By Jennie Wong
The Charlotte Observer.
This week’s “Ask the Mompreneur” features an interview with Elena Krasnoperova, creator of an innovative new online tool for parent-teacher communication, www.SchoolCircle.com.
Q: When did you realize that communication between teachers and parents was a problem that needed fixing?
A: When my older son (now in third grade) started kindergarten, I began receiving lots of communication from his school, and it only got worse when my younger son also started kindergarten. Most of the information was coming by email, some by paper. (And if you have boys, you know that paper either doesn’t make it home at all, or gets turned into a paper airplane within minutes.)
While I loved learning what my sons were up to at school, I often felt overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information I was receiving, and by the manual work that I needed to do to keep track of it all. I would read every email, find the relevant info, copy and paste it into my calendar or to-do list, and try to remember everything I was supposed to do.
Despite spending countless hours every week copying and pasting and reading reply-all email threads, I would miss something important, like bringing flowers to the school open house, or forgetting to arrange to have my kid picked up early on (a short-schedule) day. And every time that happened, I felt like the worst mother on the planet.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for SchoolCircle? From where did you draw inspiration for your solution design?
A: The idea for SchoolCircle came from my experience as a working mom with two kids, and from conversations with other parents who were struggling with the same thing. When I forgot about the flowers for the open house (not a big deal, you might say, but you didn’t see my sons’ disappointed faces), I resolved to find a solution for it.
Having spent the last 16 years working at Internet technology companies, my initial reaction was “Surely there’s an app for this.” There wasn’t. Or more precisely there were lots of apps, but they either solved just one problem (like calendar, or photo sharing, or volunteer sign-ups), or they were very broad-based platforms (like email or social network) that weren’t specifically designed for our role as parents.
Q: As a seasoned business executive starting your own company for the first time, what skills have been transferable? What new skills have you had to learn?
A: Many skills and experiences were directly transferable: market and competitive analysis, business model design, analytics, operations, sales. Others were an extension of what I had done before. For example, I had previously led the global launch of PayPal Here, so I knew how to design and execute a go-to-market strategy for a new product, but I had never previously built and launched my own product completely from scratch. And many tasks involved in starting my own business were completely new to me: designing a company logo, setting up payroll and benefits, accounting, trademark registration … the list goes on and on.
Q: You recently told me that even your worst day as a startup founder is better than any day working for someone else, something I’m sure many entrepreneurs can relate to. How do you keep your focus during those bad days?
A: When I experience a setback or get discouraged, I go back to my motivation for why I started SchoolCircle. I’m doing it to be a better mom for my kids, and to help other parents do the same. I really believe that we as parents deserve a tool that truly simplifies and improves our lives _ to paraphrase the old L’Oreal commercial, “We’re worth it!”
Q: I’m a big believer in the power of celebrating our accomplishments. What is the next big milestone for you and how will you celebrate when you get there?
A: Well, we just had our big milestone of launching our service on Aug. 19. Our next big milestone will be getting our first 100 users, and then our first 1,000. You can sign-up as either a parent or teacher, and be part of the solution.
We will celebrate by giving each other a high-five and then getting back to work.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Jennie Wong is an executive coach, author of the e-book “Ask the Mompreneur” and the creator of the product quiz website www.ABorC.com