Categorized | Shoestring Startup

SMARTY SHORTZ: A Sweat Shop in Virginia for Children?!

Yes my name is Jill and I run a “sweat shop”! By “sweat” I mean there is no A/C in the garage where our offices are that sit on our property smack in the middle of the humidity of Virginia! Still we have lovingly named it Smarty’s Shop and keep working out there because we are in fact a start-up!!

In our Smarty Shop we create educational apps for all ages up to 12th grade based on core curriculum content standards. Moms: me – Jill Etesse (designer and mother) and girlfriend LuAnne Riddle

(Educator and mother), along with my sister Jacy Everling (web designer and mother), our kids a 3, 6, 8 and 9 year old as our Beta testers and one developer have created a series of true educational apps appropriately named SMARTY SHORTZ!

SMARTY SHORTZ for children on the iPhone, iPad and iPod-Touch….this is what I do, this is my life, my family’s life! This little red fuzzy icon whom moves about helping kids that in some way have a “handle” on their parents iPhone or family iPad…has had a “handle” on our lives now for almost 2 years!!

I started out after college in the fashion industry, did the New York thing, worked for St. John Knits Inc for many years, then decided to branch out on my own and began my own children’s knit clothing line. Once the economy started to take a downturn so did the market for high-end children’s clothing and thus the deterioration of Tiny Tomatoes (loving named after my at the time one year old who couldn’t down enough little grape tomatoes!)

Coming with my design background, a husband who is in the e-learning industry and an early employee of Blackboard Inc. (NASDAQ: BBBB), a best friend private school enrichment teacher (with her Masters in Education) and 4 kids sharing 3 iPhones one afternoon on vacation…you can see how an innocent ski trip turned into starting a company!

Our screens are clear, clean, eye catching, and filled with bright colors (some screens even drawn by children). The quick lessons are created to keep a child’s interest then reward them positively with a reinforcing game linked to the lesson just learned. SMARTY SHORTZ is the first educational app to offer 6 core subjects (Math, Reading, Spelling, Science, History and Geography) 48 total activities, among the vast plethora of apps available through iTunes.

I have been working as Chief Designer for 2 years without pay, LuAnne works full time as a private school enrichment teacher and moonlights as Chief Education Officer, Jacy took a job as a loan officer to fund the ability to keep graphic designing for Smarty, our 4 kids draw our Science screens and test for free, the developer is the only full time employee we pay…and works for a lot less than industry standards to help us out! Our Smarty Shop is furnished with IKEA tables and chairs (no Aeron chairs here) and the latest refurbished Mac’s and flat screens – (insert “shoestring” here!)

Currently we are in the RED, mainly because we keep trying to produce as many grades as we can, where some companies have just one App and then concentrate on marketing that one App. We feel we have so many sketches and ideas, we just want them to come to fruition…and the marketing will have to come second (plus we can’t afford to hire someone to concentrate on it right now)…we are relying on word of mouth and some cross marketing within Teacher Groups and Moms Groups on the web (MomswithApps etc..)

We are so early in the game I wouldn’t even begin to think about what I would want for the future of Smarty other than keep creating apps that are helping kids either brush up on what they already know or challenge them in one of the subjects where they may not have been exposed to but now after Smarty are…

There are so many apps out there that are strong on the entertaining but weak on the education…we want to be different and really get kids to think while they are having fun!

We are constantly working to improve every minute of the experience that is Smarty, we send out updates approximately every month based on user needs and consumer feedback- we openly welcome all comments and suggestions to better our product to the best! Also in the works is a plan to donate a percentage of all sales to Children’s Hospital.

I absolutely LOVE what I am doing and feel that it is for the “greater good”! Yes making a salary would be awesome- wait- would I actually get paid for doing something I love, work for myself and have tons of job satisfaction? Wow what a concept! That is what I live for – that is why I’m doing this!
“DO WHAT YOU LOVE…LOVE WHAT YOU DO”..…. A quote from those smart people at Life is Good

Big things are growing in the garden for this team of moms: SMARTYSHORTZ LLC released their first grade application July 13 currently available on iTunes & the App Store for $1.99 for the iPhone, iPad and iPod…and had sold over 1000 in the first month. Look for their Kindergarten App and Cursive App this fall, followed by 2nd grade all the way to 12th!

Download – iPhone App from iTunes
Download – iPad App from iTunes
Twitter smartyshortz1

Main Menu ScreenShot


Finished Pollock Screenshot

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3 Responses to “SMARTY SHORTZ: A Sweat Shop in Virginia for Children?!”

  1. Republican Brit says:

    Such a feel good story- we need more of them!

  2. jackie45 says:

    Love it!

  3. elizabeths mom says:

    I really love your concept, what a great idea! Looking forward to checking it out.


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