ESSENCE Network: From App to Empire, How One Black Woman Found Success in Tech

Sheena Allen shares the story behind her success, and why you sometimes have to give to get.

Sheena Allen was in college when she had her first idea for a mobile app to help organize her money. Now with more than one million downloads of her digital creations and a growing tech business, the mogul-in-the-making shares the story behind her success, and why you sometimes have to give to get.

Name:  Sheena Allen
Age: 26
Title: Founder & CEO of Sheena Allen Apps
Location: Houston and Austin, TX
Hometown: Terry, MS

Twitter: @whoisSheena
Instagram: @whoisSheena

The Gig: Growing up as a Black girl in a small Mississippi town of about 1,000 people, I never thought about wanting a tech empire. I now own the mobile application company Sheena Allen Apps. The company currently has six apps, with more under development, and over two million downloads. The apps are usually the product of a random idea. I also have a tech consulting and development company called HouseBoxx.

The Best Part: Seeing people from all over the world downloading and using my apps is so amazing and an absolute blessing. I have been able to see the impact I’ve had during my short time in this industry. I get emails from young girls who now have a deep interest in tech.

The Journey: I was leaving Wal-Mart with my college roommate when I had a random idea for an app. I thought it was the coolest idea ever. With my first app, I had about 50 downloads in two months, but with my third app, I had between 6,000 - 8,000 downloads a day. I did all that as a single founder with no financial backing or mentors. It was at that moment that I fell in love with the process and seeing my ideas come to life. When I saw people in Hong Kong having fun with my app, I knew that this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to create.
On Being Her Own Boss: I started my first company during my senior year of college, so I became an entrepreneur young. Even though I am the CEO, I’m still young and learning. Even now, I wouldn’t mind interning somewhere.
Her Best Advice: Be fearless.

Confessions of a Black woman in tech: You better come with 110% in this field as a Black woman. Doing anything 100% is not enough. Sometimes you have to prove yourself through actions. At 23 with a few thousand downloads, I told some investors I was going to build an app company with millions of downloads. They thought I was crazy, but, I sure did do it. 

Her Biggest Lesson Learned: My very first app, I only released a paid version. At the time, I didn’t understand that the free version leads them to the paid version. So I ended up having to release a free version and decide on what features would be in each.

Her Work-Life Balancing Act: Keeping those friends that I have had for years. They support me in my professional life. They are also the same people who keep my feet on the ground. They always remind me of the important things in my personal life.

Her Time Saving Tips: Planning. I try to schedule out the next day so that things don’t get too crazy and I end up forgetting something.

Her Stress Relievers: Sometimes I just have to pause and pray.

Her Tech Must-Haves: For apps, I love my own! I also love Instagram and my ESPN app because I’m a sports fanatic.

Her Beauty-Must Have: Eyeliner!

Her Power Accessory: A nice bracelet or watch. I have an obsession with watches.

Her Theme Song: “Superwoman” by Alicia Keys.


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