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January 19, 2018 | ‎ג׳ בשבט ה׳תשע״ח‎

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Why I Started a Jewish Emoji App, Shalomoji

Why I Started a Jewish Emoji App, Shalomoji

I am an emoji-obsessed freak. I shamelessly admit it.

The launch of Kimoji, Kim Kardashian’s own line of emojis, contributed to my full-blown emoji obsession. After that launched, I’d find myself purchasing a slew of celebrity emoji apps and every dog breed emoji app you can imagine.

I was addicted to the funny and cute emojis that would up my texting game. I loved the enthusiastic responses I’d receive from friends and family members. Beyond that, it offered an opportunity for an introvert like myself to be expressive in a visually empowering way. The kind of way the soft-spoken introvert shines when sending a surprisingly feisty, “Do You Boo Boo” Kevin Hart gif.

Rewind to about a year ago on a Friday afternoon. I wanted to send a Shabbat Shalom text in a family group chain I was a part of, but I didn’t want to just send a typical Shabbat Shalom text in generic and boring black font.

I envisioned an animated Hasidic Rabbi saying it with a thought bubble that read, “Shabbat Shalom.” This was the day Rabbi Shlomo so vividly flashed before me in my head and would later come to life in the Shalomoji app, which I officially launched July 11, 2017.

My purpose from that day forward was to create a Jewish emoji app that would keep the Jewish spirit alive in a celebratory, fun, and comical way in the digital space.

With zero tech experience and a burning passion for my newfound idea, I was determined to bring Shalomoji to life. I began to invest a ton of time researching appreneurship. I read Chad Mureta’s “App Empire” book, and listened to the Bluecloud podcast and the Mobile Growth Hacking with Steve P. Young podcast.

However, later down the line, there were two tools that truly gave me the courage and wisdom to pull through, and still propel me forward in my emoji app journey. One was Bluecloud Solutions’ Emoji Arbitrage Course, which taught me about emoji production, marketing, and monetization. Secondly, the Bluecloud Select Facebook group gave me the opportunity to be amongst a group of appreneurs who have succeeded in creating prosperous apps. They all generously offered tips and advice.

Wearing a dark black suit with a black top hat and a tallit draped around each shoulder, Rabbi Shlomo appeared before me with a buoyant smile on his face. He so vibrantly engulfed my thoughts. I could colorfully visualize this animated Rabbi in my mind.

But, I was no illustrator or graphic designer. I’m the girl who can barely even draw stick figures in a game of Pictionary. As I took my time to vividly describe his every feature, I created a collage from a slew of photographs and images I had of Rabbis. With the collage and description finalized, I was in pursuit to find the perfect designer to bring Rabbi Shlomo to life.

I knew that once he was created, I could push forward. I placed a series of ads on Upwork and Freelancer, and contacted a bunch of graphic designers on Fiverr. I went through several rounds of revisions until finally the Rabbi Shlomo I had envisioned was brought to life.

I continued to develop the concept behind all the Jewish emojis I wanted to create. I wrote out and organized all the Shalomoji emojis based on the following categories: Gifs (incorporated animated Jewish emojis), stickers (included synagogue-related items, Jewish symbols, Biblical images, Ashkenazi and Sephardic dishes), Jewish holidays, phrases (comprised of typical Jewish sayings like “Mazel Tov” or “Oy Vey”) and lastly, Rabbi Shlomo holding each letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

I figured out how I wanted to organize the app and the emoji keyboard. I used third-grade drawing skills to show where buttons would lead to each screen within the app.

I read a plethora of emoji app reviews and took notes on both the positive and negative aspects of each. Through my research, I noticed that a common complaint about emoji apps was the sizing of the emojis. Hence, I was determined to incorporate a slider scale within my emoji app, which would allow users to customize the size of all emojis inside the Shalomoji app and/or within the keyboard.

It was also absolutely crucial to me that users could send Shalomojis within my app, keyboard, and through the iMessage App drawer (which had recently launched during the time I started working on building Shalomoji). After working with a couple coders, I finally found a development team that totally understood my vision and was eager to deliver high-quality work in a timely fashion.

Shalomoji now occupies the Apple App Store, fulfilling a sacred space of visually-driven communication for the Jewish community.

I whole-heartedly believe that Shalomoji will serve as a fun, humorous, and artistically flavorful way to keep the Jewish culture and spirit thriving. It has become apparent that texting continues to serve as a dominant form of communication in the digital world.

Shalomoji will additionally function as a useful way for both the Jewish community and friends of the Jewish community to send holiday greetings. It will play a role in enabling the Jewish community to fully reflect, share, and embrace the Jewish lifestyle via text messages sent to family and friends.

And, for the Jewish introverts like me in the world, Shalomoji offers an expressive outlet to share our inner thoughts in a valuable, lively, and Jewtastically enjoyable way.

To preview how Shalomoji works, watch this quick video!

Author: Berenice Famili

Berenice is the founder of Shalomoji, a Jewish Emoji app. She runs the Shalomoji blog, where she interviews Jewish influencers to help inspire newbie entrepreneurs, bloggers, and thought leaders. As a freelancer writer, Berenice has been published in the LA Times, Hello Giggles, The Jewish Home, and Canyon News. She is a proud mom to Shelby, her Labrador Retriever.

  • Mark Nagelmann

    Love it! Thanks for sharing your story Berenice. The app looks amazing 🙂