By Jennie Wong
The Charlotte Observer
This week’s “Ask the Mompreneur” features an interview with Sheri Atwood, founder of the new child support payment platform SupportPay. She recently raised $1.1 million in venture capital funding from angel investors including Draper Associates, Salesforce.com, Broadway Angels and Aspect Ventures.
Q: How did your life story lead you to create SupportPay as a solution for managing child support payments?
A: After my parent’s divorce, I was raised by a single mother, and then several years ago while working, I went through a divorce myself. My ex and I decided to make it as amicable as possible, because we didn’t want to put our daughter through the same emotional turmoil I went through as a child.
The divorce part was easy. In fact, I did it myself and it only cost about $350. What I didn’t realize was the real work came after the divorce. When it came to managing and sharing our daughter’s expenses, I was the one who had to keep track of the receipts and remind my ex when to pay.
It wasn’t that he was vengeful or wasn’t willing to pay, he simply forgot. So I found myself maintaining spreadsheets and having to call him to remind him.
I searched high and low for a solution, since I knew I was certainly not the only one with this problem. I was really surprised that there was nothing out there for the nearly 300 million parents that live apart globally who split dependent expenses and manage child support.
So I took a huge risk, walked away from my corporate job and a large, steady paycheck to create SupportPay. I knew there had to be a better way and since no one had done it so far, I took the task on, head-on.
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Q: What challenges have you faced along the way?
A: It definitely hasn’t been easy. I couldn’t find developers willing to work for next to nothing to create this product and I didn’t want to take any funds until I was sure I was in this for the long run. So I ended up building the first product on my own, teaching myself how to code in the process.
I knew if I didn’t do it myself it wasn’t going to be done, and I believed this was a huge problem that needed a solution.
Q: What advice do you have for other mompreneurs?
A: First thing I would say is, it won’t be easy. Launching SupportPay was harder than I ever thought it would be. There are many days I ask myself, “What are you doing? You are a single mom, a woman in your 30’s and you don’t have a technical degree!”
But then I remind myself that I believe in what I am doing and that the benefits to society are worth all the work. In the end, I want to end the conflicts children have to witness between their parents. It’s hard enough being a child of divorce, but it’s much harder when the child is put in the middle.
The one thing I always come back to is that as a founder, I have to believe when no one else does. And let’s face it, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
My advice to other mompreneurs is to take the calculated risk. If you don’t know it, learn it. If you need money, keep trying until you find the right investors. After all, the only regrets you will ever have are the chances you didn’t take.
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.