SANTA ROSA BEACH, Fla., March 15, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- A simple concept that began as an iPhone guide for a small beach town on Florida's Gulf Coast has sparked an entrepreneurial trend that's quickly spread to 110 towns in 28 states and 3 countries.
"I never expected this," said Mike Ragsdale of http://www.30A.com, an online guide to a popular resort area in Florida's panhandle known as "Scenic Highway 30-A." "I created the app for fun, but soon, people from other towns began asking for help launching similar mobile guides."
Using his proven business model as their platform, Ragsdale and his friend Jeff Armstrong created "TownWizard" (http://www.TownWizard.com), a software and marketing solution designed to help entrepreneurs quickly establish mobile app guides in their own communities.
"We now have partners as far away as Roppongi, Japan and Yellowknife, Canada, just below the Arctic Circle," said Armstrong. "They range from semi-retired couples and stay-at-home moms to large luxury resorts and publishing companies with hundreds of employees."
Armstrong believes that the appeal to some entrepreneurs has been TownWizard's surprisingly affordable price tag.
"It costs at least $30,000 to design, implement and deploy a brand-quality iPhone app," said Mashable.com, a social media and technology news website. "And if you develop three different apps to cover these three most common platforms, you're going to potentially triple your cost."
Meanwhile, a Forrester Research report set the price of a "no-frills" app at a minimum of $20,000, with more sophisticated apps costing $150,000 or more. By comparison, the TownWizard platform costs $795 to launch, with a monthly fee of $249, and the package includes a custom iPhone app, a Google Android app, a website, marketing support and more.
"More importantly, you're partnered with a hundred like-minded entrepreneurs who are tackling the very same opportunity as you," said Ragsdale. "So if a partner in one town discovers an effective new viral marketing strategy, we quickly share it with all partners across our network. It's like having a huge entrepreneurial think-tank that's constantly working for your business."
Even though Ragsdale lives in a "sleepy little beach town" with fewer than 10,000 full-time residents, his personal local brand has over 35,000 Facebook fans and he says that his ad inventory is sold out months in advance. He said that companies like Google, Facebook, Yelp and Urbanspoon can offer raw local data and unfiltered reviews, but it's much harder for them to offer authentic personality and insider advice. "You just can't automate a genuine love or passion for the people and places in your home town."
"It's inevitable that every town and neighborhood will eventually have its own mobile guide, and we wanted to make it affordable for entrepreneurs who share that vision," added Armstrong. "We already have partners in 110 different markets, but with over 2,800 small towns in the U.S. alone, we've barely scratched the surface of TownWizard's full potential."
TownWizard is the #1 software and marketing solution designed to help entrepreneurs quickly establish mobile guide brands in any community. "TownWizard supplies web and mobile app templates that let small-town entrepreneurs build guide services previously limited to major urban areas," wrote ENTREPRENEUR magazine. "TownWizard helps its partners get their websites and applications up and running, including submitting each app to Apple's App Store." TownWizard now offers a Google Android version, and will soon release its first iPad platform. For more information, visit http://www.TownWizard.com, call 1-866-651-0001 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.