The History of Grand Apps



Nothing in life comes easy, and businessmen Chris Ake and Jon Butler know this all too well. In 2011, Ake and Butler created Grand Apps in hopes of enhancing other businesses and brands through mobile apps. What started out as a few guys making sales calls in a basement has transformed into an efficient marketing machine located in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids. But that transition did not happen overnight. The rise of Grand Apps is a story of hard work, long hours, and a commitment to excellence.

The history of Grand Apps starts with Chris Ake and Jacob Canfield, who were founders of Manly Deal (Groupon, with deals geared towards men). In November of 2011, Canfield came to Ake about possibly getting to the mobile apps market. Ake was initially hesitant, as he had no experience with mobile apps. But the market was untapped, and knowing that smartphones would be the future, Ake and Canfield went to work on learning how to develop apps. Soon enough, Grand Apps was born.

In March of 2012, Ake was approached by Jon Butler, who was working for Rapid Social Media at the time, for an app quote. Ake followed up immediately, and Butler was very impressed with his response time. After meeting with Ake and Canfield, Butler decided that Grand Apps was a perfect fit for him. Ake and Butler set up shop in the basement of Canfield’s chiropractic office. With success on their minds and shag carpet below their feet, Butler and Ake set out to become the biggest digital marketing agency in Grand Rapids.

The early days of Grand Apps were not a cakewalk. Finding motivation was hard to find in a basement from the 1970’s, and both Ake and Butler wasted a lot of time just trying to find ways to stay enthused. App sales were coming, but they were coming slowly. Business owners were still skeptical on the need of a mobile app, but Ake and Butler were persistent. As the months went on, however, app sales became more frequent. Soon, Ake and Butler were able to afford to move out of the basement and move into an office in downtown Grand Rapids. With the hustle and bustle of downtown life energizing them, the Grand Apps team became more productive than ever. Lead designer Charles Anderson was hired, and apps that were already known for their accessibility and functionality also became the cutting edge of design.

As Grand Apps continued to grow, more and more of their satisfied customers came to them about creating and managing their websites. With both a development and design team ready to go, both Ake and Butler decided it would be an efficient way to expand Grand Apps’ services and a great way to cement themselves to the tech world. Soon after, more and more customers asked for websites, and Grand Web, the first in-house brand to branch off of the Grand Apps tree, was born.

With Grand Apps’ continuous success in digital marketing, more customers asked if Grand Apps could manage their social media. Social media had become a marketing essential, and businesses soon found out that using it without any knowhow or strategy is an exercise in futility. With Butler’s experience in Facebook marketing, Grand Apps took on the call with flying colors. Social Media Director Will Pray was soon brought on to the team, and Grand Social, Grand Apps’ social media division, soon flourished under Pray’s direction.

The future of Grand Apps continues to shine brighter and brighter. The sales force seems to break company records every month as the demand for mobile apps, mobile-optimized websites, and social media management has increased exponentially. As Grand Apps continue to grow, both Ake and Butler’s aspirations grow with it. “In the next five years, I envision Grand Apps to become a full-fledged marketing agency, with offices all across the country. We want to go wherever our customers are. We of course want to go after big clients, but we also want to continue to market for small companies and help them develop their brands.” It’s easy to understand Ake’s vision when you take in account Grand App’s new motto “9/23/16”. This was a challenge set forth by Ake where he expects Grand Apps to become the largest marketing firm in Grand Rapids. With so many opportunities on the horizon, there is no doubt that Grand Apps will reach that goal and beyond.


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