CoSign’s unique business model: Money for selfies

The founders of this startup left their six-figure jobs to create a game-changing app

by Robin Dalmas

Take a selfie wearing something fashionable. Post to social media. Make money.

Wait, what?

Esosa Ighodaro and Abiodun Johnson, the co-founders of CoSign, have invented a free app that lets you do exactly that. Or as their tagline says, “Make your photos shoppable.”

“Essentially you take a picture of yourself,” said Johnson, the man who brought his science, engineering, and computer coding background to the app. “You tag anything from jewelry, to clothing, to any kind of accessories, makeup, or consumer electronics, and tag it to any online retailer where that product can be purchased. We have partnerships with over 1,200 retailers, and we have over 20 million products in our database. Once you tag it and share it socially, to Facebook®, Twitter®, or Instagram, people can click to buy immediately from your post. Each time a purchase is made, the retailer pays us a commission for essentially helping promote that product. And then we split that commission with you.”

CoSign makes anywhere from 5-35% off the sale of each item. “It’s a good way to make supplemental income on the side,” Johnson said. “If you have a lot of influence, you could potentially do this fulltime.”

Winner of the $10,000 prize

Ighodaro and Johnson’s ingenuity and invention helped them capture the $10,000 Runner-up prize in AT&T’s Agility Challenge. They competed with more than 1,000 other small businesses who vied for a total of $100,000 in prize money.

The app evolved from a chance encounter on the New York subway in 2012. Ighodaro, dressed to the nines to attend a live music event, was receiving tons of compliments. Her sixth compliment that day came from Johnson, a complete stranger at the time. He was visiting from Memphis on a business trip.

“He tapped me going up the stairs and said, ‘I just think your outfit is awesome,’” Ighodaro said. “Where do people like you go?” The two hit it off immediately. They launched CoSign 6 months later.

When they did launch in 2013, both Ighodaro and Johnson were still making six figures at their respective day jobs. Ighodaro was working at a major investment bank; Johnson was working at a major technology enterprise. They both had to squeeze time in to work on their entrepreneurial brainchild.

The co-founders had something else in common. They were both born in the United States to Nigerian parents. The new venture risked their displeasure. “They weren’t incredibly thrilled that I was leaving my six-figure job to start a business with the stranger from the subway, but they came around,” Ighodaro said.

Johnson had a similar story. “Even though my parents have some entrepreneurial background as well, they still wanted me to do something that was safe. But that’s not in my DNA. I like to be able to create things that help others out.”

Technology makes the business

Courage was indispensable for the launch of CoSign. So was technology. The building blocks were mobile devices, an app, and social media. And that was just the beginning. After creating the first prototype and raising initial funds through friends and family, they launched a Kickstarter campaign. When they raised more than $41,000 in 30 days, they knew they had an idea that people liked. They continue to refine the app using tools such as Trello, a project management tool that makes it easy to communicate with users, and SurveyMonkey®, which helps them get critical feedback quickly.

It took a large network of people to make CoSign happen, including investors, coders, designers, and social media experts. “One of the great ways we’ve been able to tap into the network here is that there are so many supporters of technology groups, or women in entrepreneurship groups,” Ighodaro said.

One of her favorites is Dreamers/Doers, an online community for women entrepreneurs. It consists of female founders, aspiring entrepreneurs, individuals who work at startups, and other change-makers.

No doubt, the dreaming and doing will continue. What does the future look like for CoSign?

“We’re able to hire more people, able to market and promote CoSign, and bring more brands into the platform,” Johnson said.

“And we’re going to empower more people to express themselves through their content and be able to earn money doing that,” Ighodaro said. “That’s game changing right there. I’m excited about the future.”

Ready to make your business more agile like CoSign?  Learn more about AT&T mobility services.