From a working life in Sydney, a sea change to Port Macquarie, the birth of identical triplet daughters and an enthusiasm for life has led Jodi McAlary to develop a bright new business venture …
Where did you start your working life, and what was your first choice of career?
Previously I was a National OHS System Manager for a large labour hire company based in Sydney.
What prompted your move to Port Macquarie, and how long have you been here now?
My husband and I moved to Port three years ago after our stint in Sydney and some travelling. We both grew up in the country, had holidayed here and have family close by.
What have been some of the lifestyle changes you’ve made since moving up the coast?
After we decided to make the move, I fell pregnant with identical triplet girls. We were advised to stay in Sydney for the pregnancy and birth, so moved two weeks after we left hospital. It was a massive team effort from our families, and the first year was a blur.
It took two hours to feed the girls, leaving one hour between feeds before the process started again 24/7. I have so much gratitude and love for our families for the help they gave us and continue to give us, even with my parent’s own commitments as owners and managers at Del’s Curtains.
What led to you creating the idea for your new business?
When we were finally able to get out of the house with the girls, I found it difficult to discover what was available for us to do. I completed state-wide market research and found this was a universal problem for parents in their home towns, as well as on holidays.
What is your new business concept, ‘todokids’ all about, and how will it work?
todokids provides information for families across the state (and Australia within the next three years) about what is available to do with their kids. Think wotif.com, but for activities instead of accommodation. Users of todokids will have easy access to a wealth of information about what’s on, places to go and things to do.
todokids has a very powerful information sorter, which allows you to refine the search according to the specific age of your
child/ren, how much you want to spend (including free activities), the distance you are prepared to travel, as well as the types of activities you prefer.
Our search criteria includes indoor activities, holiday programs, sporting clubs, educational/tutors, special needs children and play groups, to name just a few. We also have family friendly activities and services for parents such as restaurants and gyms with crèches.
The best feature for parents is the free weekly todokids diary, which provides a customised list of upcoming events based on each subscriber’s location and age of their children. With these weekly email updates, you’ll never miss out on what’s happening in the community or be caught short of ideas to keep the kids amused. I know this would make my life easier, and I’m sure other parents will love it too.
What steps have you taken to get the idea off the ground so far?
Firstly, I engaged Joyer to build the sophisticated, yet simple to use, website. We’re fortunate to have such a world class act right here in Port Macquarie, so we don’t need to rely on services from the city.
I am also busy partnering with industry groups and associations to further build the business across the state.
What have you learnt throughout your working and personal life that has helped you with a new business startup?
No challenge is too big! There is never a good time – just do it.
What can you offer local businesses/organisations through todokids that will be mutually beneficial for your business and theirs?
There is a real need for a logical, location-based activity search tool for parents – especially one that caters to regional areas. todokids provides a platform for businesses to build their profile, gain exposure and access an actively engaged audience of people looking for things to do with their kids.
Mass take-up is key. The more organisations listed on the site, the more valuable it will be to parents … the more parents using the site, the greater the benefit to businesses.
To show my long term commitment and my belief in todokids, I am offering all Mid North Coast businesses free access to todokids to input their information if they contact me by mid-February.
What challenges have you found so far in establishing a business from the ground up, and how have you overcome them?
The biggest problem is coming up with all these ideas and then finding the time to get it all done. I’ve taken this into consideration and allowed a generous timeframe to ensure we get it right the first time. I figure I only get one shot at this!
The contacts, leads and suggestions provided by Grant Burtenshaw from the local Business Start Up Program have proven to be invaluable. I have also had tremendous support from the ‘big’ tourism providers in town, including Kathy Balodis (The Corner and Macquarie Waters), Jules Hender (Jumbos and Wave Bowl) and Belinda Novicky (Mid North Coast Tourism).
Local business networks such as Hastings Business Enterprise Network and Hastings Business Women’s Network have also been beneficial and introduced me to my wonderful marketing and PR consultant, Michelle Newman.
Despite the assistance and support I have had to date, todokids and the opportunity I have to create this website would not be possible without the confidence, support and encouragement of my husband, Andrew.
Given you’ve already experienced a huge lifestyle and career change, where would you like to see yourself personally and professionally in the next few years?
I have big ambitions for todokids. I really see this as shaking up the marketing approach of tourism, entertainment and recreation businesses all over Australia.
My aim is to be the first item on their marketing plan. I see todokids as a truly valuable resource for parents and carers, enabling them to enjoy more active, fun and exciting outings with their kids. I want to provide a great life for my family growing up here in Port Macquarie.
Where can people go to find out more about todokids?
Parents will have to wait until we get the site crammed with loads of activities ready for launch on 1 July this year. Businesses who want to take advantage of the free listings should contact me on 0407 016 067 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org before mid-February.
Thanks Jodi. Best of luck with the new business venture!
Interview by Jo Atkins.