Hi Arden, Thank you for answering a few questions and sharing your experience with us. Could you maybe start by introducing yourself?
Hi! I’m Arden. I’m the creator of Mossy Globe, a website that helps people discover national parks in the US and includes corresponding travel guides. Since college I’ve worked in real estate and food, most recently leading restaurant site selection for a fast-casual chain, and I’ve always been interested in web development and entrepreneurship.
Can you tell us a little bit about Mossy Globe?
Mossy Globe is a website that helps you discover US national parks by some sort of criteria – location, activities, landscape, # of visitors, etc. – and then provides an in-depth travel guide to make planning easy. I think of it kind of like a nomad list meets Lonely Planet. I find that when I travel to national parks, it’s incredibly time-consuming to plan – I’m reading multiple guides, blog posts, and the national park website to cobble together what I think are the most interesting things to do, see, best hikes, where to stay, eat, etc. And if you’re planning on traveling to multiple parks there’s no one source you can turn to, so you have to repeat the process. I created Mossy Globe to solve that problem. I’m looking to create a trusted travel guide for all US National Parks. The guides give you a bit of history on the park, a map to understand where everything is in relation to each other, and tells you what you have to see, do, and hike. It’s not for the person who is looking to just drive through a park in a few hours and not get out of their car, but if you’re interested in hiking, outdoor activities, and working to see some really cool things, then hopefully it’s for you. It’s meant to offer more depth than your average guide, but also not overwhelm you.
What is your objective with Mossy Globe (for the product itself and personally)?
Right now, this is just a passion project, but I could eventually see it turning into some sort of membership-based or ads based business that I can work on full time. I want people who are planning a cross-country road trip, participating in van-life, or planning on visiting a park for a few days to use Mossy Globe as a resource to help make their trip awesome and save significant time and stress planning. Content-wise, I’d like to get up a guide to all 62 national parks in the US. Once I generate enough traffic, I think I’d also like to add a community feature to the site. Luckily, there are a lot of no-code solutions I should be able to leverage.
Mossy Globe is not your first project that goes live, you also worked on CalorieQuality, can you tell us a bit about this project? Why did you stop working on it?
I started CalorieQuality a year out of college with a close friend of mine. We were both working fairly intense jobs – he was an investment banker and I was an analyst at a real estate investment fund – and were both struggling to eat healthy. We figured if two fairly intelligent, college-educated kids couldn’t figure out how to determine if something was ‘healthy’, a lot of other folks must be struggling with the same problem. So we created CalorieQuality as a food-rating tool to help people determine how healthy a food is or is not. We used criteria from a bunch of what we determined to be neutral scientific studies to establish a rating system and combined it with a traffic-light scoring system that early research studies in France suggested nudged people to make healthier decisions. We stopped working on it because we weren’t getting any real traction and making zero money.
What are the lessons you took from CalorieQuality that were useful in kickstarting Mossy Globe?
Definitely learned resourcefulness – we built the website and app from scratch with no prior coding experience. It also taught me I can’t be an expert in everything, so I find myself reaching out to my network for questions and input with Mossy Globe more than I ever did with CalorieQuality.
Did you study Computer Science in college? If not, how did you get started with coding? Did you consider hiring someone to develop the website?
Nope, I studied real estate and business and never did any coding of any kind in college. When I was working on CalorieQuality, I got into HTML, CSS, and python but once I went back to working in real estate I fell out of coding for about 3 years. Luckily, a lot of no-code tools have popped up in the last few years which made it easy for me to quickly get comfortable again in developing a website. As someone who in the long-run is interested in solo-entrepreneurship, I see coding as one of the easiest tools to pursue it, whether it leads to working as an independent contractor or running a digital business.
Why are you more interested in being a solo entrepreneur?
I think it suits my personality and offers me the flexibility I want to have. I also want the success or failure of anything I work on to be largely dependent on my actions. It also relates to my ambitions – I’m looking to build something in the long run that can sustain me, not a company.
What motivated you into building Mossy Globe?
I wanted to get back into web development and have a tool that I was proud of creating. I saw an opportunity with National Parks, which I am passionate about visiting and have had the luxury of traveling to a bunch of, and thought that at a minimum I’d be creating a product I would use for a very long time.
Why did this product got created vs others that never passed the “idea” status?
It is probably a blend of do I think I can create this thing and do I think it has any real potential. I wasn’t interested in launching anything with other folks, so I knew it had to be a fairly simple idea from a web development perspective. Plus it really helped that this was a topic I was interested in, since I knew it would keep me focused. I have plenty of ideas where the hurdles to creation are larger than I want to tackle or the topic doesn’t really interest me, and so they never pass the idea stage.
When you decided on building the Mossy Globe, what are the first 5 things you did?
Hah, my memory does not work that well but I’ll give it a go. I probably looked around to see if something like it existed, tried to figure out what tools I could use to build it, asked my girlfriend if she liked the idea, put together a list of things that should be included in each travel guide, and started thinking about websites I liked for design influences.
Do you have some tools you used in creating Mossy Globe that you would recommend?
It’s built in webflow which I’ve really enjoyed. I also recommend Jetboost which handles the filtering feature. I’m going to be choosing a membership tool soon – either Memberspace or Memberstack. And once I add a community, Circle looks interesting but I might start off on slack.
Is this the only project you are working on? Do you have a full time job on the side? If so, how much time do you dedicate to your project?
This is the only project I am working on. I am currently looking for a full-time job, as I lost mine because of COVID-19, unfortunately. I like to work weekends and nights on the project.
What keeps you going? How do you keep making progress?
I’m motivated by having confidence that Mossy Globe will be useful to other people and myself. Recently, someone out of the blue paid $5 through Buy-Me-A-Coffee, and it was such a confidence boost. I get so little traffic to the site, and it was absolutely amazing to have a total stranger give me some money for my effort. I also enjoy building up an expertise in web flow and getting better at writing. It gets easier to make progress the better the website gets, as I see it getting closer to my vision. I’ve evolved from something super ugly to something slightly less ugly, and I know that only happened because I put some effort into it. Drinking lots of coffee also helps. Plus I like to not focus on any one thing for too long – I think diversity of the type of work I’m doing – design, web development, writing, etc. is important.
You made your first 5$ through Mossy Globe, this is super exciting. Congrats! What are your priorities going forward? Develop further the product? What is your plan to achieve that?
Right now my priority is adding more guides and marketing the website. Adding more guides just takes me focusing my time, while I’m currently putting together a marketing strategy for possible channels to share my project in and coming up with a list of potential folks to reach out to for backlinks. I might also add a blog to improve SEO for the site.
Is your goal to live off of Mossy Globe? If so, have you thought of a business model? What would that be? Do you have an implementation timeline?
In the long run I’d love to be able to get the website there, but for now this is a side passion project and I’m not focused on revenue. Eventually, I might introduce some sort of paid membership model – quarterly and annual – to generate revenue. I’d be ecstatic if I was making a few hundred dollars a month from this at some point in the future.
What would you say to someone who wants to start a project?
My recommendation is probably to make sure you’re interested in the project you want to start and go for it. If it’s something you are actually interested in making money from as well, I’d probably want to do some diligence on the market potential and demand for the project before I went all in.
What should I wish you for the coming months?
More user traffic!
Arden, thank you so much for your time and congratulations on creating Mossy Globe. We’ll check on you soon!