All of us here at SupportPay thought you might like to know a little more about the person behind the first child support management solution. We sat down with Sheri and asked her about her own divorce, her life and why she has made a go of it in Silicon Valley.
Q&A with Sheri Atwood, founder & CEO of Ittavi & SupportPay
What was your inspiration for creating SupportPay?
I grew up a child of divorce. My parents fought constantly, mostly about money. When my daughter was just a few months old, her father and I got divorced. I was determined that my own divorce would be different. We settled amicably, but I began to find over time that keeping track of child support payments and expenses was a huge hassle. I also hated the feeling of being a bill collector, like I was constantly hassling my ex for money.
I began to search for a solution to this problem… a system to help me keep track of my daughter’s expenses and communicate with my ex about money and shared expenses. After searching high and low, I realized that no such system existed. So I decided to create one.
What key lessons & skills did you learn from previous jobs that helped you with developing SupportPay?
I learned that it’s best to find a need and develop a product to fit that need instead of creating a product and then trying to find a market for it. In my marketing positions and other roles, I learned a lot about product development and of course, marketing. As I started working on creating a framework for SupportPay, I struggled to find developers who were passionate about my idea. I also didn’t have the money to hire someone to do all the coding, so I learned how to do it myself… and then I developed the structure for SupportPay.
What obstacles have you faced in your career and how have you overcome them?
You have to believe in your idea more than anyone else does and continue to push forward even when things get tough. I like to say, ‘don’t talk about, be about it’.
What are some of the things you learned from your divorce that you could share with users of SupportPay or anyone who is getting divorced?
I would say the most important thing is to put your kids first. Make sure every decision you make is in their best interest. There will probably be a lot of negative emotions directed at your ex, so make sure you don’t take any of that out on your kids. And don’t talk bad about your ex! Allow your kids to form their own opinions of the other parent and don’t interfere with their relationship.
I also think it’s a good idea to journal why you are getting divorced as you are going through the process. You certainly don’t want your kids stuck in the middle while they are young, but someday they may want to understand your reasons and how you felt.
And a couple things to remember… when I divorced, I did it for my daughter. I decided it would be better for her to see her parents separate and happy than together and miserable. And when you have a child with someone, you’re stuck with them for life so figure out a way to make it work.
What’s the mission behind Ittavi & SupportPay?
Ittavi is the name of my company and it stands for ‘it takes a village’. The mission is to create technology solutions that solve modern family problems. The first product is SupportPay. The ultimate goal is to help parents put their kids first.
Do you have any advice for single parents?
Hire or ask for help anytime you can. Your time with your kids will be limited if you’re sharing custody, so spend that time with your kids and outsource housework and anything else you can.
Accept the fact that you’ll always have guilt. And then give yourself a break and try not to feel guilty when you need a break.
Take time to make a life for yourself outside of your kids. You don’t have to be with your kids all the time and taking time to do things you enjoy will help you recharge and be a better parent. Focus on quality time over quantity of time.