After years of expressing her artistic skills on fabric and canvas, Julia Junkin moved into the electronic realm. Good JUJU, the Bend-based company she founded, released its first messaging app in June and puts Junkin’s art and the portfolios of about fifty painters, illustrators, photographers, graphic designers and typographers at the fingertips of anyone with an iPhone or iPad. By year end, the goal is to have 1,000 artists represented.
Unlike standardized icons, such as emoticons and emoji, the JUJU app allows users to take bits and pieces of other people’s art to create a fresh image that they can attach to their own texts, tweets, emails, and other electronic messages or even send on a printed postcard to friends and family.
“Out of other people’s art, you can create your own,” said Junkin, who runs the company with marketing manager Jacqueline Smith, making one of a few female-run tech startups. Smith said that the app is a perfect way to discover artists from around the world or to “just doodle and be creative when you’re in line waiting.”
In its first week of release in June, the app ranked 193rd of top grossing apps in the App Store, and in late September it hit No. 75 of about 80,000 apps in the entertainment category. The company says it now has thousands of users worldwide.
A graduate of Seattle’s Cornish College of Arts, Junkin’s foray into business began by hand-painting 300 vintage linens a day and selling them at high-end boutique shops. Her whimsical, doodle-style rendition of women, wine glasses and still lifes caught the attention of Crate & Barrel, which eventually led to a wholesale line of Julia Junkin linens sold in large retail stores such as Neiman Marcus, Sur La Table and Henri Bendel. She also designed for Nordstrom, Bed Bath & Beyond, Enesco and others.
Junkin says that entering the tech world was unexpected but resulted from watching her own kids “killing each other” in video games. “A group of us brainstormed on how we could play with real art in a tech environment, and inspire and touch people,” Junkin said. The idea for the app, which Junkin describes as “emoji on crack” was born. The name JUJU is actually Junkin’s nickname but also means energy. “I believe we all need an energy boost of love or joy,” she said.
Users can download the app for free but “if people dig it, they’ll want to buy more art,” Junkin noted. The cost is 99 cents to a $1.99 for premium art. “The cool thing for me is that JUJU supports artists,” Junkin said, adding that five percent of sales go to contributing artists.
photo by Jon C. Meyers
One of those artists is Seattle-area photographer Suzanne Rothmeyer, who said that JUJU allows her to submit photos from her archives and also think about what would be good on JUJU as she’s shooting. She’s excited to have the passive income stream from JUJU and believes the app’s reach will come to fruition in the next four or five years.
“It’s a great opportunity for artists who haven’t thought about licensing their work to get their foot in the door and let JUJU take care of the business end,” she said.
The company hopes to have one million users in its first year, which could yield substantial gross revenues. “The math is amazing, but the challenge is getting users,” Junkin said.
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To that end, Good JUJU is currently crowd-source funding. “We think JUJU is about people coming together to support art and their creative side, and that is a good campaign for Kickstarter,” Junkin said. The company is working on an Android version of the app and designing live feeds for Instagram, Facebook and within the JUJU app so users can share their art and see what other JUJU artists are posting.
The team’s vision is to have one of the largest visual libraries for creative messaging on the internet and to eventually offer JUJU to schools. “Kids have art moving through their veins. The question is, can we bring art back into our world and make it inspiring?” Junkin asked.