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How She Does It

We grill digital start-up founder Clare Reid on nailing that killer idea, championing flexible working and putting in work/life boundaries.

I love hearing how other female digital entrepreneurs build their brands (I can’t help it, it comes with the territory!) so I nobbled Clare Reid, co-founder of School Notices, to pick her brains. Previously the owner of a web development agency, after having children Clare pivoted in her career (sounds familiar, right?) to launch an online market place for independent school parents. Here’s how she did it…

Where did you get the idea for your business?

It initially evolved out of a personal need for flexible, sensibly priced childcare when my four children were small. I realised many of our friends’ older children were leaving school and were keen to find their first jobs or earn money before going travelling – and they’d make brilliant babysitters. I decided to build a small website connecting fellow parents with these ex pupils, but it didn’t take long to realise that parents wanted so much more – a single place to buy/sell/rent anything and everything – but within a trusted schools network. I convinced Gordon Dawson, my co-founder, to come on board while we were on the sidelines watching our sons play rugby and School Notices was born!

How quickly did it take off?

Within a week of our first meeting we were in our school’s headmaster’s office pitching the idea. By the end of the first term most families at our school had registered on the site. Four years later we have over 140 top public schools and thousands of parents from member and non-member schools. I always felt it would be popular if we pitched it with benefits to all involved and the fact it’s free for schools and parents to sign up and use is key. The real bonus though is the funds we raise – 25 percent of ad revenue from the site is shared with our member schools for their fundraising causes. No one else does that.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve been asked to sell on School Notices?

Right now there’s bright pink Cadillac that’s been converted into a sofa and we recently had some llamas for sale! What’s really popular though is school uniforms and musical instruments that kids have grown out of.

Describe the culture of your company – are you all women?

Apart from Gordon and Josh, our chief technology officer, we are all women, yes! As parents ourselves we provide flexible working as we believe that family comes first. Some work from home in the holidays or do fewer days a week and if you want to watch your child’s school play that’s fine too!

What’s the hardest thing about running a start-up?

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 tips over. I could never have done it without the support of my husband. He did all the school runs and watched all the matches and events that I couldn’t attend at the beginning. I have loved every second of the journey but would’ve hated it if I felt the children were not getting that time.

What’s a typical working day like?

I get up at 6.30am and get the children ready for school, my husband then takes them and I go for a run and normally arrive at work by 8.30am. I try to do my flagged emails from the day before first thing. Once I am at my desk I find it hard to leave so I work late if the kids are flexi-boarding but get home by 7pm if they’re home.

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. 

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