My goal is simple: to better the lives of those living with celiac disease through a mobile app called Bluesponge. Below I'll talk about who I am, why I'm doing this, the features of the app, how it will benefit the celiac community, where the funding will be going and the target date of launch. If you have any questions, I'll be checking the comments section frequently...perhaps even obsessively ;-) Thank you.
Why the name Bluesponge? Fair question. When you have celiac disease, you need to be ungodly careful of cross-contamination, especially in the kitchen. One tiny crumb is all it takes to set off the autoimmune response. So in our home, we always had two sponges at our sink. A pink or yellow one for general use. And a blue sponge that was never to touch any gluten. Whenever we had guests, we'd always say "Don't touch the blue sponge!" And a mobile app name was born.
Scott Hayes, web developer & digital entrepreneur. But within the celiac and gluten-free communities I'm known as Gluten Dude, a popular, passionate and very outspoken celiac disease advocate. I was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2008 and I launched my blog in 2011. In the 8 years since, I've written over 700 articles, received over 33,000 comments and it's been visited over 9 million times. I've helped a lot of people along the way, both publicly and privately and will continue to do so via the mobile app. I've got a wonderful, spirited following on my blog and also on social media (over 50k followers). Here are a few kudos from my fellow celiacs:
"Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You changed the journey for me."
"You make me smile, you make me cry, and you make me mad. But most of all, you make me grateful that I don’t have to figure this all out on my own."
"You were a life line for me when I was bewildered, brain foggy and...sick. Thank you."
"I literally bawled my eyes out reading your blog because someone finally was being honest and understood and wrote the truth. So thank you so much!"
"I Googled “f**k celiac” and found my way to your blog. Thanks for blazing the trail. My life is better for your efforts."
"Your latest post is why my son wants to be Gluten Dude when he grows up."
I've also written a book that has sold very well (4.5 stars on Amazon) about the trials and tribulations of living with celiac disease. Yep...that's me on the cover below.
My point here is not to brag. It's to show that I have a great connection with the celiac community, I'm a trusted voice and I know I can help people live better lives thru this mobile app.
Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disease, affecting 1 in every 133 people. When someone with celiac disease eats gluten, it sets off the autoimmune response and damages the villi of the small intestine (see image below). When the villi are damaged, the body cannot absorb nutrients and becomes malnourished, which can lead to a bevy of health issues, including osteoporosis, infertility, anemia, other autoimmune diseases -- it can even lead to the start of neurological diseases and certain cancers. There is NO CURE for celiac disease and the only treatment is a 100% gluten-free diet FOR LIFE.
A mobile app built specifically to help and empower those with celiac disease and anybody else who eats gluten-free for health reasons. The idea of the app is to create a close-knit community like I have on my blog where people come to find safe places to eat, to discover, to learn, to share, and to connect, all to make their lives easier, better and healthier. Keep on reading to see what specific problems the app will solve.
Ah...the million dollar question. Let's tackle them one at a time.
PROBLEM > EATING OUT SAFELY: Eating out is one of the more challenging and stressful parts of having celiac disease. One crumb is all it takes to set off the autoimmune response. Everything that is fun and spontaneous about eating out can be overshadowed by the anxiety of whether you can get through your meal unscathed. There is currently a well-known restaurant directory app on the market geared toward the gluten-free community. But the problem is that most of the listings are not 100% gluten-free, putting the health of the community at risk.
SOLUTION: A directory of only 100% gluten-free restaurants, guaranteeing a safe meal, and allowing the community to eat out without fear. Each listing will include a description of the establishment, pictures, reviews, ratings, directions, etc. The user will be able to search by their current location or another location. There will also be a way for the establishment to connect with their audience directly (via notifications, beacon technology, etc.) The app will definitely encompass the US and Canada and if I can raise enough funds here on Kickstarter, it will be world wide.
PROBLEM > FINDING GLUTEN-FREE BEER: Beer, sadly, is not gluten-free. The most popular "gluten-free" beers on the market today are actually "gluten-removed" and are not safe for those with celiac disease. There are a handful of amazing 100% gluten-free beers out there nowadays, but because their distribution is limited, they can be really difficult to find. I can't tell you how many stores I've walked into fingers crossed, only to come out empty handed.
SOLUTION: This app will show the stores, bars and restaurants where people can purchase gluten-free beer. The user will be able to search by their current location, another location and/or by brand. I have a good relationship with the gluten-free beer companies and they will be sending me updated data on a monthly basis, which will be loaded into the app.
PROBLEM > FINDING A VARIETY OF MEALS TO COOK: While keeping a kitchen safe from cross-contamination is challenging enough, finding the time to plan and cook meals adds to the mix. Many people with celiac disease tend to come back to the same meals over and over again. Variety is the spice of life and someone with celiac disease should not have to settle for less.
SOLUTION: Recipes and meal plans. We'll cull thousands of recipes across the web from some of our favorite celiacs and (with permission and credit/link to their website) add them to the app. The user will be able to search by meal type (breakfast/lunch/dinner/dessert), by other allergens (nut/egg/dairy/etc.) and by time of preparation. We'll also offer 7 day meal plans to make it simple to plan your week in advance.
PROBLEM > CELIAC CAN BE AN ISOLATING DISEASE: Celiac disease is a very misunderstood disease and can be quite isolating. I've received so many emails over the years from people whose own friends and family don't take their disease seriously; who don't get invited out to eat because they're "too difficult"; who are bullied at school simply because they can't eat gluten through no fault of their own. And most of the time, there is no one there to turn to, to listen to you, to understand you.
SOLUTION: Live chat. Nobody understands the celiac journey quite like the people who live it. This app will connect people in the celiac community, allowing them to have both private one-on-one and group conversations, with each other and with me. I'll be a very active member on the app. Users will even have the option of providing their zip code, allowing people to search for others by location. Imagine traveling to a new town and not knowing anybody. Pull up the app, search your zip code and make a new friend!
PROBLEM > GETTING BAD ADVICE OR NO ADVICE AT ALL: The internet is littered with falsehoods, outright lies and dangerous information regarding celiac disease and eating gluten-free. People are looking for answers to their problems, quickly and accurately, and they are not sure where to turn or who to trust, putting their health in jeopardy.
SOLUTION: A forum run by the most trusted voices in the celiac community, including me. I'll create a number of topics where people can chime in with questions, answers and advice. The forum will be heavily moderated so only the right information is getting out there. There are too many celiac Facebook groups that post dangerous information and scare tactics. This forum will stick to the facts, allowing people to get the answers they need...and deserve.
Two words: Research & Development
Research: I have already accumulated a list of over 1,500 dedicated gluten-free establishments, thanks to the amazing celiac community chiming in. But there is much research to be done still. I will need to hire two people full time to 1) Keep searching for any and all establishments that we don't have already; 2) Call all of the establishments to verify they are indeed 100% gluten-free and ask the owners to send a brief description of their establishment plus a photo of their choice; and 3) Organize all of the data so it can be easily exported to the app. This will be an ongoing process from the time we start until the day we launch. So the estimated cost for research is $12,000.
Development: I have spoken to a large number of mobile app development companies and have chosen one that stood head and shoulders above the rest in all aspects (business, design, development, deployment). Their final estimate is between $25,000 and $38,000, dependent on several variables.
Based on the above, the final budget to build the mobile app is between $37,000 and $50,000. The more funds I can raise thru Kickstarter, the more resources I can put into the app, which will result in a wider database of gluten-free establishments and a quicker launch time. If the goal is reached, about 9% of all funds received gets taken off the top in both Kickstarter and credit card fees.
One last note. With Kickstarter, it's an all-or-nothing deal. If the goal is not reached in the 30 day time-frame, your pledge will be returned to you. If it is reached, your credit card will be charged at the end of the project and we're off to the races.
I am going to push hard for an end of December launch. It would be a nice way to start the new year for the celiac community.
Risks and challenges
If the funds are raised, the mobile app will be created. If the lower end of funding is goal is reached, the only risk is a delay in launch by a month or so.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (33 days)