While working in corporate America and a few retail sales jobs, I felt the frustration of walking into a space each day knowing that I did not belong. Knowing I was destined to achieve greater things in life, but the big question was: how do you move forward to achieve more? How do I create my own destiny? I quit or I left each position in search of more. Little did I know, I wasn’t alone in feeling this way.
With all of these questions on my mind, I decided to watch a motivational movie. After watching the film Steve Jobs, there were so many moments and quotes that made me change my perspective on the mindset of an entrepreneur. Once the mission for their company is discovered, most entrepreneurs are determined to change the world, or at least how people view it, with a product or service they created. Entrepreneurs are not always the smartest people in the room, but they have a gift of connecting and eventually employing other smart people who assist in bringing their visions to life. For example, Jobs had the vision for the personal computer and how it could change the tech industry, but he did not know how to develop the product–his friends did. The end result was the creation of Apple, Inc., a company that took the tech world by storm.
Jobs understood that feeling of wanting more and worked towards achieving it. When I allowed that concept to marinate in my mind, it made me think of my college friend Haig Jean, the co-creator of the Expresser App, and someone who created his own destiny from an adverse situation.
Jean created Hairic, Inc. with his friend Rick Isibor after attending high school and college together and majoring in engineering at New Jersey Institute of Technology. After college, they took separate paths; Jean went on to work for Verizon Wireless while Isibor entered corporate America. After six years of employment at Verizon Wireless, Jean left the company and was unemployed for two years. During his unemployment, instead of letting the fact that he was without a job weigh his spirit down, Jean realized it was a blessing in disguise. “I thought that this was a perfect time to do something that I wanted to do,” Jean said. So he decided to tap into his creativity.
Jean reached out to Isibor, who was recently laid off from his job and was focusing more on the world of technology and working on his own entertainment website, and pitched him an idea. “I saw funny celebrity faces all over the Internet and would use them in text messages to my friends, so I thought it would be funny to create an app,” Jean said.
Both agreed it was an innovative and unique concept, so they took the leap and created Hairic, Inc. (a combination of their names), and the Expresser App was born. Both Jean and Isibor understand that communication has become very visual. They both wanted to maximize the opportunity to use popular celebrity facial expressions to express common phrases. “Once you believe in an idea, you must execute it, have the drive and determination that it takes to bring it to fruition while putting in the necessary research and time because it is not easy,” Isibor said.
Both founders come from immigrant households, Isibor is Nigerian-American and witnessed his father running his own business, and Jean is Haitian-American and looked up to his godfather, who owned his own business. Both gentlemen said it was because of their family that they wanted to eventually become young entrepreneurs. Their families not only came to America to better themselves but to also make a name for themselves. Striving to make a better life for themselves, these immigrants set an example for their children to achieve more, showing their families that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
The Expresser App allows the user to include the faces of well-known celebrities and athletes on a third-party keyboard in text message on their smartphones. Once the app was completed, Jean and Isibor tested the app by releasing a beta version of it to a selective group of friends. Their friends loved it so much they began sharing it with others. A chain reaction took place resulting in an unexpected amount of downloads of the app without any formal promotional efforts–it proved itself to be a hit. “We didn’t think that it would be this big, so we hid our image at first because we wanted the focus to be on the app,” Jean said.
And focusing on the app they did, officially launching it last February. The Expresser App gained the attention of basketball player J.R Smith, who was the first celebrity to retweet about their app. Other celebrities followed suit, including Chris Brown, Fabolous, Diddy, Drake, Waka Flocka Flame, T.I., and Angela Simmons, just to name a few. “I knew that we were affecting the masses,” Jean said after he saw the celebrity interest.
The app initially appealed to racial minorities, with prominent people of color being the most influential individuals to use the app, but Jean and Isibor made it very clear that their user base and downloads come from a diverse audience.
The future of Expresser App is very bright. Jean and Isibor are working to land funding for the app, working with better developers and implementing the app into social media. They said they hope to partner with app developers in the near future and assist others in making their dreams come true. There are upgrades and other paid options for the app, including a unique feature that lets users turn their own picture into an emoji — allowing the user to be their own celebrity to text their friends.
These gentlemen, like Steve Jobs, have proven you can achieve anything you put your mind to. What Jean and Isibor have in common with Jobs is they know their audience and understand what they want. They have taken the language of Millennials and created a need for their app to be part of their everyday conversations. All Jean and Isibor did was use innovation to supply a demand. These two stories may have started differently, but their outcome is the same: they created an opportunity for themselves. Life gave them lemons, and they created more than lemonade – they created a limitless world, and you can too. Go out and achieve more.
“Embrace, improve, and make your mark on the world. Learn that and the world will never be the same again.”– Steve Jobs
A version of this post originally appeared on BOLD
Images courtesy of Haig Jean