Digital Chatter Episode #009: Christian Zimmerman
Eric: Hello and welcome everyone to Digital Chatter. My name is Eric Sharpe and today I’m here with Christian Zimmerman. Go ahead and say hi!
Christian: What’s up guys, how’s everybody doing?
Eric: All right. Well Christian is the co-founder and CEO of Qoins. Qoins is an app on both app stores, on the iOS and the Google Play Stores. And it allows people to pay back their debt easily using their spare change. It’s a really cool app and I brought Christian on today to discuss that and a little bit more. So Christian tell everyone a little bit about yourself.
Christian: Yeah well first thanks for having me. But yeah so what Qoins does is it help people pay down their debts by using spare change. So for example you know, you go to get a cup of coffee, it’s $3.20 we’ll rounded it up to the next dollar so $4 and then the 80 cents we apply towards whatever loan you’re trying to pay down. One thing we found pretty popular is credit cards. Obviously we make a big impact with credit cards and student loans.
Eric: That’s awesome. So how did you get in to all this? I mean this is you know this is not a typical thing. I would imagine for a young person to do. What’s your background?
Christian: I’m just a broke college student. I graduated from Georgia State about a year ago. And I think that’s kind of where it came about with the problem and trying to solve it. I had my own pain point of trying to make extra payments or make just the regular payments on my student loans. And so I found out I wasn’t the only one you know in the same situation. But then as I started to find out that other people with other debt problems were in the same bucket too. But just you know a little bit older. So yes, it’s kind of how I care about it and it’s been it’s been a rollercoaster for sure.
Eric: Yeah I can imagine and in fact I’m trying to think of the statistic of how many people you know graduated college you know the extra you know they’ve gone to secondary school age and they’re paying off their debts hand 20, 30 years later they’re still trying to pay off this debt. And it’s to them. I mean it’s a hindrance to their relationships as a hinderance to their ability to move to buy houses to do all sorts of things. You know what what is like a typical situation for someone to use your app?
Christian: So it’s funny ’cause I started because of school loans. Right. And I wanted to you know pay back my loans. But what we found as we started growing.. Like I said a majority people started actually focusing on credit card debt. Because it’s not as much of not as much debt but the amount of interest that’s on a credit card debt is so much higher it’s so much more painful on month to month basis. So we started kind of transitioning more so away from student loans and more towards credit card debt. We still do both. But you know we figured you know our customers are always right. Right. So we’ve kind of just been transitioned with what they’ve had to say. And it’s been really crazy how much of an impact we’ve been able.. We’ve already payed down, helped pay down three, three users’ credit card debts and they’ve gone on to add another card to try to pay down now. And like it’s crazy our average user saves like 40 to 50 dollars and spare change, just spare change like it’s ridiculous.
Eric: That’s awesome. Yes and that’s the whole point about paying down debt really is, is just taking chunks out little by little by little as best as you can and your app is a perfect example of you know.. You set it and you forget it but it’s a good kind of forget that you’re just nipping this out little by little by little because that’s what interest does to you is interest rises up little by little by little by little we don’t think about it and in a year or two and three years goes by. You can be in a really really tough spot.
Christian: I definitely never like variable rates. I think that the Fed US Federal Reserve just increased interest rates last year in December. So I mean anybody that has any sort of credit product right they’re influenced by that. And you know it might not seem like a lot but you know most people are having revolving debt and that’s debt like credit card and they’re holding the money on a month to month basis and it’s not paying it off. So you know that’s making a big impact and they just don’t see it but it’s definitely going to catch up to them. Or it’s already caught up. I mean, my case it’s definitely there.
Eric: Sure, I mean you’re a recent graduate and you definitely know the feeling and I remember that feeling. Trust me you know. I remember seeing a statistic somewhere like if if the average American was asked to make an emergency 400 dollar payment for something whether it’s like you know a tooth ache or wherever. They don’t know where they.. They have to borrow the money. They don’t even get the 400 dollars to make that emergency payment because they’re, everyone is that tight on making payments and making sure things are done properly and you know heaven forbid we have to make a payment and then we are late on a credit card payment or late on a loan. I mean could end up destroying your credit in many ways.
Christian: Oh yeah totally totally. I mean that’s some of the things our economy is like the cost of living has increased whereas the pay increase hasn’t. I mean it has increased as well but not at the rate as the cost of living. So we’re outpacing the costs and so people are now you know falling into credit cards to make those payments on a mortgage or on these things that just kind of come up out of nowhere. So it’s just you know going to the dentist. And so you know it’s not so much that to an extent that – people aren’t like financially illiterate or like not educated on how to use money but you know these things come up and it’s important to you know you have to get to take care of and how are you gonna do that. There’s these loans that help you do that.
Eric: Yeah. So what are your thoughts on some of these predatory loan companies that exist? I mean these high interest loans that bail people out but you end up.. You know, you can get your car repossessed if you can’t pay back the loans and in many cases that happens.
Christian: Yes. It’s really crazy so I haven’t done research like I I probably go try to find a hundred different lenders and reach out to them. And one thing that really sticks out to me is that they are all so shady and it’s really scary for me when I’m a client who am I calling? Like I’m gonna start getting calls back. I’m not trying to get a loan I was just trying to talk to somebody. But yeah, it’s very deceptive and you know. I mean a lot of these financial institutions definitely try to take advantage of people that are in hardships and tough times. And I don’t think it’s really cool. I mean you know everybody has issues that happen in life. You can’t you can’t change that. But you know financial institutions shouldn’t be there to try to take money but you know help you. And so I think financial education is a part of it. But, the institutions because they have so much power they’re just kind of like oh whatever.
Eric: Yeah you’re right. I mean the financial institutions have a lot of power. Once you sign on the dotted line I mean tell me why. I mean what kind of got you into all this? Why, you know, why do you stand for something like this?
Christian: It’s because I have debt, right? And I understand like how much it affects somebody. And so you know I do it because like I see- my parents you know have a lot of debt. How much it stresses them out. And luckily for me like I try not to stress out about it but I’ve noticed that you know it’s it has a psychological impact but also like a physical impact and then financial- it has so many impacts on you that it can definitely take a toll on you. Like physically, mentally, emotionally. And so I think that’s kind of why I did it as I see people and see how much they stressed out about it when it shouldn’t be that big of an issue right.. it’s crazy
Eric: Yeah, I mean I, I’m trying to think. You know, a lot of marriages end up breaking up because of financial stress. You know really what you’re doing is you’re trying to help save marriages.
Christian: Yeah, I mean like credit scores, it’s crazy. Like I haven’t been in this realm now like how much people are like really crazy about their credit score if it goes up or down. I mean it’s important definitely and you know because you got to get a house you, need credit to do things like that. But it’s like crazy people go literally insane over these things and really stress about it.
Eric: Wow. Well tell me a little bit more about the app I mean. how did you end up becoming a co-founder and you know. Tell me some of the steps that you took you know from inception of the idea all the way to kind of where you are now.
Christian: Yeah. So it’s funny enough. So we first started it was just myself and I was, I just came up with the idea. I graduated, six months I.. Student loans start coming in so I come up with the problem. So I go into like these pitch events and start noticing the people like the ideas, you know, doing customer discovery. So I do a little landing page, get a few hundred sign ups. Oh ok I guess maybe I should build a web app. Applications cost a lot of money to build. And so I started going to like a whole bunch of meeting – you know networking events. And that’s where I met my co-founder Nate Washington, which you know. And yeah. So we met he wasn’t even trying to talk to me, I wasn’t trying like to pitch it to him. He had his own product, you know service and so kind of overheard what I was doing. We talked, met a few more times and it was funny because I was about to.. I was about to go with a developer to a different like a developing shop to build it. They were charging of like $7000.. Crazy, crazy amount of money.
Eric: Which is I think a fairly decent price even.
Christian: Oh yeah yeah I it’s I mean for me it’s a lot but I mean looking at the market it’s actually like you know introductory price. So I told Nate you know like hey like are you in or out like I definitely want somebody you know technically savvy but also has the business savvyness as well. He’s like oh yeah like I I already have a prototype for you. I was like what? Let me see. So I saw it like it was just really crazy seeing like what I had vision in my head like actually built to fruition.
Christian: And so kind of seeing that kind of.. That initiative is what really like drove me to like really like partner up with Nate and really get this going. And so that was in June-July, we launched our beta web app in September. Did that for about three months then we watch our iOS and Android app this year in January. So far we’ve already payed down fifty thousand dollars worth of debt for our users and it’s just been.. It’s definitely been a roller coaster but it’s been a lot of fun. I mean I try to call all my users. Obviously is not scalable thing but I try to cause them as many of them as possible and just kind of say thank you. Like hey see I wanna say thank you – to create that personal connection because you know I’m dealing with people’s money and you know I really understand where they’re at because you know. They’re coming to use our services because they had a pinpoint paying that debt, so..
Eric: Sure, yeah. I mean that reminds me of any time you go to a restaurant or at least a nicer restaurant where the manager will come around and check on you and that’s.. It’s just that feeling of you know what everything’s going great, and most of the times everything is going fine. But that.. Those one or two cases where you know something wasn’t cooked right or maybe the server just isn’t spawning you properly. That’s a good point to communicate. Have you found any situations where you got insight from those conversations with your clients?
Christian: Every day, every day. It’s crazy. So like, what I think. That’s one of the things that I learned too kind of as we started is initially we weren’t – I wasn’t a calling. And so once we launched our iOS and Android app we saw a huge drop off obviously because you know people are like skeptical like “Oh why are you changing things you know”. And you know Clark Howard, we got a feature by Clark Howard which is huge but the demographics is a little bit older so you know, technology. Now we go together sometimes or they don’t like change. It makes sense but. So I started calling people and almost every day I learn something new. You know where you know a parent is signed up by the child to get out of their debt. But they also wanna help their children get out of debt as fast as possible. We’ve had the customer say like oh you know like the user flow I don’t really understand it, I don’t understand the terminology. You get a whole bunch of different things and like being able to talk to them on a daily basis or like you know over the phone. It’s really really insightful and you learn so much, so much faster rather than thinking “oh I think this is what they like.” “Oh I think this is what they’re gonna do.” Because you can be 100 percent wrong and not even know it. But I think it’s really important, I think it’s what a lot of companies don’t do is like customer service like they really like tapping in and talking to a users. Because you know we’re human beings like we like that, we want to have that personal connection. And so I have tried to ingrain that into the business.
Eric: That’s absolutely brilliant insight. I completely agree. I mean customer service is always number one of any business because you don’t make money without your customers. And this goes for having one customer, this goes for having a hundred. This goes for having thousands and ultimately your guys’ goal is going to be to have 100000, 250000, a million you know people with the app and at that point of course it would be a little ridiculous to call them. But you know you’re the CEO and you’re taking steps to make sure that number one your product is landing in people’s laps properly you know you’re calling and you’re following other people which is such a big deal. I mean to get a call from a CEO of any company it’s big deal.
Christian: Yeah, it’s crazy. Like we had, I literally had one guy like I called him right and he’s like Yeah I don’t like the product. He was literally like Yeah I deleted it, I don’t wanna use it. I’m like Oh real quick can I just talk to you? And you know I was able to like- I literally converted him because I told him like hey you know what’s the problem. What didn’t you like about it. And because of that like he actually sent me a follow up email saying you know “Hey man, I really appreciate you calling. Actually you know what, you have my full support now”. And it’s you know it’s really humbling but it’s also it’s very insightful. And I think we take it for granted, customer service.
Eric: That’s true. And I think we take it for granted because it takes it takes time and take time to do this and you almost have to set up a system to get it done. I mean what is your schedule and how do you go about doing these calls?
Christian: Yes. So the first thing I do every morning is I go, I come to my office, have my coffee, sit on my desk, log in and check how many people sign up from the day before. Obviously I’m always checking that. Like I actually pull up the list, create the excel and then kind of break it down and then I break down by segmentation of how many people I got to a certain part. But I also call everybody but I call them and have a different way of life communicating with them, right. Because if they got to a certain point like oh you know like I appreciate you like you got this for like you know it’s the price, do you not like the pricing, you do not like you know, the terminology or you know if they didn’t sign up at all I still call and say “Hey thank you for checking this out” like you know, we just want to say thank you. But what I do is, every morning I do that the first thing in the morning, I do that for about an hour, hour and a half depending on how many people there are. I try to start it now because it’s been so many people. We started getting like a hundred a day. I can’t keep up. But I’d do 25 or 30 a day. Because you know at one point it was taking me all day to really just catch up. But now it’s been a little better.
Eric: Sure. And that’s a great problem to have. You know frankly, is to have too many people call.
Christian: Yeah yeah. So what I do now actually is I’ve been now doing automated e-mails too with like some visuals. Still send it from my e-mail. But it’s a little bit quicker and if not that if you don’t answer too, I’ll send you a text.
Eric: Oh that’s awesome. Yeah. I mean you can do the in app notifications and so on and so forth. What advice would you give to someone else in another business, maybe not necessarily in that business. What advice would you give them for for something like this?
Christian: I mean like in any business like I think probably the biggest thing that I learned was customer service. Every customer is important no matter how upset they are or how happy they are. You want to give everybody the same 100 percent customer service satisfaction as you can give. Because that’s what gets people talking. That’s what gets people like happy about you know spreading the word. Word of mouth is very huge and that’s how most products succeed word of mouth growth. And if you can if you can create that experience for them. You know I think you’ll go really far.
Eric: That’s awesome. So we’ll switch gears a little bit here. I’d like to know, you know, granted that you are a young guy and you had a lot of short term success here which is awesome. Well, tell me what advice would you give yourself five years ago, ten years ago in that time range. What would you tell yourself?
Christian: Ah man, i’d tell myself a lot of things. So it’s funny because probably three years ago I wanted to work for Coca-Cola. I used to work for Coca-Cola. I always wanted to be like my own boss or like a CEO. It was like I mean it’s kind of cliche but like I when I worked at Coke I was yeah I’m gonna build my way up and become CEO and you know move upstairs, so it was like you know good luck. Right. But I think one thing that I would tell myself back then. Be patient and learn as much as you can because of what I used to do back then it’s just like go go go go go. Like you know. So you still got to do that. But I think you need to step back, plan and be patient and just like know that you know things happen for a reason and at certain points. And so one of my first ventures I guess was I wanted to have my own clothing company like every other kid in college right. And so my dumb self went and bought all the product, all the designs, all different colors. Tried to license the name and everything. Before I had any customers. So i had thousands of money spent before I even sold a product. I still have those shirts too. I kind of keep it now as a motivation you know to remember like what mistakes I made but you know I think it’s a good way of kind of learning.
Eric: And you’re touching on a good point as well as you know that you gotta get that first dollar. You know who cares about you know we all dream of the riches, doing work from a beach, whatever. You know when you’re starting something up or you’re in the beginning phases.. And you guys are one year and I mean really of having your app launched at least. You know you’ve got to focus on getting customers and then as you said customer service you know. Right. Right after you get that initial customer or two or three you’ve got to get feedback. You’ve got to find out you know what’s working what’s not working. Of course you can do some things with a grain of salt. Some customers go off.
Christian: Of course you always have one customer.
Eric: Of course and it happens you know certain people just kind of throw you through a loop and makes it makes you second guess the decisions you make. You have to filter through all that I think and boil it down to what is it our customers are asking for. You know of course there is trends in certain situations. I mean there’s you know I don’t want to get too political but I know that, I know that things have changed recently with the new Trump presidency. You know during Obama’s presidency he made some changes with college loans and then now you know the Trump presidency some things are changing with that. I think that’s the bosses made some recent changes about college loans. How do you react to changes in that? Because I mean you’re at risk of financial changes completely. I mean not wiping out your business. But I mean making- forcing you to make a quick reaction. So what’s your plan of attack?
Christian: Yeah I mean so I think the biggest thing for us right obviously as we’re seeing those changes kind of like a tip to better help students while in college and right after. I have to be honest I feel like we already pivoted right to the more right direction of credit card debt. And it just kind of you know for us it’s like if we’ve helped people pay off their debt. Right. Let’s go out of business. Our goal is to get out of business. Right. That was how we know like we’ve paid. You know we’ve done our job.
Christian: But yeah I think you know making these changes for students is really important because it’s creating that unforeseeable future. Right then and now. Like you see, Oh damn I’m going to graduate with 30, 40, 50 thousand dollars in loans. What am I going to do when I graduate right. I can’t start a business. That’s how people think “oh I can’t start a business”. Luckily for me like you know I don’t have that mentality of like you know the student loans are gonna stop me. But I mean my mom is calling me everyday like oh my gosh are you going to pay this back. Are you gonna pay this back. I’m like, mom long term game right. But yeah I mean I think you kind of have to try to stay ahead of the changes. If you know, row with the blows as well you just can’t let it stop you. I try to always be ahead of it so.
Eric: That true. that is great advice so. So tell me is there anything that you want. You know just some last bit of two bits of information you wanna leave for anyone else listening out there?
Christian: You know honestly check out Qoins. Spelled with a “Q”, obviously. But yeah I mean just try to try to. I would say. I mean before I but just try to get out of debt first before you go and try to like you know buy frivolous things or are like going on vacation, right. Once you get out of debt you’re saving so much more money by getting out of debt first and then going and doing those things and just waiting and you might not see the impact now but you definitely will feel it later. So that’s kind of what I’d leave everybody with.
Eric: Ok, that’s awesome. And also everybody has a link right now to get to Qoins, it will be showing to them. You can download it for any Android or iOS device.
Christian: And we have web apps though too.
Eric: Ok, awesome. Yeah that’s right yes. You can just go over to their website and then and get it there as well. But this is definitely phenomenal. What’s your what’s your final thoughts for everyone.
Christian: So it’s funny one of our one of our slogans now is that “we help you save interest not lose it”. That’s we’re really focused on getting- taking care of those high interest rates first and getting out of debt. I mean biggest thing just get out of debt as fast as possible and that’s what kind of what we help you do.
Eric: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Christian thank you so much. Appreciate you hopping on the call today.
Christian: Thank you so much for having me.
Eric: You got it buddy!