We chat to Clare Reid, digital entrepreneur, founder of online platform School Notices and mother of four, on running a successful business and juggling a family…
How did School Notices come about?
The business really evolved out of a personal need! I was running about after my four kids and really wanted some support in the evenings and weekends outside of school hours but didn’t need a full-time nanny. I realised many of our friends’ older children were leaving school and keen to find their first jobs or earn some money before going travelling and ended up employing one. Then came my Eureka moment, when I thought ‘hold on, there must be loads more parents like me!’ I decided to build a small website connecting fellow parents with these alumni, but it didn’t take long to realise that they wanted so much more than childcare – a trusted place to buy/sell/rent anything and everything!
So how did you turn your idea into a business?
I went straight to the Headmaster of my children’s school, for once not being told off, but pitching the idea for School Notices and he was incredibly enthusiastic. By the end of the first term most families at our school had registered on the site. Our Headmaster then introduced us to other schools who signed up. Of course there’s a huge amount to consider with a start-up – building a team from scratch, creating world-class tech and of course getting investors on board. It’s not for the faint hearted!
Tell us how School Notices works?
Taking the principle of the old-fashioned school noticeboard, we bring independent schools, parents and alumni together across the whole of the UK. Members can then buy/sell/advertise within a trusted community anything from holiday homes to jobs to school uniforms and it’s completely free for them to post. Although what makes us unique is that we raise funds for our member schools by donating 25% of all advertising revenue to support their bursary funds. We also provide tonnes of content to support, inspire and entertain our families from education to lifestyle.
What did you do before you started School Notices?
I founded a web development agency before I was married and built websites and produced digital marketing campaigns for international brands like Virgin, Marks & Spencer and The Canadian Government. Before that I ran property development sales and made corporate videos for Galliard Homes which I loved. I have tried my hand at quite a few things actually, I was even on ITV years ago presenting a property programme. That was fun but really hard with a very young family. You can’t take the day off if one of your children is ill because there is a whole team who will be let down and a lot of money wasted so that lost its appeal after a while.
What’s the most bizarre thing you’ve sold on School Notices?
We’ve just sold a bright pink Cadillac that was converted into a sofa and recently had some llamas and sister pigs for sale! We also have a great Property section too which could rival any local estate agents. What’s really popular too is school uniforms and musical instruments that our kids have grown out of – or got bored of!
Describe the culture of your company?
We are 75% women and all parents! When starting the company I really wanted to champion the working parent so we’re very flexible as I firmly believe that family comes first. Some work from home in the holidays or do fewer days and if you want to go and watch your child’s rugby match that’s fine! I’m really lucky to have a talented and loyal team who work hard because they believe in what we’re doing. We also have a lot of fun and get through a lot of chocolate…
What’s the hardest thing about running your own business?
For me it’s about juggling family commitments. You need to have quite an obsessive nature to build a new business, it’s like a snowball, you need to keep pushing it up the hill until you reach the top and it tips over. I rely totally on the support of my husband. He did all the school runs and watched all the matches and events I couldn’t when I was in the initial setting up stages. But I try to have rules – once I’m home and the kids are there then no work. Once they’re in bed though is a different matter!
What are you most proud of?
Handing cheques to schools for some amazing causes. A lot of them use the funds raised for bursaries and knowing we are helping to put children through such a high quality education who might not otherwise afford it is incredibly rewarding.
Who do you most admire?
My husband for looking interested every time I talk about work! Which is a lot!
What’s in store for School Notices this year and beyond?
We’ve got a really exciting year ahead – our members are at an all time high which means a really valuable Noticeboard for parents and more donations for schools. We’re also about to launch our first school reviews magazine Inside Scoop this Spring with a twist where current parents get to tell us what they love about their school that a brochure wouldn’t! In March we also have our first annual Clay Pigeon Shooting Championships in partnership with the brilliant Holland & Holland.
Do you have a motto for life?
I have a poster above my desk which says, ‘Success belongs to those who are willing to work harder than anyone else’ which keeps me going the extra distance. I also like ‘create your own luck’ but I think we have been incredibly lucky by chance with School Notices. From supportive investors to meeting each member of our lovely team at just the right moment. I do feel the stars have been aligned for us. Sometimes I wonder if that is because we are giving something back too. There is definitely a ‘feel good’ factor in our office.