Business Irish

Sunday 18 February 2018

School texts innovation is helping parents with their sums

Denise O'Grady, CEO of Schoolspace, with some of the pupils at Kildare Place School
Denise O'Grady, CEO of Schoolspace, with some of the pupils at Kildare Place School

Sarah McCabe.

LOTS of parent have experienced the sickening feeling of standing at the school gates with their wallet left at home and a bereft child looking for money. Dublin-based Denise O'Grady saw a gap in the market and pounced.

"I started School Space five years ago. We started out providing a text messaging service for schools which has proved to be hugely popular. Last year we sent out over two million texts.

"I am a former teacher while my brother worked in the technology sector, so we combined our two passions.

"The one issue raised again and again by the schools we dealt with was the problem of cash in the classroom.

"We have all been there – your child is due to go on a school trip, and you've forgotten to bring the money to pay for it. It's a nightmare.

"Lots of us in School Space are parents and so we realised there must be an easier solution.

"The end result was Way 2 Pay. This service sends out a text or email to parents.

"They follow the link given and can pay by card or Pay Pal, there and then. They can also pay on the school's website.

"We charge schools an annual fee, plus a €35 monthly maintenance charge. They can send as many texts as they want, to customisable groups, at the click of a button. All contact details are uploaded by the schools to a secure database.

"Parents who have forgotten to pay can do so on their way to school with their phones, or even standing in the classroom – it is really very simple.

"Debt is also reduced since they can make better use of sibling discounts and other deals.

"The service does more than help out parents – it also helps kids and the bullying issues that surround children handling money.

"The system also allows the schools to easily and instantly check who has paid and who hasn't. We were selected for the National Digital Research Centre's Launchpad programme, so we developed the service with their help. They provided €20,000 worth of funding and three months of intensive mentoring.

"Way 2 Pay was up and running in 20 schools within two weeks of launching and has been growing steadily.

"We're also in Northern Ireland and planning to expand into the UK. The idea is very easy to export. The biggest challenge has been keeping everything running while managing a young family – my kids are four, six and eight – but to be honest it has been quite a smooth growth curve."

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