Welcome back to Companies to Watch! This time around, we would like to introduce a startup from the entertainment industry. Colorinio, ran by Krzysztof Szomburg, is a Polish web app that allows you to create personalized coloring pages, by simply inserting a picture of your face into thousands of available templates. The variety of images offers plenty of opportunities for fun, both for children and adults. Curious to know how Colorinio came to life? Follow Krzysztof’s story as a startup founder and make sure to check out Colorinio.com to try it out.
The spark of inspiration
The first idea for an online coloring book came to Krzysztof in the spring of 2021. Following the long year under lockdown, Krzysztof, a father of three, found himself quitting his former job and contemplating new business ventures to dive into. In the past, he had opened and managed two local kindergartens and overseen a renovation of a historic villa into an office-apartment hybrid (VrestPoint). He has always been a visionary, unafraid of challenges, with a strong passion for project management and an eye for detail. He carried out both projects together with his business partner, who was responsible for financial management and operations, while Krzysztof himself became the lead architect, project manager, construction supervisor, interior designer and property manager. As he says, jokingly, he would go from overseeing renovations and testing samples of paint on one day to implementing reservation and payment systems on another. Moreover, he introduced a system that would allow for hourly rental of office spaces – a model previously unknown on the Polish market. He basically created the whole place from scratch, from A to Z, and if that’s not entrepreneurship, then we don’t know what is. After finishing up four years of work on VrestPoint in 2020 and leaving the kindergartens post-COVID, he began to look for new challenges.
While searching for new business ideas for a few weeks, a friend told him about someone who makes money off selling coloring pages via Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) on Amazon. He was amazed that basically anyone without any graphic design skills could put images together and sell them online for kids to enjoy. According to Krzysztof, however, the real inspiration came from being a father. He had noticed that today’s entertainment for children is filled with violence and “primal emotions”. In addition, most kids remain glued to their screens for hours a day. He knew his own children liked coloring books, so he wanted to make something for them, something more meaningful and personal that they could enjoy, while stimulating their imagination and helping them develop their artistic skills. Instead of competing with other sellers on Amazon, though, he decided to establish his own platform, where anyone can insert an image of their own or their child’s face, and create personalized coloring pages for any occasion.
Launching the product
The idea for Colorinio began to crystalize in the summer of 2021, but Krzysztof needed someone to help him code the web app. He reached out to a friend who ran a software house, who eventually put him in contact with a team that could help him bring Colorinio to life. The app was built within a few months and Krzysztof thought to himself “Awesome! The product is ready. It should be smooth sailing from now on!”. After testing the website and filling the app with content, in February 2022, Colorinio was ready for the big reveal. Without hesitation, Krzysztof invested in Facebook and Instagram ads that would include Valentine’s Day and Super Bowl themed coloring pages. Although he managed to generate substantial traffic on his website, the engagement was nowhere to be seen.
The founder started to question what went wrong. He arrived at a few conclusions. The first one was that people did not necessarily understand how the app worked. They thought that the “personalization” feature was based on a made-to-order service where a designer would manually draw coloring pages following user’s guidelines. Krzysztof assumed that “no one has seen an automated service like this before”. The communication included in SoMe ads did not deliver the right message. Despite testing different ad formats, the results were subpar. Krzysztof stopped himself for a minute and reached out to friends and family to collect some real feedback. Only then he realized the flaws of his product and the fact that most people are unable to enjoy it due to the fact that one needs a printer to materialize the coloring pages and actually enjoy the content.
Based on these feedback sessions, Krzysztof decided to turn Colorinio into a mobile app which would allow users to engage in drawing directly on the screen of their phone or tablet. In addition, he had to re-think his business model. The original idea of collecting revenues from ad placements did not seem viable with the current iteration of the website and low SEO score. Most of Colorinio’s competitors rank high on most popular search engines, despite the fact that their websites are not aesthetically pleasing. They are, however, well-optimized. By introducing Colorinio in the form of a mobile app, more opportunities arise. Furthermore, and even more importantly, his product can then become even more accessible, interactive, and fun.
Since the launch of the MVP in February, Krzysztof has had some time to reassess his strategy, introduce his idea to a wider audience, and collect more valuable feedback. Most recently, he participated in Hej StartUP, where he had a chance to show Colorinio to fellow entrepreneurs, tech specialists, and a panel of local angel investors. Hej StartUP is a regional contest, where the best startups in northern Poland have a chance to pitch their innovative ideas and compete for admission to Sebastian Kulczyk’s InCredible Inspirations mentorship programme. The event was organized by Pomeranian Science and Technology Park and Gdańsk Entrepreneurship Incubator STARTER. Krzysztof has made it to the very final of the competition, and that gave him a boost to keep pursuing the idea, though from a different angle.
While working on the new iteration of Colorinio as a mobile app, Krzysztof plans on incorporating a lean approach and involving users in the process from the jump. He learned a lot of lessons on his startup journey thus far, and he knows that he needs to test the product with children and their parents directly. Only by doing so, he can understand how they navigate through the app, how they interact with the coloring pages, and how many smiles can Colorinio bring to their faces. He also sees opportunities to expand the range of features in the future and cater to adult users, offering content such as personalized gift cards. The main challenge, at the moment, is to build the app and acquire the first engaged group of users. We wish Krzysztof the best of luck on his road to success.
Head over to Colorinio.com to check it out!
Companies to Watch is a series in which we introduce various startups within the SUPlift community and share their stories, as told by the founders themselves. Look out for more spotlights in the future and consider subscribing to our blog!