The Baby Diaries app founder Tara O'Connell looks to new horizons

New horizons: Tara O'Connell founded The Baby Diaries and is also developing apps for animal owners and those assisting the chronically ill and ageing.

New horizons: Tara O'Connell founded The Baby Diaries and is also developing apps for animal owners and those assisting the chronically ill and ageing.

You created The Baby Diaries after giving birth to your second child Alexander and finding there was no single application that would take in his sleeping routines, feeding times and quantities, nappy activity, photos and milestones. How did you juggle developing this with looking after a newborn and school-aged child?

As a woman, there has never been a better time in history to start a business.

Tara O'Connell

Friends and family were my saviour.  I worked when Jacob was at school and Alexander was sleeping (often in a friend’s arm).  It’s amazing how much you can get done in a few hours each day when you have to.

What experience did you have in software design before launching the app?

Absolutely none!  I’ve been on a rapid learning curve.  I can design wireframes and user experience models but that’s as far as my knowledge goes. 

My brain wasn’t designed to deal with code. 

It all flows well now that I’ve (finally) found a developer who can interpret my ideas and code them into fully functioning apps.

The iTunes app store has thousands of baby related apps available. What do you think made yours shine?

Back in 2014 there were only a handful of baby apps which helped get traction early.  The app was promoted on Nine’s Today Show as a “must have parenting app”.  That pushed downloads, and it was the catalyst for a lot of promotion in magazines, newspapers, interviews, recommendations by “mummy bloggers”, and several marketing partnerships including with Gymbaroo, Lah-Lah, and BornOnline.

How old are your children now and what do they think of your line of work?

Jacob is 16 and Alexander is 5.  Jacob’s about to start his HSC and Alexander starts school after Christmas. 

I think Jacob secretly enjoys that his mum creates apps.  Alex has no idea what I do!  He just wants me for my cuddles.

What does the partnership deal you've signed with Terry White Chemmart mean for the app and what comes next?

This partnership is a game changer.  TerryWhite Chemmart have 4 million loyalty members across 465 stores, so the distribution potential for the app is enormous.

The new free TerryWhite Chemmart Baby Diaries being launched this month has twice as much functionality as the previous version. 

The app offers the pharmacies significant advantage in an extremely competitive market.  This deal provides proof of concept to other pharmacy groups, retailers and health insurers in New Zealand, Asia, Canada and the US who we’ve had initial discussions with. 

I’m hopeful that growth into these other markets will happen quickly now.

You were originally going to provide a hard copy baby book for a child's first birthday, what happened to this plan?

Cashflow happened! 

It’s something I’d still love to explore, however the primary focus right now is to expand the network of pharmacies and insurance providers who are licencing and promoting my suite of apps including The Baby Diaries. It’s still part of the longer term plan.

What lessons from The Baby Diaries will you apply to the two new apps you're developing  for animal owners and those assisting the chronically ill and aging?

My entire approach to app development has changed since The Baby Diaries was born.  I now create the concept, design the wireframes, then pitch the app to a potential corporate partner. Only once that deal is secure do I have the app built. 

It means we can be more flexible in meeting the needs of the client while ensuring cashflow is managed more efficiently.

What do you think about the label mumpreneur?

Personally, I’m not a fan, although I understand what the label is trying to showcase.  For me being a mum and being an entrepreneur are just two pieces of a much larger whole life picture.   

What's your definition of success?

At the end of my days I’d like to feel like I made a positive difference – to my children, the planet, the women I mentor, and the people who use my apps. 

I like the idea of spreading joy, hope and inspiration and I try to achieve that in my own small way each day.  

Australian women are starting small businesses at twice the rate of men. How much of this can be attributed to the Internet and the greater ease of working from home?

As a woman, there has never been a better time in history to start a business. 

Remote access means that women can create and run a business from anywhere, including home.  We have the skills, networks, support and self-belief needed to start and manage successful businesses –  if that’s what we choose.

You created Tara-Oconnell.com, with an e-course and coaching clinic, to help online businesses raise their profile and boost their success. What are the biggest challenges that online businesses face?

Standing out in a very crowded environment is the biggest challenge. 

My experience has shown that there’s a formula for achieving this so I created the Shine Online program to make that formula accessible to as many people as possible. It’s an online course that people can do at their own pace in their own space.