Candace Walker didn’t want her teenage children begging her for the latest gadgets and clothing brands. Instead, she wanted to encourage them to initiate and devise creative ways to earn those items.
Walker developed Earnster, an app that turns everyday household chores, extra school work and community service into currency. Earnster is designed to empower teens to take control of their earning potential by identifying chores and other tasks they can complete in exchange for a special reward.
“My teenage children are the inspiration behind Earnster,” said Walker. “They wanted to do it all and have it all. It got to the point where I wanted to say ‘Hey, here’s what I’ll do to earn those things.’”
Walker’s busy schedule as a single mom coupled with children’s activities made it difficult to keep track of chores at home. She told AfroTech Earnster evolved from being her personal solution to getting her kids to take initiative and earn special items while getting chores done.
Earnster differentiates itself from other chore tracking apps by focusing on teenagers as opposed to adults. The app aims to incentivize teens ages 13-19 by giving them access to an in-app marketplace. The marketplace is curated by the “Teen Council” made up of Walker’s 14 and 15-year-old children, where they can choose an item to receive after helping out around the house and completing extra schoolwork among other activities.
“I want Earnster to be that tool that awakens the internal drive of teenagers,” said Walker. “Teens need to know they can do it. Earnster was created to help foster that drive and motivation to take on that mission of getting what’s earned.”
The former BET producer participated in an accelerator to receive help launching the product. She called the experience “reaffirming” noting the boot camp styled program helped founders develop legal structure, customer prototyping, and marketing.
Going through the accelerator program helped verify the needs founders believed could be addressed through the app. Part of getting the product to the MVP stage was surveying 600 teenagers. The test was figuring out if Earnster could help inspire teens and get them excited about doing work to earn goods.
“Getting the product launched was a rigorous process, but talking to teens helped us learn what to incorporate on to the platform,” she said.
The team plans to add a “search events” function for teens who are not only interested in working towards products. The search function would allow mobile app users to find events or concerts in their city and propose doing chores or other activities in exchange for tickets.
“We found that we needed something that provided a sense of urgency to make sure teens are completing a task,” the CEO said. “If you want to go to a Drake concert, you can’t delay your chores.”
Plans to add the events feature also includes providing teens the option of purchasing Uber and Lyft gift cards and concert merchandise to enhance the teen’s overall experience.
As Earnster looks ahead to grow and make their product a valuable addition to any teen’s life, Walker reflects on being a founder who has years of experience working in television media and making the transition to tech.
“My co-founder and I are older. We’re not fresh out of business school, but we have years of solid work experience,” she said. “I have over 25 years working in media as a producer for places like BET back when BET was still very much a startup, still raising capital and trying to create something of value.”
Her entrepreneurial experience extends beyond tech but serves as a training ground nonetheless.
“We trailblazed then. I loved that openness of building, it’s where the magic happens,” said Walker. “Now I’m on a mission of beating the odds and proving people wrong.”