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AJ Joiner

AJ Joiner

Anthony ‘AJ’ Joiner is no ordinary entrepreneur. With a creative spark that ignites galaxies, he’s a force to be reckoned with in the realms of technology, entrepreneurship, and publishing and has an unwavering commitment to personal growth.

He is also the founder of the AI-powered software writing platform which has unleashed a literary revolution.

Its features have earned the trust of almost 10 prestigious universities, dozens of K12 schools, the Atlanta Mayor’s Office, and a legion of passionate wordsmiths.

Before building Blooksy, he built software for industry giants like the Centers for Disease Control, Delta Airlines, and the Georgia Department of Transportation.

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The Interview Transcript

0:02 – Hugh Ballou Welcome to the Nonprofit Exchange. This is Hugh Ballou, your host, and my co-host, David Dunworth. SynerVision Leadership Foundation hosts the Nonprofit Exchange. Our work is transforming leaders, transforming organizations, transforming lives. And our guest today is a very special friend and a very talented man that has an amazing platform. We all need to share ideas. We all need to create documents. We’re writing books, we’re writing grants. This will be a game changer.

0:39 – Hugh Ballou And so I asked him to be on the show today, and he’s excited to share with you. AJ Joyner, welcome to the Nonprofit Exchange. Tell people a little bit about yourself and your passion for this work.

0:51 – AJ Joiner Yes, so 1st of all, you, thank you for having me on and David. So, a little bit about me, I’m a small town kid. So, I was raised by my grandmother’s super small town, Louisiana. So. Great food growing up, but I went to Southern University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. And again, I’ve always been a computer nerd and I’m going to fast forward to what we’re here for. I spent about in corporate 20 America, building software teams, near shore, offshore building software in projects and left corporate America, started a publishing company, had a partnership with the radio show.

1:32 – AJ Joiner Local well actually we’re in 41 across the US and what I did is I took my publishing moxie if you will and I partnered with the radio station and I would travel to different markets and I would do book writing workshops. I partnered with local churches, non-profits, community organizations and any other organizations to help them write and publish books. Well Something happened in changed 2020 everything. No car group was, but for some reason we could no longer travel for a while.

2:08 – AJ Joiner So I threw all the people that I had been working with around the country into a Facebook group. And we were trying to do business as usual with the people, and we kept having problem after problem. So our editors would get COVID, our writers were getting COVID. And bottom line, one of our clients called me on Friday night saying, AJ, I love you to death, and you’ve been my brother forever, but this has been a horrible experience. Your editors, they’ve been non-responsive, and on and on and on.

2:38 – AJ Joiner But on the other side, she didn’t know that they were having COVID, and we were sort of playing whack-a-mole. And what happened is they published the wrong version of her manuscript 3 days before she was going to lunch and she had done weeks and weeks of publicity. So, that night, I decided to build a platform and I asked myself, why isn’t there a platform that exists that multiple people can collaborate on similar to Google Docs? But it already has pre-formatted layouts and templates similar to templates that you may find in Word, but in a way that’s structured so users didn’t have to be super users in order to manipulate it.

3:16 – AJ Joiner Right? So something super simple, drag and drop, plug and play, where you could just get in, add your content, and get out. I thought of a few other things that I used when I was working with authors. So I would help authors organize their stories in their brains. Then we would either give them index cards and we would have one 1 title per index card and 3 sub bullets, and that represented a story and a chapter. So every index card represented a chapter. So I would have people pick up the index card, go stand in front of the room, tell us a story about the index card, and then we would record that process and we’d send it away to a transcription service.

3:58 – AJ Joiner Then they would bring it back to us and then we would give that to them. And that’s how we got the first draft of every chapter. So I duplicated that process in my software called Blitzi. And then right around the time I started paying attention, because I’m a nerd and I love that, being that, I noticed OpenAI was coming out with, it wasn’t ChatGPT at the time, this is 2021. It’s hard to think that ChatGPT has only been public for less than a year, but this is 2021. We integrated OpenAI, which is the backend of ChatGPT.

4:35 – AJ Joiner To provide sort of triggers or prompts for writers, right? So if you’re stuck, you can pop open our chat window. We call it AVEN. You can pop it open, and then you can ask it a question, or you can give it a phrase, or you can give it an open-ended question, or give it bullet points, and it will create content not for you to copy and paste, but to inspire you to write. So how does this help in the grant world? Well, you know, a lot of times when we sit down to no matter what we’re writing right when you sit down and you open up a blank document writers block is the the biggest 1 things that our authors dealt with and whether it’s, it’s, you know, writing a book, writing a dissertation, whatever that is.

5:16 – AJ Joiner So, we built in the AI powered voice to text. So what if you could just click on record and just start saying some things that you’re thinking about. Right? The beautiful part of that is you can say a few sentences about what your thoughts are for a particular part of a grant. Copy that, dump it into the AI, and ask the AI to expand on those thoughts. And it will give you this beautifully written narrative. And again, not to copy and paste, right? But for you to inspire you to write. So now you no longer have to deal with writer’s block because we built it into the system.

5:48 – AJ Joiner And the other thing that we did is we, for specific to working with Tony and Grants Made Simple, We built custom layouts inside of the platform that you guys are using. To make it super easy, so you don’t have to worry about any formatting. Just go in there with your stuff and rock and roll.

6:09 – Hugh Ballou Let me explain here. Dr. Tony is a retired educator. Who is has has a program called nonprofit grants made easy and she is just now launching it, but she spent a lot of time. Building it out and in her career she got what 70 million dollars for her school and she did a beta test with teachers who really hadn’t most of them hadn’t had any grant writing experience and they all got grants and they’re continuing to get grants. So. As we’re recording this, we’re going to roll out the beta test for nonprofits, but it’s going to be an ongoing platform.

6:44 – Hugh Ballou So you’ve seen the format, AJ. Why is this a game changer, backed up with your Bluxy platform? And this isn’t available everywhere. This is a unique thing. Why is this a game changer for people who are trying to write grants for nonprofits?

7:01 – AJ Joiner Yes, so again, part of it is understanding what what it is that you want to say and getting it and articulating that quickly quickly in a written form. Right? We work with University of South Florida. They were able to cut their, their proposal, which is very similar to the grant. They cut their time from a 13 week. Window of, you know, turning it around to 11 days, right? Because it has real time collaboration. Right? So you can log into the same document similar to Google Docs, but it’s again, it’s another those 1 things where you have to see it to believe it.

7:38 – AJ Joiner But when you log in, you can see all the sections that everyone else is working on and that saves you time from emailing back and forth. Right? Because again, in my experience. Of watching people working with grants, different people may have different sections that they’re working on in the grant. Right? So, if you’re working on your section, I can just drop a note in there and say, hey. Think about this or whatever, but it’s all in 1. 1 system, right? So, again, just saving time in the back and forth the emails back and forth.

8:12 – AJ Joiner Right? So we’ve all had the experience where we’re working on a grant together and I email you a copy. So now I have a copy. He has a copy and my email has a copy. And he emails me back now, our emails, his email has 2 copies. My email has 2 copies and then I have 2 copies. Right? So that back and forth. It takes time and I know we’re. We’ve gotten much better at tasks at multitasking. But again, if you don’t have to bounce back and forth between different platforms, it just saves you so much time.

8:46 – AJ Joiner And the fact that, you know, we have the AI that’s built in. I know a lot of people are nervous about it, you know, but we introduce it in a very simple, responsible way so that you can just test it out, right? That will speed up the process because it saves you time and it sort of kickstarts your brain and your writing process.

9:06 – Hugh Ballou David is like, I am David is a multiple book author. And he writes our magazine and he has his own magazine and another magazine. So, David, what are you thinking about this? You’ve seen it.

9:19 – Multiple Speakers I don’t think you’ve used it. Have you?

9:20 – David Dunworth No, I haven’t used it, but I have seen it and, you know, we’ve been on other meetings with and Tony and And so I’m somewhat familiar with it, but my curiosity has got me going here. That was a great story about the index cards and that thing, and how that birthed your whole thing. How long did it take you from, let’s say, when the idea said, oh, I can take this whole concept and put it in a software program, how long did it take you to bring it to market?

9:50 – AJ Joiner November 13th. I remember November 13th at 11 something at night. That’s what I thought about it. We had the An internal clickable prototype by. Right after Christmas, now this is not anything I shared externally, right? We had PDFs done within the week. So I sketched it on my whiteboard. And so this is what I did for a living, right? So I didn’t have to go out and get a bunch of people. I just started doing it myself. Um, so we had PDFs that I share with my Facebook group and I said, hey, guys, if I build this, and this is what it’s going to look like, would you buy it?

10:31 – AJ Joiner And it’s funny. I still have those videos. And they said, oh, if you build it, that would be kind of cool. So, by I think we had our 1st clickable. Um, prototype that I did a demo by February. That that I shared publicly, so November 13th to maybe the 1st week in February, I had to share something publicly and April. I had my 1st paying customer. So, from December to April and the other thing is what I learned in corporate America is. There are a lot of people, a lot of approvals that you have to have when you’re working in a big organization.

11:07 – AJ Joiner And I’m a small organization, I can approve my own decisions.

11:12 – Multiple Speakers So, that’s a remarkable turnaround.

11:15 – AJ Joiner That’s phenomenal. I was able to convince that time. And even my sister who was working for Microsoft at the time, she said, dude, you know, it would take us, you know, 6 months to get the requirements written. I mean, I’ve been on those teams before, right? It would take six months to just write out what you’re gonna do and get it approved by all the right people. But I was able to go just do fast prototyping. You know, I drew it out. I created PDFs that map to the drawings. Then I found prototyping tools.

11:46 – AJ Joiner I don’t wanna get too technical, but yeah. So it was five months to the first paying customer. And I remember the day I got my first paying customer. I was picking my daughter up from school. And I turned around and I got the notification on my phone and I wasn’t driving in Texas and it was in the holster. So I saw the little pop up from PayPal. And I turned around and I told my daughter, and it’s the daddy just got his 1st, 20 dollars from Blixey. And she was like, you mean the thing you wrote on the wall?

12:17 – AJ Joiner So that was kind of cool for her to have that experience. She probably, you know, it’s been, what is that, 2021? But yeah, but that was cool. That was cool. And I love the process of taking something that doesn’t exist and bringing it to life.

12:32 – Multiple Speakers I’ve always done that.

12:34 – Hugh Ballou We’ve talked about the grant writing process, but there’s some other uses. You have people that are teaching, doing in prison, teaching prisoners to write. You have a school program in Atlanta, maybe some places teaching at-risk children. Tell us about some of those. And maybe there’s nonprofits that want to do that kind of program that they could use Blooxy as well.

12:54 – AJ Joiner Absolutely. So I asked myself, now that we have this platform, I’ll just tell you a short little lesson that I learned. So when I first built it, I was so excited to share with everyone. And I would just get all these calls and get people on the calls. And I would do a demo. And I’d say, this is going to help you write your book. And they’d say, oh my god, thank you. I love it. And then I didn’t know how to ask for the sale. I didn’t know how to do anything. So I would have meeting after meeting, and no one would buy.

13:20 – AJ Joiner They would just say, oh my god, that’s a great tool. So, what I learned is, after talking to a friend of mine, what is the value that you’re going to add to people that will make their lives easier? Right? So, the question that I asked was, okay, how can we help children with literacy using this? So, I thought, why can’t we help make children publish authors? And then I asked myself, how can we do this? So, we create a program called beyond literacy, and it’s where we use music and we actually have a curriculum.

13:51 – AJ Joiner We use music and we have the kids engaged through the music that they like, and we have them sort of write write themselves into a song and then we’re like, you just want your 1st 1. Right so we did that in partnership with the mayor’s office last summer and right now it’s 2024. So that was summer. Excuse me 2023, and we published 28 children that are from all over the inner city of Atlanta. Day 1, the children didn’t know each other. The children didn’t know us by the time it was over.

14:20 – AJ Joiner We’re like a huge little tiny 28 person or 31 person family, including our instructors. So we did that. That opened up Buford, South Carolina schools. So we have. The host of schools in Buford, South Carolina, same in Harlem, New York, and also California and which is outside of Oakland. So we have schools that are all using either in school instruction for writing. After school and summer program, so all 3 also flew out to California last year. And I met with the prison CEO, and that’s the thing I didn’t know prisons has CEOs, but that’s another story when I met with the prison CEO, and I explained the program that we created again.

15:07 – AJ Joiner What is the value that we’re adding to our user? I created a program called bars to books. And the premise is, it allows prisoners to show remorse, to share their side of the story. There’s a sort of a cathartic feeling that you get from that. And it gives them an opportunity to contribute versus just sitting there, right? So, sort of a long process that started in September. Well, two weeks ago, I think it’s been two weeks now. We got the thumbs up for 1000 prisoners to use to write their book from behind prison walls.

15:39 – AJ Joiner So we’re going to train the instructions instructors that are already working within the prison system and they’re going to teach them to use. We have the right now to install, to set up Blixi on their iPads and laptops. And this is from the gentleman’s mouth who approved everything. He said that, you know, best case scenario, we could possibly have Blixi on every prison laptop in California by the end of 2025. Fingers crossed, hopefully that happens. But one of my mentors said, birds fly, fish swim, and deals fall through.

16:12 – AJ Joiner So I’m really excited about it. But little by little, we’re making things happen.

16:19 – Hugh Ballou I think for those segments, the children in Atlanta and the prisoners, There’s a, um, ability to express themselves that they don’t have. That’s why people get in trouble. So, have they defined, like, the prisons or the ministry Atlanta, the work in Atlanta, the school work have they defined the benefits that they see this provides for their constituents.

16:44 – AJ Joiner So. This is sort of anecdotal right? So I saw the transformation of the students. There was 1 young lady in our program last summer. Her mom had a mental health crisis during at the beginning of the pandemic. And the little girl was 11 years old at the time. So she woke up in a homeless shelter and her mom abandoned her. They couldn’t find her mom, so she didn’t go to any adults. She just lived for two and a half years in empty houses and buildings, and she did everything you can imagine for food.

17:16 – AJ Joiner You know, she was taken advantage of by homeless people. It was just a horrible story. She was a part of our program. Day 1, she wouldn’t even look look us in the eyes and I just wanted to hug her neck and just, you know, I have a daughter that’s 12. Right. But to see the transformation of her telling her story, because we have them write their stories. Right? So. One thing that we noticed is that when children talk about their own story, they’re much more likely to be engaged and involved versus talking about Romeo and Juliet, right?

17:51 – AJ Joiner So we had them write essays about their story. We had them write poems about their story. We had them write haikus about their story. So to see this day one, she wouldn’t even look me in the eyes to the graduation. She wanted to be the first person to introduce our guest for graduation. She came completely out of her shell. Another young man, his name is Anthony. My name is Anthony. His brother was killed in a gun by shot and killed by his brother’s best friend that lived next door. Well, his father killed his brother’s.

18:26 – AJ Joiner The best friend that killed his brother and his father was in prison. So you have these two families that live next door and neither one of them have the means to move. So they’re stuck there and there’s all this, you know, he was able to share his story, right? And he became camper of the session. So to see those kids dancing across the stage and writing and talk about excitement, and let me share one more story. When we first started the program with the mayor’s office, Just the fact that it had literacy written on it, 17 out of 35 kids dropped out and never showed up.

19:01 – AJ Joiner Because they’re like, we’re not going to write for the summer. Well, the kids that we had remaining, we were like, OK, we’re going to start where we are. We had so much fun with those kids. They started telling their parents. The parents started calling the mayor’s office. Our program grew from 18 back up to 32 by the time the graduation happened. And we had children still trying to sign up before 2 graduation, but we couldn’t do it because we had published all their stories into books and this year.

19:29 – AJ Joiner We’re waiting for the approval, but it’s looking like again. I don’t I can’t say this for sure, but we’re, we’re looking at 600 children this year. So, from 28 last year to 600 this year. And, you know, by the end of this. This, I mean, calendar year, we will have published 2000 children.

19:46 – David Dunworth What an incredible impact on society you’re making there.

19:50 – AJ Joiner That is terrific. Just helping them tell their stories. Yeah.

19:52 – Unidentified Speaker Yeah.

19:54 – Hugh Ballou Q, what do you think? I’m just speechless. I know. This is going to be a movement that’s going to catch fire. And we’ll have a lot of people download this. And if you’re listening to this, we’re recording this in March of 2024, but you might be listening to it anytime in history, so you can still get on board. If you want to talk about this, we’ll give you the link for Bluxy, but if you’re interested in the grant writing, I’m managing the intake for candidates at the moment, you can schedule a call with me.

20:27 – Hugh Ballou It’s my name, Hugh Just put it in your browser,, and book a 15, and we can talk about whether it’s something that fits you. But we’re not here to sell something. We’re here to let you know there’s something that makes this, actually, AJ, what was painful is now fun. Yes, yes, they can also go to book. See, you just you have just a Basic website, that’s all all the juices. Back behind the website, but this is it’s dot com. Is that where people should go?

21:05 – Hugh Ballou There’s an explore now button here. So tell us what they’ll see when they go to.

21:10 – Multiple Speakers Yes. Okay.

21:12 – Unidentified Speaker S.

21:12 – AJ Joiner Y. Yes, so I’m looking at your screen here. It’s the young lady to the left. It looks like it’s not. There we go. When you hover over the section, it’ll tell you what to do. You want to go to the creative writer side if you are writing a book and just click on sign up and it’ll take you to a sign up page. But so for the grant writing component. What we did specifically for the program that you mentioned earlier, we built custom custom layouts for the grant writing program. So, when you log in now, you will not see just to be clear.

21:44 – AJ Joiner You won’t see any grant writing templates that are in there. You’ll see the layouts for writing books, poetry and academia, academic writing. But, yeah, if you’re interested in writing a book and telling your story, we have made it super simple. You log in, you know, create an account and we had a conversation conversation internally and that was we want people that were willing to commit. Right. And what we found is that people who will commit to a year have much better results than people who are.

22:15 – AJ Joiner Just making a monthly commitment, right? So we modified our payment options to $300 for the year, which is, you know, reasonable, right? It’s $25 month. And it gives you time to organize your story, talk through your chapters, you know, suss out all the things that you need. And by the way, if you sign up today, what I’ll do is I will give you our training that we typically charge 997 for, and we do, you know, Weekend workshops, night workshops, I’ll give you that for free. If you’re writing a book, if you just email me and say, Hugh, that you heard about it on Hughes podcast.

22:54 – AJ Joiner Then I’ll email you the training that we use to charge for free and it will accelerate your book writing process. That’ll give you some shortcuts on marketing your book. It’ll give you publishing options because this is a writing platform, not a publishing platform yet. Eventually, we’ll get there, but for now you’re writing. So, yes, let us know that you found out about this from you and we’ll give you our training that will help accelerate your writing process.

23:21 – Hugh Ballou Is there a contact button on the

23:24 – AJ Joiner Yes, so I’ll tell you what, if you just, once you sign up, you just reply back to the email that your confirmation email comes from And my team will make sure that they get that and get you access to the training.

23:36 – Hugh Ballou Right.

23:36 – Multiple Speakers Mitch and Hugh’s name.

23:38 – Unidentified Speaker Okay.

23:38 – AJ Joiner Mitch and Hugh’s name.

23:39 – Multiple Speakers Yep.

23:40 – Hugh Ballou So, let’s go to the, we’re in the present. The present tense now, if people listen to it, it’ll be passed, but we’re, we’re doing a beta group just to do the shakedown on on all the details on everybody’s in. But it’s a custom platform you created on top of your platform with the guidelines for specifically for grant writing. So what do you see as the biggest benefits? You mentioned universities are doing research. It’s like doing grant writing or papers. So there’s a track for students writing young children.

24:15 – Hugh Ballou There’s an academic track for writers, researchers. And then there’s a book publishing platform. So you could do a lot more things though, couldn’t you?

24:25 – AJ Joiner Yeah, so we are, we’ve had conversations with city government in California. So the way that I, when I started trying, when I started thinking about architecture and building this thing, I wanted to build one tool that could manage, that could do multiple things. Right? And that’s a gift and a curse actually. Because entrepreneurs have squirrel brain and I’m the prototypical squirrel brain person, but we have city governments that are looking at using the platform for staff reports.

24:57 – AJ Joiner So they have these monthly reports that they have to publish to the world so that anyone can go back and look at everything that where their tax dollars are going. Right now it’s a tedious process. It takes them about 2 weeks to do it. And our initial test, they were able to do it in 3 days. Right. So it’s going to save them a lot of time. But again, it’s it’s I’m at this conundrum right now. It’s like, I can’t do everything, but I want to do everything. But right. But but that’s another opportunity, even with some of the ministers, because I’m on a faith based radio show, the Willie Moore Jr.

25:32 – AJ Joiner Show, we’ve had ministers that are now using it for their sermons. Right. So the way that it’s laid out, You literally just click add as if you’re adding chapters to a book and you can have each 1 your books are a sermon. Right? So we’re seeing, you know, people do it in different ways and they can add. You know, sermons may have 3 different top topics or talking points and then each top talking point can have a story or 2 and a call to action. So we’re seeing it that way. We have had conversations and this is the can that we keep kicking down the road with cook with culinary arts.

26:05 – AJ Joiner Because what they were saying is, once we can do that, then they can quite literally publish every chef as they graduate their own cookbook, right? But that’s going to take a little more design work. And I want to make sure that the juices work the squeeze to build that customization for that particular audience.

26:28 – Multiple Speakers Or they’ll fund it first.

26:32 – Hugh Ballou And and I got to commend you a lot of the software I’ve seen is clunky. This is so easy. It’s so obvious how to use it. It’s what what’s called.

26:43 – AJ Joiner People friendly, what is it?

26:45 – Multiple Speakers User friendly, yeah.

26:46 – Hugh Ballou That’s a computer term, and I get it now. It’s so easy to use and so logical. That was brilliant, AJ. Anthony Joiner, AJ, you’ve been inspiring today. I’m sorry it’s such a short window, but we could talk forever. I’ve got books. See, I’m going to go back. I got a book I’m working on, number 12, and then 13 cookbooks. I hope you get that together before I sit there. The so this is a nonprofit exchange brought to you by center vision leadership foundation, we have a private community of nonprofit leaders and clergy and it’s nonprofit.

27:25 – Hugh Ballou, find out about it and join us because we do some amazing things together. What would you like to leave people with today, AJ? What thought or challenge, inspiration?

27:38 – AJ Joiner So I think that, and this is sort of goes back to being raised by my grandmother. In started 2019, recording conversations with my grandmother and I started learning. I learned so many things because as a child, she’s just your grandma, right? And you don’t understand or appreciate that. Well, she just turned 91 last Tuesday. And she is still, you know, she’s going 100 miles an hour on her Walker. She still has all of her, you know, faculties, you know, and so I’ve been recording our conversations.

28:08 – AJ Joiner And I think that a lot of these stories of our elders get lost. Right? So I think if nothing else, there’s an opportunity to. Capture, you know, thought that, you know, I asked my grandmother, how did you meet grandpa? I never asked her that before until, you know, over the last year or so, right? Or she told me one story, you know, her father was a sharecropper. And, you know, they didn’t have a lot in Louisiana, but they were, they went to the movie theaters. They weren’t allowed in at the time, but they would just sit across the street and look at the marquee and they would imagine what the movie was about.

28:46 – AJ Joiner Oh, you’re not allowed to go. Right? So, again, those types of stories get lost. So I want to say to everybody that your story matters and if it doesn’t matter to you, it’ll matter to your children or your friends or your family. Right? So, even if you do the old index card thing, and you just write down, hey, you know, here’s some interesting things that have happened in my life. So that your children can have that because the coolest thing for me was for my daughter to take 1 my books to show and tell.

29:11 – AJ Joiner And say, man, this is my daddy wrote this book. Right? But, yeah, capture those stories for your children so that we can have more than just this oral history because. I can’t tell you anything about my great great grandfather at all, right? I know he existed. I don’t know anything about it, but wouldn’t it be cool if everyone had something to share some of their stories? And I think that’s the opportunity here.

29:31 – Multiple Speakers Every story matters.

29:33 – Hugh Ballou That’s grand. So, it’s for ordinary people, not all these leaders, it’s for ordinary people. I’m so inspired. AJ Joyner, brilliant man.

29:44 – David Dunworth Thank you so much. So great to see you again, AJ.

29:47 – Unidentified Speaker Thank you. Lost my button.

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