Berenice Famili

Berenice FamiliCommunity Contributor

Berenice is the founder of Shalomoji, the Jewish emoji app, and runs the Shalomoji blog, where she interviews Jewish influencers to help inspire newbie entrepreneurs, bloggers, and thought leaders. She is also a freelance writer who crafts her best stories in her Forever21 red snowflake onesie pajamas. She has been published in the LA Times, Hello Giggles, Times of Israel and Jerusalem Post. Her proudest accomplishment: being a mom to Shelby, her Labrador Retriever.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

5 Things I Learned From Creating A Jewish Emoji App — With Zero Tech Experience

You know when you have those What the heck am I doing with my life type of panic moments while you’re drinking your morning coffee? About a year ago, that exact thought clouded my mind on the daily — until I had an epiphany one Shabbat evening.

I wanted to send a Shabbat Shalom text to my family and friends, and I pictured sending an animated Hasidic Rabbi with a thought bubble that read, “Shabbat Shalom.” This marked the moment when Rabbi Shlomo so clearly popped into my head and would later come to life in the Shalomoji app.


Everyone nowadays, including your Great Aunt, has an app idea. But when it comes to actually following through on that said app idea, it feels like some unattainable dream that can only be achieved by those who are already tech savvy. Well, I’m here to bust that myth.

My journey through creating Shalomoji taught me key strategies to launch an emoji app business.

If you’ve thought about starting an app, here are 5 things you need to know in order to create a Jewish app — or any app for that matter.

Find Your “Appreneur” Community

I was absolutely clueless about app development. I realized I could either wake up in the morning and continue the what the heck am I doing with my life mantra or get up with excitement and motivation to learn how to effectively execute my new business idea. With the passion and curiosity to succeed, I dived into research mode and immediately learned the importance of finding a niche group dedicated to the business of app development.

With a quick google search, you can easily find a slew of Facebook and/or meetup groups for appreneurs. Of course, once you find them, it’s normal to be fearful about joining a group filled with pros. In the beginning, I personally felt embarrassed at the thought of potentially asking a “stupid question.” But the reality is that these communities are also filled with newbies just like you who are searching for the same answers you are.

When you surround yourself with like-minded people who understand the ins and outs of appreneurship, you will quickly notice the impact it will have on your success rate. I personally not only felt inspired by all the passionate group members, but it also helped in speeding up the learning curve. Actively participate in the group and you’ll easily find a mentor and an accountability partner to catapult your appreneur journey.

You Don’t Need Tech Experience To Create An App

One of my biggest concerns about creating Shalomoji had to do with the fact that I had — and continue to still have — zero tech experience. The truth is, you really don’t need it. In fact, it works to your benefit to have none. You come from a fresh user experience mindset which is substantially more useful than coming from the let me add as many technical features as possible mindset. Better yet, while you outsource the programming and design work, you can focus on your marketing plan.

Use Pen And Paper To Sketch Out Your Idea. Outsource Programming And Design.

All you need is pen and paper to map out a basic sketch of your idea for each wireframe. Be sure to write out directions for the design of said wireframe and provide vivid descriptions for the functionality of buttons you want to include within your app. I actually went even more basic and used plain old printer paper as a demo of my app screens and copy and pasted photos and template buttons to offer a basic visual of my app idea.

Once you have this set, all you have to do is reach out to your appreneur community to get recommendations for a high quality yet affordable programming and design team that will help in actually bringing your app to life. Be sure to ask your appreneur community about quotes for your project to get a basic understanding of the costs involved for creating your specific app idea. This way, you’ll avoid any potential of being ripped off. Creating apps are way cheaper than you may think, especially if you go the template route and optimize accordingly.

Base Your App Business Around Fundamental Shared Core Values

This will help you build a loyal following.

Identify the why behind your app business. What are the underlying core values? This not only gives deeper meaning to your app, but will also help better connect you with your target audience.

My personal connection to fundamental Jewish values has enabled me to apply Judaism to the foundation of my app business, which in turn resonates with the shared values of my audience.

Dig deep to figure out what those values are. For example, attending Siani Temple Jewish Day School from age 2 to 14 really instilled in me that all Jews are interconnected (Kol Yisrael Areyvim zel la zeh) and helped me to recognize the sense of community among all Jews regardless of background (Klal Yisrael). With these values deeply ingrained within me came the inspiration for the app, which directly relates to my love for Jewish community, interconnectedness and culture. I really wanted to create a humorous, exciting and meaningful Jewish communication tool that would give Jewish people the opportunity to embrace Jewish history and identity in the digital space. I can’t begin to tell you how many thank you emails I’ve gotten directly linking to the shared value ideology mentality.

Establish A Unique Edge That Will Set Your App Apart From The Rest Of The Crowd

Study all the apps that are consistently doing well on the top charts and figure out how you can take their idea and make it 100 times better, while adding a special twist to the app. For example, there are hundreds of emoji apps in the app store, but I noticed the ones that were doing exceptionally well were those that catered to a specific niche community. Hence, I took a niche that I connected with and added a unique edge to make my emoji app stand out from the rest. One of the edges encompassed the addition of a slider scale to provide users with the ability to resize each emoji to their personal desires. I also gave it another edge by giving users multiple locations to send the emojis (within the app, app drawer, and extension keyboard). Improving and/or expanding app features mixed with finding ways to target a highly niched community are great ways to make your app stand out.

Build Relationships With Key Players In Your Niche

Research all the influencers who dedicate their brand to your app’s niche audience. Reach out to said influencers and offer your app to them for free. Be ready to pitch ways your teams can partner together that will benefit both your audience and theirs.

For example, we reached out to a Jewish dating app called Shalom and a Jewish t-shirt line called Proud Jews. Together we have launched social media giveaways and continue to work on tons of other collaboration opportunities to help support one another in our journey through spreading awareness and growing our businesses.

Collaboration is key to fast paced growth!

So, the next time your Great Aunt shares her new app idea, be sure to share these tools to make her app dreams a reality.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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