Copacetic co-parenting: A divorce spawns a small business idea

    By Adrienne Burke | Small Business

    A divorce can be among the most stressful experiences a person can endure. But Traci Whitney likes to “make lemons out of lemonade,” as she says.

    Through her struggles to sort out co-parenting logistics when she and her children’s father divorced nearly 6 years ago, Whitney conceived a business idea. At first, the tech savvy freelance graphic designer and mother of three in Woodstock, Conn., searched online for platforms that might help her share the children’s schedules, medical records, and expenses with their father. But all she could find were “really bad, old, like Web 1.0 kind of things that people had developed a while back,” she says.

    So she decided to build one herself. “I thought, ‘Gosh, I could really do this. I know what people need. I live it. And I work with web developers all the time. Everything about it was what I knew,” Whitney says.

    The result, Two Happy Homes, didn’t happen overnight. “I thought about it for a year, did a business plan, mockups, sketches, got some quotes for development, and it came down to realizing, ‘I can’t do this on my own financially’.” Raising the small amount of funding she needed from friends and family members, she says, let her bring her idea to life.

    She created a web platform that she and her ex-husband and many other co-parenting couples now rely on daily for seamless domestic lives. 

    “Every divorced set of parents goes through a different set of challenges,” Whitney says. “My ex and I use the site to record expenses, figure out who owes whom what, and pay each other on PayPal. We also use the calendar. I have a middle school and two elementary school children and their schedules are already out of control. Everything that’s in their schedules, you both need to know about.”

    The site also features a database “so you can store contact information for whoever—family, friends, teachers.” And a medical section for sharing information about prescriptions, doctors, and insurance, “so you don’t have to call your ex to ask, ‘what’s our prescription card number?’,” Whitney says, adding, “I’ve been there.” 

    A document-storage section can be used for sharing things like the parenting agreement, recital videos, and vacation photos. “Anything you could possibly need to share for your family is there,” Whitney says, “and you can access it without necessarily contacting your ex. Some people have fine relationships and some don’t where it helps to not have to contact them so often.”

    A noteboard lets co-parents keep track of their messages to each other without fumbling through old emails, and the exchanges can be exported as a PDF. “People have shared those with lawyers,” Whitney says.

    Access to Two Happy Homes is free, but for $14.98 per month, a family gets unlimited storage, an ad-free experience, and a direct link from the site to PayPal.

    Today, Whitney says Two Happy Homes has close to 4,000 users, and she’s seeking at least a half million dollars in financing to take it to the next level, develop an iPhone and Android app, and ramp up marketing.

    Whitney says she’s had conversations with several investors and there’s been “a decent amount of interest from a few people around Connecticut and New York, but they want to see more traction before they invest.”

    Though she has been working on the site for several years, it’s only been live for one, and her marketing has been guerilla level: lots of social media; Google AdWords; bartered blogs with divorce lawyers, mediators, and counselors; and hawking the site at a Divorce Expo (yes, there really is one) and New York Tech Day, where Yahoo! encountered her.

    “It’s hard to get the word out, but the people who use the site love it,” Whitney says. Indeed, she even knows couples who aren’t divorced who use Two Happy Homes to manage their household schedules. “I’d like to create a sister site that is geared toward single-home families,” she says.

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