Margaret Zablocka founded Onoco in 2020. An entrepreneur at heart, Margaret combined her experience as a parent and product manager to create Onoco; a super-app designed for parents, providing essential tools and trackers relating to their children’s development in one place. Launching two months before the pandemic struck didn’t make for an easy start but thanks to Margaret’s drive and determination for Onoco to succeed, the app has now had over 30,000 downloads with over 13,000 families utilising its baby tracker, routine planner and development milestones and received financial backing from Jenson Funding Partners to promote further growth.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
Prior to setting up my company, I spent 9 years with different tech businesses, building complex digital products: financial trading platforms, sports betting apps, and content management solutions. I really enjoyed my work, and I’ve always been passionate about new technologies. That’s why, when I became a mum for the second time, I decided to use my experience as a mum and a product manager to build Onoco.
My goal is to create the most useful app for parents of under-fives. We live in a very busy world. Children develop quickly in the early years and child’s experiences between birth and age five have a major impact on their future life chances. Good parenting, consistent routines and high-quality early learning together provide the foundation children need to make the most of their abilities and talents as they grow up.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
When I had my first child, I was already overwhelmed by the advice coming at me from all angles, and then found myself faced with a regular barrage of questions from my visiting midwife about her sleeping, eating and toilet habits. Thanks to a healthy dose of sleep deprivation, I simply couldn’t answer her! This also became apparent when she was spending time with other caregivers – how could I tell them what to expect and when? My husband and I quickly started writing down her routine and tracking her behaviours to identify patterns and allow us to more easily understand her needs. When my son came along a few years later, I knew there was something in this concept of collaborative caregiving which focuses on baby’s development – and Onoco grew from there!
How did you achieve awareness?
On the second day of our launch, we were number one in New Apps in the parenting category on Google Play, which allowed us to get a lot of organic traffic. Over time we have also seen very strong direct acquisition, which shows that Onoco users are recommending the app to other parents, and there’s nothing quite like word of mouth.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
We were able to gain funding in 2021 from Jenson Funding Partners. The money we raised with them has allowed us to expand our team and thereby increase the capacity of Onoco, while developing and implementing new app features too. We are now crowdfunding with Seedrs to top up the round, which is an especially exciting concept as this will allow anyone who’s interested in investing to gain equity in Onoco and be part of the product’s journey with us.
What are the key successes?
Recently we were named as one of ‘the best apps for new mamas in 2022’ by My Baba; the article featured a few very well positioned apps, and we were highlighted as a top pick, which was really exciting. Overall, I am trying to define success differently at each stage we’re at. When we launched, the goal was to acquire 1,000 users in the first month – and then we achieved that threefold! Today, our plan is to onboard 10,000 new users a month. We want to keep raising the bar. We also have objectives and key results to achieve when looking at the bigger picture, which are way more ambitious and ensure we’re always pushing to take Onoco to the level we know it can achieve. I am also very proud of the feedback we receive from parents and caregivers who use Onoco – it’s heartwarming to receive emails and direct messages with thanks or new feature ideas.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
You might have noticed in the introduction, but I founded Onoco two months before the lockdown started! To start, this meant our minimum viable product was developed by a fully remote team. I’m a real believer that great teams make great businesses, so there was naturally a period of questioning whether we would make a strong enough team to take Onoco to where it needed to be. There was also a lot of other uncertainty related to the Covid-19 crisis, especially financially – Onoco was bootstrapped at the beginning. Add to this the fact Covid-19 also supercharged app development and over 200 new apps were launching every day, making it a noisy space to cut through.
As an early stage company, we also face many different challenges on the day to day beyond the challenges Covid-19 raised. Onoco is growing quickly and our user engagement increases approx 40% MoM – this of course makes us very excited about the future, but also conscious that our product needs to be prepared for scaling at pace. We also have to ensure the app is working flawlessly, which for anyone in product development or the tech space knows isn’t always an easy feat, especially as we look to release new updates and features regularly to ensure we’re providing everything parents need.
I really believe that through strong teamwork and building a foundation where everyone can thrive and contribute, we have managed to overcome these initial challenges and can focus on growth. For me, it was especially satisfying to see Onoco as number one in new parenting apps on Google Play on the day we launched as this was a significant sign that we had achieved something big – and we’ve not stopped since.
What are your plans now/for the future?
Looking forward, our immediate plans for the year include: the roll-out of our premium membership; the addition of Onoco’s AI which will be able to predict the next optimal nap time for little ones (something that would have been a life-saver with my two!); a new funding round for us to be able to continue growing; and the provision of in-app support available from childcare consultants specialising in sleep, nutrition and healthcare to further enable parents and families to feel confident in their child’s development. And after that? Our ambition is to be able to provide all the services parents could need in one place. To make their lives a bit easier and ensure they can focus on what matters; their families, their children, and their happiness.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
If you have a good idea, relevant experience and you’re brave enough to do what it takes to succeed then go for it. You’ve got to build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
Build great teams to ensure that you can attract the best talent to make your business a success, and create a culture that nurtures this.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
Tania Boler – Founder of Elvie, for building an amazing company in the Femtech space.
Sara Blakely – Founder of Spanx, for proving that a mum of 4 can be also an exceptional businesswoman.
Steven Bartlett – Co-founder of Social Chain and entrepreneur, for speaking publicly about difficulties in the entrepreneurial journey and showing passion in his projects.
My children – that’s two people! Witnessing their rapid development in their early years (90% of development happens in the first 5 years of life!) continues to drive and inspire me.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
“The biggest risk in life is not taking any risk.” – Robert Anthony
What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?
LinkedIn (company): https://www.linkedin.com/company/onoco/
LinkedIn (personal): https://www.linkedin.com/in/gzablocka/