Travel was the catalyst that sparked the idea for the latest smart phone app coming out of Summit County.
Sheri Paul and Graeme Johnston do a lot of traveling, for business and for fun, both in the United States and abroad. During their travels, they have availed themselves of guidebooks, brochures and, more recently, websites to find the best information on where to go and what to do. Sometimes they find success and sometimes they don't.
It was during a road trip back from Florida with family members last May that Paul began to think about developing her own smartphone app. She said everyone in the car had their smartphones out, trying to find the best places for food and shopping between their starting point and destination.
"While we were on the road we started talking about this idea," she said. "The idea just started to morph as we were driving."
The result was the concept of an app that would connect visitors in small resort towns to local businesses in a way that they couldn't through paper brochures or outdated guidebooks. It was the first step toward iResortApp.
Paul is no stranger to marketing, with more than 25 years of experience in the corporate sector dealing with database marketing, analytics and networking. To be sure that everything with iResortApp ran smoothly, she enrolled in an entrepreneurial options class offered by Colorado Mountain College, emerging at the end with a solid business plan.
Paul then worked to match her background and plan with Johnston's local connections and knowledge. While Paul will have been a Summit County for five years this spring, Johnston has been here for 28. He is the owner of Snow Business, a souvenir provider for local businesses, in Dillon. Between the two of them, they hope to use iResortApp to help both locals and tourists.
"We really believe in small business and we want to provide the local character," Paul said.
Currently a mobile website, with plans to launch as an app in the next few months, iResortApp offers its users information through various categories, including dine, play, shop, rock, pamper and services. Clicking on dine, for example, brings up a list of local restaurants, offering phone number, address, reviews and links to the website.
In addition to entertainment, the site offers information about where to go for mechanical problems, house services and pet services, among others. Paul hopes that this information will be useful for people living in Summit County, not just the visitors.
Paul and Johnston want the app to be an assist to local businesses, where they can not only catch visitors' attention, but also promote coupons and discounts, updating them on the spot.
This is just one of the ways that the pair believe the technology of the smartphone proves superior to more traditional information services such as guidebooks and brochures.
"You have the whole world in your hand," said Paul, holding up her iPhone. Nowadays, she said, everywhere you go you see people looking at their phones, using the Internet to connect to an unlimited amount of information. With iResortApp, Paul hopes to capitalize on this fact.
There are two aspects to Paul's vision of her app's goal - one for visitors and one for local businesses.
As travelers, Paul and Johnston like to get to know a place when they visit, experiencing its particular character. The hard part, they said, is knowing just where to go and finding those places at the beginning of the vacation rather than at the end.
While there are now plenty of large websites with travel information, Paul said, many of them focus on big cities and have little content, often outdated or inaccurate, for smaller locales.
"We feel the big cities are pretty well-served," she said. "We wanted to go to something that is underserved, as far as smart phones."
With iResortApp, they hope to convey information about Summit County's attributes directly to the visitor.
This, of course, will bring more business to the local economy, which is the app's second goal. By helping the businesses, Paul and Johnston feel they are helping the community as a whole.
"They're the ones that are giving back to the community," said Johnston of Summit County's numerous small businesses.
"We want every business to be represented," Paul said. She also said she believes that her two main goals go very easily hand-in-hand.
"We want to have the county come together," she said. "It should be one big community."