This month, we’re excited to launch a product we are really passionate about — the mobile app for our digital journaling platform Reflection.app, now available (for free!) in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store

Since we started Holstee in 2009, August has historically been a month for launching new passion projects (it’s also the month we explore the theme of Passion with our members!). When I reflect back on it, many of these passion projects wound up being pivotal, impacting our business (and our lives) in unexpected ways.

So before sharing all that went into this month’s mobile launch, I’d love to take a walk down memory lane…

August 2010 — We began selling our Upcycled Wallets. 

Holstee started out as a t-shirt company, but in August 2010 we decided to expand our range to include wallets. The idea sparked from a personal pain point; Mike and I couldn’t find a wallet that met our minimalist design requirements and were made sustainably. So we decided to design one ourselves, and we partnered with an NGO in India to produce them from upcycled plastic bags. It wasn’t an easy decision; not only were accessories a departure from t-shirts, but the project required high minimums and trusting a new partner we had never worked with before. 

Both Mike and I felt there was something “there”, though, so we moved forward — and eventually, our wallet sales outpaced our t-shirt sales. But even more impactful for me personally was what came next. A few months later, I was interviewed by a design blog about the process of working with artisans internationally. A friend-of-a-friend interested in artisan production read that article and reached out to learn more — fast forward nearly a decade, Jess and I recently welcomed our baby Shilo into the world.

August 2013 — We did a Kickstarter campaign for our Reclaim Frame.

Once again we found ourselves excited about a completely new product that required us to work with new materials and a new partner. At this point, the Holstee Manifesto had grown in popularity and we were producing more posters, prints, and greeting cards. We wanted to create a new type of frame that would make it easy to swap art prints in and out, and we worked with Michigan-based social enterprise, Urban Ashes, to make it with reclaimed materials. 

As one of our Kickstarter reward levels, we thought it would be cool to offer an art subscription — a new letterpress print that fit perfectly into the frame, delivered to backers each month. Over time, the art subscription evolved far beyond just art. First we added a short letter from Mike and I, then a little pamphlet with questions, then eventually a monthly theme. Step by step, the art subscription has grown into what is now Holstee’s core offering — our Membership.

August 2016 — We did another Kickstarter campaign for our Reflection Cards.

We wanted to make our Reflection Cards for years, but we kept holding off to focus on the Holstee Membership. Eventually, we decided to just test the idea as a Kickstarter campaign to see if it resonated with our community. They have since become a community favorite. We have produced over 20,000 decks to date, we just passed 100 reviews on Amazon, and the cards are now carried at major retailers like Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters. 

The Reflection Cards have also opened the door to exciting partnership opportunities for us, including a collaboration with the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California-Berkeley that resulted in our recent Greater Good Toolkit launch.

When I look back, I see a few patterns.

For each of these projects...

+ We took a chance on an idea that we were very passionate about, but which was just beyond our comfort zone.
+ Our main motivation wasn’t financial  — it always came from a deep-rooted desire to bring the project to life. We felt a creative pressure that we needed to explore.
+ We took on a fairly large (though calculated) risk, requiring an upfront investment of time, energy, and money. 

Back to today and this month’s launch… 

August 2020 — We launched Reflection.app for iOS and Android. 😎

For several years, we’ve made an Annual Reflection Journal to help our members (and ourselves!) reflect at the end of each year. Over time, we realized that our annual reflection would be easier and more meaningful if we had a monthly review practice… and those monthly reviews would be easier and more meaningful if we had a place to track our daily highlights and lowlights. And wouldn’t it be great if it were all digital? 

After speaking with hundreds of people in our community, we realized we were not alone.

In November 2019, we released a beta of Reflection.app — an online journal that guides your personal growth each month. Within weeks, the top requested feature was a native mobile app to make adding on-the-go entries easier. This month, thanks to the hard work of our developers Britannio, Bryan, and Edward, we are proud to announce that Reflection.app is now available to download for iOS and Android!

Like our other passion projects, building Reflection.app required us to step outside our comfort zone and take on risks to our time, energy, and finances. But also like our other passion projects, it’s been fueled by exciting creative energy and the strong belief that building this app will add value to people’s lives. 

Of course, we hope the app is a success and that we are able to continue to invest into its growth. But I also wonder… could Reflection.app, like our other August launches, lead to something else unexpected entirely?

What doors have now been opened as a result of taking a chance, listening to our hearts, and following our passion?

Excited for what lies ahead!

Dave Radparvar
Co-Founder, Holstee

P.S. This email talks a lot about our past successes. It’s easy to talk about successes, but I also want to make really clear that we have also had some massive product launch flops! And even with (actually, especially with) these successful launches, there were many trying moments that caused us to question our path all together. It’s rarely been easy, but it’s always been worth it.

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This article is part of our series on the theme of Passion.

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Our Themes

Distilled from our Manifesto, positive psychology, the science of mindfulness, and ancient philosophic studies we have identified twelve themes core to living both fully and mindfully. We mapped these twelve themes to each of the twelve months in a year. Together with our community we explore one each month.

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