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Why this woman learnt to code during maternity leave

Founder of Happity and mum to two small human beings, Sara Tateno has been making waves with her startup. Her family was one of the first to take shared parental leave in 2015 so that she could attend a coding bootcamp.

Sara's personal experience of a Freaky Friday complete role reversal has made her especially passionate about supporting mothers back into work, promoting diversity in tech and championing equal parenting rights.

She is proud to employ a flexible work-from-home team of parents behind Happity, a platform making life better for new parents.

Hello! What's your background, and what are you working on?

I was made redundant at 7 months pregnant with my second child and decided to turn down the attractive job offer of becoming a full time mum.

I'd long wanted to start my own business and thought it was high time to get on with it! My experience is in strategy and business development but all of my ideas were for tech startups. So I learnt to code shortly after having my son.

Describe your idea / startup in less than 50 words

Happity is a web platform making it easy for parents to find and book local baby and toddler classes.

How did you get started with your business?

I launched a local Facebook page and sign up list. 500 people had liked the page by the end of the first weekend so I figured I was on to something! The initial idea was borne out of personal experience and frustration, but I also did my homework and researched both the UK and international market for baby and toddler classes and the competitive landscape for apps, as well as interviewing people.

However, having a newborn baby and zero experience in tech, I figured I'd spend some time learning all about startups before committing to any one particular idea. But after that, Happity was still the strongest idea and the one I was most passionate about. In September 2016 I put my son into nursery so I could start working on it.

What did you do to attract users and grow your business?

There were about 100 alpha users testing the site before we launched it as a public beta in 4 postcodes of SE London. Those were people I'd recruited through a simple landing page and by posting in local mum Facebook groups. We had around 2,500 users in our first full month of public release and that early traction helped us secured our first paying customers by the end of that month.

What are your plans for the next 12 months?

We're expanding London wide and adding bookings to our pages.

Tell us about the challenges you have faced and what you have done to overcome this.

The biggest challenge was not having a technical background or experience with startups. And having two very young children. And being a sole female founder! The odds have really been stacked against me. Even on the day we were due to release the beta of the site, my daughter ended up in emergency surgery and was hospitalised for a month. That was tough. I've taken it one step at a time, built up my network and sought help from everyone willing to offer it. I'm overcoming each of the challenges I face simply by not giving up!

What's the one tool or resource you've found helpful?

The community, network and support of women out there is phenomenal. They are out there to be found! Learning to code was also one of the best things I could have ever done, so in a way that has been my biggest resource too. Lots of people will tell you it takes too long and not to waste your time, but being able to code meant I could join the dots between my knowledge of the market and the product and has so fundamentally influenced what we went to market with. It's also meant I'm a part of the dev community and it's been a major factor in my personal credibility as a tech startup founder. I love coding and wish I'd learnt sooner.

What's your advice for other women who are just starting out?

Don't be afraid to fail. Embrace all your weaknesses, your gaps in knowledge, and don't be afraid to ask questions and find help.

What is your morning routine?

I do the school run every day and it's always hectic, so you don't want to know my morning routine! But once I'm home, I usually will take a few minutes out to meditate before starting my working day. (My team works remotely).

My favourite quote is

"done is better than perfect"

And the second quote is "be the change you want to see". Both are a little cheesey and quoted far too often, but they are spot on. Don't complain about what's wrong with the world, go do something about it. And doing that something is much better than attempting the perfect thing that never happens.

Describe yourself in 3 words

Persistent, fulfilled, tired. :)

Where can we go to learn more?

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