How Sarah Boland used her marketing experience to create Life Lapse, an easy, affordable way to create high-quality stop motion videos for social media
Sarah Boland launched tech company Life Lapse with no tech experience, and fast forward to today, has simplified the video creation process for almost 2 million people in over 180 countries. Keep reading to learn all about how she did it!
Describe your business in a few words?
Life Lapse is a stop motion app that simplifies the video creation process with an all-in-one app where users can learn, shoot and edit stop motion videos.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
Before launching Life Lapse, I was always freelancing and had side gigs while working 9-5 as a video marketer. I was (and still am) always looking for my next move on how I could build my empire to create global impact. Video was beginning to be introduced on social media platforms and was growing fast, I recognized how important it was for brands to have video integrated into their marketing strategies and knew this could be a big opportunity. As a videographer, marketer and photographer, my options to achieving global impact were to either scale a service-based video business or build a piece of technology that would put the power in the users hands. I ended up choosing the latter by building Life Lapse.
I noticed when I was freelancing that small businesses didn’t have the budget to hire professional videographers to create short videos for marketing, which meant they were missing out on a really impactful opportunity. When you are wearing 10 different hats in your business, choosing where to hire help is hard and video content creation was rarely on the top of that list for small business owners.
With iPhone cameras reaching impressive qualities, I knew a mobile app was my way to help these small businesses. I took the leap to start Life Lapse and the journey began to democratize video creation with a phone. An app would allow me to stop trading time for money that I was doing while freelancing and focusing on creating a technology that could scale on a global level.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I do not have an MBA or even a degree in business/marketing. I have a diploma in film production from the Toronto Film School. I always thought I was going to work on sets of blockbuster movies because I really loved video storytelling. One year into my career in the film industry, I quickly realized that I actually didn’t get to be creative at all.
That is when I took a position at an online eyewear company as an in-house photographer and videographer. Though the role started with being a product photographer (this was so boring), I was able to evolve my role into a video producer. I actually loved this role as I got a ton of creative freedom to concept, shoot and edit all sorts of videos to tell the brand story. The role took me to places like New York Fashion Week capturing the latest eyewear trends, music festivals, company events, helicopters up to glaciers and even to Kenya for giving back initiatives.
After leaving the eyewear company, I held a similar role at a home care company. While the job wasn’t as “cool” as going to festivals and fashion week, I got to capture incredible stories from seniors across Canada & the USA which was fulfilling. I was in my video marketing roles for about six years before taking the leap to launch Life Lapse.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Yes, but without realizing it. Growing up, I had dabbled in cliche entrepreneur opportunities like having lemonade stand. I would also buy candy from Costco in bulk and sell that too. I’ve always been ambitious to start my own projects but never had an idea big enough where I thought I was going to leave my full-time job to do my own thing, until Life Lapse.
My entire family works for the gas company where I grew up. When I say everybody, I mean everybody – grandfather, dad, mom, brother, uncles & cousins. I am so fortunate that my mom was always super supportive of me following my passions around video and photography, despite being the oddball out in the family. I am the only one in my family who went to college. My family has the mentality of once you get a good job with benefits, pensions, etc – you stay with that job. It was always ingrained in me that a 9-5 is the safe thing to do.
In a round about way, even though my actions were very entrepreneurial, I never really believed it was an option for me until I had 6 years of work experience until my belt and thought to myself, “I can fucking do this!”.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
I distinctly remember hitting the publish button through the Apple back end, iTunes Connect, to push the app live. It was the middle of the night in September of 2017 and I was in Bali for a bachelorette trip. I didn’t have much of a strategy to be honest other than launching on Product Hunt, connecting with the folks at Apple to feature the app (which they did), shout about the app from the rooftops to my network of friends, family and ex-colleagues on social media and attend local startup events and pitch nights.
I didn’t do paid ads but I did host a giveaway on our Instagram page giving away $500 cash if people tagged friends and followed us. Literally giving away cash. The contest to my surprise was a total flop and I saw only a couple hundred entries when I was expecting to gain thousands of followers. I was so naive. I thought the app concept would go viral, the contest would go viral and I would be acquired in a matter of weeks. I quickly realized over the months following the launch that what we initially launched Life Lapse as (a time lapse app for your life) was not working.
So did our marketing strategies go as planned? No. Did people use the product for what we launched it as? No. It was a total crap shoot to be honest!
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
Ohhh, this is a good one! As somebody who launched a tech company with zero tech experience, I can tell you I have failed a lot along the way, and I 100% agree that we always learn the most from our mistakes. I’ll share my most ✨public ✨failure/mistake. Going on Dragons’ Den (the Canadian version of Shark Tank) only seven months after we launched (before we had product market fit!) was my biggest mistake. Since we did not have product market fit at the time, I thought pitching a whole new direction for the company was the solution. I did not believe in the idea and lacked vision. I was rippppppped apart. It was really embarrassing. The dragons told me to quit the business and said hurtful, personal things. I felt completely defeated after going on the show.
My biggest learning from the show was to not take “no” for an answer, to not give up and remember that Dragons’ Den is a reality television show, meaning they need drama and want reactions out of people. Shortly after going on the show, we pivoted Life Lapse to what it is today based on how we saw our users creating with the app. We have seen massive growth and success since then. At the end of the day, entrepreneurs will get feedback thrown at them from a million different directions – from investors, mentors, other founders and industry leaders. What’s worked for me is actually listening to our customer and focusing on the product.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
That we have simplified the video creation process for almost 2 million people in over 180 countries.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
“Why do you want to work for Life Lapse”? This will filter out people who just want any job vs people who can get behind the mission of your company. We do 4-day work weeks at Life Lapse while paying a 5-day salary to promote working smarter, not harder and having a good work/life balance. Because of this, we need to hire people who are good at their craft and can produce high results. In addition to reviewing their qualifications, this question filters out those who just want 3 day weekends so we can find people who can come in, do a killer job, produce results and care about the mission of the company.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
The pandemic has forced marketers to work from home, get crafty with their content creation and be more efficient with marketing budgets and because of this, we’ve been lucky to be positively impacted by the pandemic. We recognize how privileged and fortunate we are to be in the position.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
Education is a big part of our focus for 2021. Learning stop motion can be a tricky process so we are always looking for new ways to educate and simplify the process inside the app and in our social media media channels. We will also be focusing on bringing our Android app up to speed to where our iOS app is with editing features.
Aside from that, we are launching a new iOS/Android app this April in the design space which I’m super excited about!
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
My biggest lesson I learned from 2020 is that I don’t have to build this company alone. I went from being a solopreneur (with an amazing team of contractors) to a team of 5 full-time employees and it has been a dream.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
To have more patience, trust in the process and hire sooner. I am a very impatient person. Building a community and a company takes time. I also wish I offloaded tedious tasks sooner.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
So many people have died, gotten ill from and lost jobs due to COVID-19. The fact that I have a roof over my head and me and my family are healthy is more than enough to keep me grounded.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
Yes, I truly do! As I mentioned earlier, we do 4-day work weeks at Life Lapse. I am a big believer in working to live and not living to work, and that you can produce really great results in 4 days. Of course there are periods if there’s a deadline or I’m feeling inspired with a new idea that I might stay up until 5am to work, but that is rare. 95% of the time me and my team work Monday-Thursday and then enjoy our 3-day weekends. Tips I have for work/life balance:
1. Turn email/Slack notifications off on evenings and weekends.
2. Set boundaries with your boss.
3. Find a job that aligns with your values and interests, so if you are working late for a deadline or need to catch up over the weekend, it’s fulfilling.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
1. Set goals every Monday to dictate your tasks for the week and block out times in your calendar you will do those tasks and make a list.
2. Turn off notifications on your computer & phone so you can hyperfocus on your task. The only notifications I have on my phone are for phone calls and texts. On my computer, the same thing. I don’t even have Slack notifications on. I get distracted so easily so if I’m working on a task and I see slack messages coming in every few minutes, I will never get the task done. Same with my phone, I don’t have Slack or any social media notifications on.
3. Keep your desk clutter-free and always have a huge glass with water in it!
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Building a company and a personal life on my terms with the support of the people around me. Continuing to follow my intuition, being relentless and taking major risks. Saying no “big dick energy” that we often see with tech bros and yes to leading with empathy, vulnerability and compassion.