Building a business in five days

Lessons learned on the StartupBus to SXSW

How long does it take to build a business?

For some, it takes years. For others, it might just take a few days. Well, as long as you have the necessities: a team of bright, curious people, a common goal, and lots of snacks. We're talking Corn Nuts here, people.

On the road: Life moves pretty fast on the StartupBus

Such is the way on the StartupBus, which kicks off a journey to South by Southwest from a city like San Francisco or New York, pitching business ideas at stops along the way and picking up new "buspreneurs" to join on the fun.

When the bus stopped at Emma's Nashville office a couple weeks ago, Alex Ezell, director of technology, hopped aboard. And now he's back from his StartupBus journey, telling his tale of life on the road (and one creepy night in an orphange-turned-hostel) on his personal blog.

Team Portioned on pitch day (Alex is second from the left)

Read what Alex learned on the StartupBus >>

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Sketchnotes: Jim Sherraden of Hatch Show Print

A recap of the first speaker series event by AIGA + Emma

Last night, Emma was pleased to co-sponsor (with the Nashville AIGA chapter) and host a talk by Jim Sheeraden of Hatch Show Print.

To read a recap – or I should say, to feast your eyes on the amazing sketchnotes that came out of this presentation – visit the personal blog of Emma senior designer Taylor Schena. You'll be glad you did. 

Here's a sneak peek at her illustrative summary:


Want to learn more about local events at Emma? Follow us on Twitter.

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Instagram: Mobile-first, but not mobile-only

Three staffers weigh in on the new-to-desktop social app

In such a mobile world, where everyone wants to convert their web-based software to a mobile app, Instagram is the only example in recent memory where users pined for a desktop version of the beloved mobile app.

And now those piners pine no more. Instagram profiles are here!

Since I manage Emma’s social media channels, I'm thrilled I can now share our Instagram feed with the world. (You can find us at, by the way.)

But now I’m wondering: Has Instagram become a full-fledged social network? Is that what spurred the cry for a web app, or is it just that we expect content to be delivered through every available channel?

Here’s what some folks around the Emma house say:


Grey Garner, market strategist

I feel like Instagram is just finishing the thought on what people find valuable about their service. They started as a native mobile app, so the core user experience (taking pictures, filtering them, sharing) has to work flawlessly on a device.

They nailed that part. But a by-product of that success has been the evolution of a valuable network of friends and followers who also want to consume the photos in their stream. So from that perspective, the mobile context isn't the whole story. They needed to figure out a way to bring the experience of consuming photos up to par with the experience of easily creating and sharing them.

Instagram is now more than just a mobile app, so to me this simply reflects the evolution of the service and how people want to engage with it.

Jim Hitch, product owner

There's a big difference between 'mobile first' and 'mobile only' and this is one expression of that. Instagram is a great example of how the world is evolving and ready to accept (and love) products that have a genuine mobile DNA. A mobile first experience, for sure. But we still want (actually, expect) to consume the content anywhere. 

In other words, the expanding mobile world doesn't mean that desktop and large-screen experiences go away. Not any time soon, anyway. It just means the expectations for it change. That's why you see Instagram leading with profiles and galleries in the web app. The whole of the experience for users is richer that way. But the challenge for product creators is greater, too.

Jason O’Brien, user experience designer

I think they are making moves to the desktop just for ubiquity, e.g. if I'm working on my desktop and want to check out Instagram photos, why can't I? Of course you can, through various desktop apps, but it makes sense for them to create a cohesive experience. 

They chose to go mobile first and it paid off, but people don't interact exclusively on a phone. Interestingly enough, while Facebook is having a hard time figuring out mobile, I don't think Instagram will have a hard time figuring out the desktop. Their new profile pages are already a sign that they will craft interesting experiences for a larger screen, although patiently and thoughtfully.

Now you tell us, Instagram fans: Why do you think the desktop app is a must-have?


Did you know?

You can add filters to any image in Emma. It's just one of the ways our new editor can take your email from good to great

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Hacktoberfest: 48 hours of coding and endless boxes of pizza

Two Emma developers reflect on last weekend's hackathon

This past weekend, while Nashville's Germantown neighborhood hosted Oktoberfest, Emma hosted Hacktoberfest, a weekend-long hackathon (yep, there were sleeping bags involved) for Nashville's tech community. Emma developers Josh Mock and Matt Perkins attended, and here they share a few thoughts on the event.


Hacktoberfest is a perfect example of where technology in Nashville is headed: developers – both experienced and novice – getting excited about building great things together. We gathered at Emma Friday evening and quickly broke into teams, shared some ideas and got to coding projects that we were passionate about.


Ben Stucki, founder and CEO of DAIO, attempts to nap

Several hours into the hackathon, exhaustion set in. People were attempting to nap in sleeping bags. Three groups of developers were arguing about whether they were going to do business with each other. Others were looking for ping-pong opponents.

It felt a little chaotic, and yet, there was something inspiring about the scene. Maybe it was the feeling of accomplishment after cobbling together a crazy hack with something I barely understood, or maybe it was just the junk food high, but I kept feeling that something important might be getting started in that very room.


The underlying premise of the hackathon is that it's a contest, but when the ball started rolling it was immediately apparent that everyone was far more interested in helping each other learn, grow and build regardless of who might win. There's certainly a competitive nature to the event, but there's a mentality that everyone's in it together. 


As Hacktoberfest was wrapping up Sunday afternoon, it was oddly coincidental that while some of the teams were finishing up some really impressive stuff, the whole room was buzzing about Felix Baumgartner's record-breaking leap from almost-space.

Watching that event live with a group of like-minded people intensified the moment. Sure, Felix was the only one free-falling to the earth, but we were all taking chances, and most of us were experimenting with code simply because it hadn't been done before. The end-product may not make sense, or it might be history-making.

Hacktoberfesters watch presentations at closing ceremonies


That collaborative, encouraging spirit is what makes it a worthwhile way to spend a weekend. Well, that and the free beer and pizza. In the end, a team of four developers that built GLu – a glucose-tracking solution that works via website or text message and sends reminders to your phone when it's time to test your blood sugar level – won a trophy for getting the popular vote from all hackathon attendees.


Want to learn more about the Nashville tech community?

Here are a few events to check out this weekend. We'll be there, so be sure to come say hi!

SoBro Fest :: Friday, October 19

BarCamp ::  Saturday, October 20

The Skillery EXPO :: Saturday, October 20


We're hiring! 

See open product development positions and more on our website.

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Care to share the email marketing campaigns that land in your inbox?

Emma staffers explain when & why they share emails with their social networks

I imagine you don't know this about me, but I've got a soft spot for furry four-legged critters. So every time that I get an email marketing campaign (like this one) full of cute, adoptable dogs, you can count on it being something that I share with every social network that I'm on.

Extra special email campaigns and causes seem to rise up, grow a pair of legs and earn a new life outside of the inbox.

The inclination to share hits everyone differently, so I spoke with four of Emma's social-savvy staffers to find out what makes them click the share button. Read on to see if you can spot a trend or two.

Jamie Bradley, Sales

Jamie: I'm a big fan of giving back, whether it be to a cause on the world stage that strikes a chord with me or an adorable little leaguer going door-to-door selling candy bars for new uniforms.

Email is an invaluable tool for nonprofits to quickly and effectively raise awareness in a fast, cost-efficient and attention-grabbing way online.

So, as a recipient, I'm very likely to spread the word to my social networks if there's an immediate need, like a call for last-minute volunteers or emergency donations. Hitting that share button never felt so good!


Patrick Copeland, Customer Support

Patrick: In short: relevance. Whether it's a sale at a shop, an upcoming event, a news article or a video I know my friends and followers will find hilarious, it has to be fully relevant for the people to whom I'm sharing.

If you're reaching me directly with information that's actually suitable to me, then one can assume that my social network friends and followers are – for the most part – like-minded and would appreciate receiving the same information.


Cliff Corr, Marketing

Cliff: I usually share an email if it strikes a chord with me personally or professionally. If it's something that I feel a part of or something that inspires me, I'll share it.

But, before sharing anything on a social network, I always ask myself a couple of questions, such as "Does this post represent me?" and "Would my friends and followers find it interesting?" If my answers are "yes," then I'll share. I also ask myself questions like, "How many is too many when it comes to pictures of my dog?" and "Should I cool it with this many karaoke updates?" My filter tends to be stricter for the first two questions ... (Want to see a picture of my dog, Sir Henry Wiggles? Thought so.)


Seth Wood, Design

Seth: My reasons for sharing an email via a social networking site are largely content-driven.

Being a bit of a design nerd, for me that means anything design-related that I think is noteworthy and cool, and anything I think that people who have similar interests (the people I most frequently communicate with via the interwebs) might enjoy as well.

This may mean different things for different people – music-related news for the audiophiles and cat pictures for, well, pretty much everyone. Essentially anything I find interesting or informative is likely to make its way onto someone else's feed.


Making your emails more sharable …

Wish more folks were sharing your emails on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn? Here are a few quick tips: 

  • Create a purposeful call to action in your email prompting your subscribers to share with their friends and social networks. You can even sweeten the deal by rewarding those power sharers. (Never hurts to ask, right?) Learn how to turn on social sharing for your emails.
  • Design a subscriber preference center, and give your audience the ability to choose what sort of content they want to be receiving.
  • Smartly segment your audience, then send.

I hope that I'll see your email campaigns showing up in my social feeds soon. And if you've come across an especially share-worthy email lately, please tell us about it in the comments section here.

Find even more email marketing tips in our resource center.

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A tale of four email templates

Emma designers share the inspiration behind the templates they created

Recently, you may have heard us talking about our brand new template gallery, a slew of free, readymade email templates created by Emma's design team. Each template collection comes with three stylish designs – a newsletter, postcard and note – and they're easy to customize with your brand colors, logo and more.

I asked four designers to choose one of their favorite template designs and tell us its inspiration. Read on to get to know a few members of Emma's creative team.

Designer: Cody Newman

Template collection: Faraday

I created Faraday to look technical, but not stodgy. I like that the graph paper establishes a bit of a scientific feel, while the rounded corners and bright colors keep things playful.

Of course, the colors I chose may be a little too loud for some brands out there.

Don't let that keep you away; thanks to our new content editor, the colors can easily be changed to fit your taste. Try changing the header and footer colors to a dark grey, and you'll see the template instantly takes on a more formal tone.

I can't wait to see how our customers adjust Faraday to make it their own.

Designer: Josh Reid

Template collection: Lida Rose

My favorite template is Lida Rose. I wanted to design a template that would be ideally suited for invitations and similar campaigns. I think the template works well for weddings, an art gallery opening, a special event or even just a company hangout.

As I designed it, I combed the web for other classic, clean invitation designs and drew inspiration from them.

This is my own twist, and I'm looking forward to seeing how you add yours to it.

Designer: Lauren Johnston

Template collection: Pacific Heights

I really love the simplicity of Pacific Heights – it's got a bit of serene look.

And it allows you to add flair with your own colors and content.

The paper texture in the background adds a nice contrast and will make an email look similar to a printed letter. And how lovely is it to receive a real letter from someone?

This template also has a special area for navigation – use it to highlight important links or special parts of your site. It's a great way to integrate your website with your email campaigns.

Designer: Lee Floyd

Template collection: Push Pin

My favorite from the template gallery is Push Pin.

It's a really clean design, and like most of our templates, it'll allow you to make adjustments to fit your brand.

I designed this template with myself in mind. I asked, "What sort of email template would I use over and over, and love the results every time?" Push Pin was the product.


Want to try out these new templates for yourself?  Visit our resource center to find how to choose a template and get started with the new content editor, and then log into your account to give it a try.

New to email? Explore our email marketing resources, and get to know Emma.

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A conversation with Emma’s CEO and co-founder

Clint Smith talks about leadership, Emma and, um, pecans with the Nashville Business Journal

Clint Smith of Emma Email Marketing

Last month's edition of the Nashville Business Journal featured an executive profile of our very own CEO, Clint Smith.

The Q&A covers a host of topics, including the leaders that inspire him, how he's overcome challenges and the exciting stuff Emma has in the works for the next few months.

Unfortunately, it's also publicized the incriminating information that our chief executive has no idea how to pronounce the word "pecan."

What is the simplest thing you never learned to do?
The ability to accurately pronounce the word "pecan."

Dubbed by pundits as "Pecangate," the scandal has rocked us to the very center of our snack closet and calls into question Clint's familiarity with the entire mixed nut landscape. Can he tell a pistachio from a Brazil nut? Does he even know that peanuts are technically a legume?!

All the pecan drama, as well as the other non-nut-related topics, is available here for your reading pleasure.

Meet Lisa Creamer, our newest Portland favorite

Lisa, our new biz dev specialist in Portland, loves the Decemberists and potatoes.

Back in November, we published a blog post letting the world know we were looking for the right someone to lead our business development efforts in Portland. In a magical ask and they shall come moment, we met Lisa Creamer and liked her so much, we immediately wanted to put a ring on it. Recently, we sat down with our newest Portland member to chat about her new role and her plan for friendly Emma domination in the city of roses.

You're been with Emma for six weeks now. What excites you the most about your new role?
I think it's the opportunity that excites me the most. Portland is a hot bed of creativity. People feel a sense of freedom to bring forth new ideas, knowing that the town will embrace them and engage in their growth. Emma just seems like a logical fit. We fit the Portland personality. Sure, we're quirky and fun-loving, but we also provide the perfect venue to help people grow and flourish. Emma has the unique ability to help people communicate their ideas with simplicity and style without breaking the bank.

We're intrigued. Can you tell us a little bit about your grand plans for bringing the Emma brand to the Portland community?
In a perfect world, I would have local indie darlings, The Decemberists, compose a love ballad to Portland from Emma. While we wait to hear back from Colin Meloy on that, I'm really looking forward to getting the Emma brand in front of the Portland community, to let everyone know we are right on E Burnside in the heart of the central Eastside neighborhood. We moved to Portland three years ago because we wanted to join and support this vibrant community.

One of the things I love about Emma is the giving back initiatives. It just fits organically into the lifestyle out here. At Emma, we do what we do very well. Outside of being an email marketing service, we pride ourselves on building relationships with our customers, making their experience as personable as possible while delivering an awesome product. You pair that up with giving back campaigns, like planting 5 trees for each new customer who joins, and it seems very Portland to me.

Okay, now that we've got the business stuff out of the way, let's have some fun. What's your take on IFC's break-out hit Portlandia?
I think most of it is pretty spot on. Let's be honest. People are a little weird here. It's part of what we all love about Portland. And I gotta say that the "Put a bird on it" skit really has us pegged. We do love birds. On everything.

Portland's food cart scene is leading a conversation on a national level. What's your favorite cart in town?
My favorite cart is Potato Champion. There's nothing more satisfying than a heaping cone of perfectly cooked fries after a bicycle pub crawl. My six-year-old son, Enzo, prefers PFE, a cart downtown that serves sushi and Chinese food. Whatever you're craving, there's a food cart dishing it out.

What are three Portland companies you would love to introduce to Emma?
One company that is near and dear to my heart is Looptworks. Looptworks is dedicated to upcycling, repurposing abandoned materials into clothing and gear. It really addresses the issue of using what's already available and sparks an invitation for people to think about what they buy, where it came from and what natural resources it required to produce it. Plus, their product line is super cute.

Another brand that I love is New Deal Distillery. Add a little Hot Monkey Vodka to a Caipirinha, and I'm a happy camper. Portland's riding a distillery boom right now. Thanks to the DIY culture, it's always been a great place for beer, coffee and tea, and it's nice to see a notable number of quality handcrafted, locally distilled spirits join the scene. It's also worth noting that our office is just blocks from what's known as Distillery Row.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Powell's Books. Outside of being the world's largest new and used bookstore, Powell's is a Portland institution. I'd love to get Emma on their radar and find a way to unite two companies that bring quality service to the community.

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