A few years ago, she had no clue about app design, no staff and was out of pocket a few thousand dollars. Now Skool Loop App is used by 700 schools in Australia and New Zealand, she has a team of 15 staff members and 12,000 advertisers.
Sharlene Barnes talks about her journey into the world of tech start-ups in her 40s.
When my kids were at school, I longed for an easier way to keep up with their activities. I’d find notes in the bottom of their school bags, crumpled and covered in squashed banana, often long overdue.
When I think back now, it’s a lot to ask a five-year-old to be responsible for the communications between a parent and a teacher.
I was getting phone calls in the middle of meetings saying, ‘Dylan doesn’t have his swimmers and the class is going swimming today’.
I knew there must be a better way. I just couldn’t work out what it was. But the thought stayed with me, all through my kids’ years at primary and high school.
Then, when my son was about 16 he was playing on his smartphone and I was so interested! Smartphones were relatively new back then and I had no idea what he was doing. He showed me a few apps and explained how it all worked.
Talk about a light bulb moment! This was the technology I’d been waiting for.
I’d recently recovered from my second round of melanoma treatment and was back at my day job, but dreaming of starting my own business. It sounds cliched but I’d realised life is too short not to chase your dreams.
I had no idea which way it would go, but I bit the bullet and found an app developer to build The Skool Loop App.
I think I nearly drove him mad with all my questions. I had no idea about designing an app, just this idea that had wedged itself into my brain. The hardest thing was trying to get the concept out of my head and into code, but he knew enough for the both of us and he was so patient and encouraging.
It was an exciting moment when we could finally launch The Skool Loop App. But the next challenge was to get schools to use it! I targeted public primary schools in the first instance, literally contacting them personally to see if they could use it.
It’s a free app that helps them communicate with the community far more easily than they had been, so in all honesty, I wasn’t surprised when it started to take off. Some schools use it three times a day – sending reminders out to parents and caregivers in the morning, at lunchtime and in the evening.