collingwood. We found ourselves there on weekends anyway. We’d had a family cottage in Tiny Township, which we sold, but we felt we’d lost our life on Georgian Bay and had to do something about it.
So we uprooted our family and both our businesses two years ago.
I went to Sheridan College for art, and then I went to Conestoga College for business marketing and ended up in the advanced co-op program. I went on to get my degree in marketing and entrepreneurship. I never liked working in the corporate world. I’ve always kind of done stuff on my own. My most recent company was a digital marketing company.
I had children, and that led into the foundation of Artopus.
Artopus is a children’s art storage and print app that’s designed for families with kids.
Q: When did the idea for Artopus come to you?
A: I have four kids, and the three youngest are super interested in art. I have ridiculous amounts of artwork everywhere in storage bins that are overflowing. One day, I’ll scrapbook, but maybe I won’t. The intentions are there.
So about four years ago I just started purging that stuff. My four-year-old came walking in the house and saw the bag full of artwork and she said, “Mommy, I made these for you!” and she was bawling.
I felt so bad! So I said, “I’m so sorry. What if we took pictures of it?”
She was so thrilled and she felt so confident. I thought there was something happening there.
Not only can I recycle my kid’s artwork, but it’s stored in my phone for me to look at whenever I want. The problem is, it gets lost in the cloud with all the other pictures. I started asking my mom friends, and they had the same issue. They said they’d love to save some of it and it sounded like a great idea to them.
I sat on the idea for two years, although the issue continued.
On my Facebook, I saw an ad for Starter Company Plus here in Collingwood.
I went in and met with them and came up with a business plan for Artopus, and I got a $5,000 grant.
That started the process of building the app.
Q: Can you take me through what the app experience is like?
A: Essentially, we wanted it to be very turn-key for moms because we’re all so busy.
Basically, you open the app, log in, and the first thing you do is create folders for each of your children.
You can go into each folder and add photos from your library or take a picture of your kid’s artwork. It’s automatically date stamped. That way, you can see the progression of their artwork.
After that you have options – for example, you can make a preschool folder or an art camp folder – to send creations to print. We have a relationship with a printer in Canada who will print it into a high-quality book so now you’d have this preserved artwork in an 8.5" x 11" sized book that’s easily stored on a shelf.
Q: How did you come up with the name?
A: Through this whole process, I’ve learned to trademark names (is difficult) because you can’t use standard words per se.
I went through a slew of names before I came up with Artopus.
Artopus sounds like octopus, and every mom wants to have seven arms. But ‘opus’ is a Latin word that means masterpiece. So the combination of the two (‘art’ and ‘opus’) combines both.
All of our kids’ artwork is little masterpieces to us. So, it seemed perfect and it was easy to trademark.
Q: When did you first hear about the Exc!te Business Pitch Competition?
A: Through the Starter Company Plus program. Some of my mentors there told me I should consider entering.
Since I got that $5,000 grant, I’ve put together an amazing team. I thought I had nothing to lose. Plus, I love being in front of people and being in the public eye.
Q: What was the experience like?
A: Having not done this before, and not having ever watched like Dragon’s Den or anything like that... I didn’t expect it to be so easygoing.
I was expecting it to be cutthroat. Although they told me ahead of time it’s not like that, you still expect a bit of resistance to your idea.
There was so much positive feedback, information and ideas. It was almost like being in a brainstorming group at the end.
The pitch itself was great. In the lead up to the pitch experience they do workshops where they work through how to present step by step. For people who have nerves, it was really good for them. There’s a lot of information to fit in to five minutes.
The support system was great. They’re just there for you.
The panellist feedback at the end was something I didn’t expect and it was phenomenal.
Q: You won first prize and the tech prize. How did it feel when you found out?
A: It felt great. I had seen some of the people who I was up against. I had spoken with them and I had watched their mini presentations prior to the competition. There were some really good competitors. So, I was a bit nervous going in because of the competition. But, it was about the pitch itself, so I had to out-present those people.
It felt amazing because I had practised my pitch for two weeks. I had recorded it and I just practised while walking my dog, or in the kitchen. By the time I was in there, I was like a blank slate and it just came out of my mouth.
Q: What are you going to do with the money?
A: It’s already spent. (laughs) The app is in production right now, and it’s due to soft launch in August. A lot of the money is essentially going to marketing dollars.
The hard launch will be at the end of September.
Q: Where can people find it?
A: It will be on Google Play and The App Store. I’m going to be launching a website within the next two weeks.
Q: What does the future hold for you and your business?
A: The app we’re releasing is the most amazing version of it. We have huge ideas of what’s to come. We want to integrate it with school systems. We want to add art components to it, where kids can actually draw in the app.
Right now, we’re doing the North America launch, then Europe, then Australia. Mostly English-speaking areas for the time being but we see it expanding internationally.
I am a serial entrepreneur. Right now, I want to work my bones off on this business because it’s where I’m supposed to be right now.
But I don’t predict what the future has in store at all.
For our feature People of Collingwood, we’ll be speaking with interesting people who are either from or are contributing to the Collingwood community in some way. This feature will run on CollingwoodToday every Saturday. If you’d like to nominate or suggest someone to be featured in People of Collingwood, email firstname.lastname@example.org.