Phil Reardon, CEO and founder of Schoolzine, considers himself to be one of those people lucky enough to combine their passion with their work. Phil’s long-term commitment to improving communication in education has motivated him to connect with other like-minded people and organisations to support continual learning in everyone’s life.
When Phil’s Sydney employer shut it’s doors in favour of a computerised system, he took his family on a road trip to Queensland and settled on the Sunshine Coast. A year spent at USC gave him plenty of ideas to play with, and in 2007 Schoolzine was born. Now with a team of 25, Schoolzine is looking beyond the shores of Australia for a new office in New Zealand, and plans to go further afield within the next two years.
Starting a business just prior to the GFC added a dimension that gave us the ability to set a strong foundation for growth. We made some pivotal changes to our model early on that if we hadn’t, we probably wouldn’t have survived.
Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?
Schoolzine was founded as a solution to a real problem that schools and parents were facing with their child’s communication. I was at my son’s soccer game, when another father, who happened to be a school principal, expressed his frustration at how hard it was to communicate with his school’s community.
First we looked at a couple of models that had been around for some time and basically digitised the idea. After presenting our model to transform their communication to a core number of local principals, 80% immediately committed to the program.
We then invited local business owners to participate and had an instant positive response. Finally, a couple of small investors were brought in to help us develop the software and we we’ve been gaining momentum ever since.
What is your business model?
A subscription based model with a twist. We provide companies with a unique opportunity to participate in local area marketing by becoming sponsors. Companies are supporting schools and future education since we rebate a portion of that revenue back to schools. We also give back to organisations in various ways like improving their communication. Once a company or organisation becomes part of the Schoolzine family, we are 110% dedicated to supporting the community that supports us.
What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next year?
Research and development never stops at Schoolzine.
Some of the exciting projects we are working on are improving our tools and integration with our partners such as Microsoft, 3P Learning and numerous education departments.
Schools have shown a desire to spread great ideas and as such we are seeing a huge growth from all corners of Australia with a contingent now coming from New Zealand. Expansion overseas is now a reality for Schoolzine and we are exploring Asia, UK and the US as opportunities.
How do you make ideas happen?
Teamwork is crucial to Schoolzine’s development. We believe in an open book philosophy and encourage ideas from every team member. When times are tight, keeping our key team members up to date on how the company is travelling has proved to be a good decision. We adopted this collaborative approach very early, while our platform has developed from listening to the needs of our schools.
What does your typical day look like?
I don’t have a typical day and that’s exactly the way I like it. Because our market is unique, I spend a fair amount of time travelling.
What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?
The education sector has it’s own unique challenges. Starting a business just prior to the GFC added a dimension that gave us the ability to set a strong foundation for growth. We made some pivotal changes to our model early on that if we hadn’t, we probably wouldn’t have survived. Australia is a great testing ground for a business model if you want to take something global and we’ve done exactly that. We’ve matured, expanded and are now looking to bring our solutions overseas.
What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?
I’ll give you two. One, keep a close eye on your cash flow and two, don’t be afraid of collaborating with the big elephant in the room.
What people/companies/organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment?
The list is huge since we collaborate with many companies and organisations but here are a couple:
Vivo Inspire – an award-winning technology that builds good habits and shapes better futures through an extensive, multi-layered rewards system.
What about internationally?
Carl Jarvis from the UK @carljarvis_eos
Kevin Honeycutt from US @kevinhoneycutt
What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?
We all have to start looking beyond the idea that companies exist mainly to make a profit and take responsibility for the legacy we leave our children. There are so many social issues to deal with that I believe, if a company takes a common sense approach they don’t have to look far to make a small difference. Whether it be purchasing fair trade products or how we conserve the power we consume, every organisation can contribute.
In the immortal words of Gro Harlem Bruntland who defined sustainable development as, “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers.
Name 3 Australians we should follow on Twitter.
Yvette Adams @YRAdams
Dan Bowen @dan_bowen
Craig Josic @CraigJosic
Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?
Schoolzine is always looking at ways to share ideas and explore partnership opportunities. We’d love any discussion about collaboration and of course since we’re looking to expand overseas, investments of any kind will be seriously considered.
We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, marketing, social media, accounting, monetization, product development etc. What would it be?
How to scale without dilution?
What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?
My favourite local spots are the Lamkin Lane Espresso Bar and Gluten Free For Me. When I head to Sydney, I always make a stop at Tetsuyas Restaurant.