Skool Loop just the business

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Kaikoura businesswoman Sharlene Barnes is thrilled to win a Rural Women New Zealand business award. Photo: Supplied
Kaikoura businesswoman Sharlene Barnes is thrilled to win a Rural Women New Zealand business award. Photo: Supplied
A desire to improve communication between schools and parents has led to a Kaikoura woman developing an international business.

Sharlene Barnes, the founder of the Skool Loop app, has been named as a winner in the NZI Rural Women New Zealand 2019 business awards in the ''innovation in a rural community'' category.

''It was very exciting. It was quite unexpected as the competition was tough. It is a wonderful award and an amazing achievement,'' she says.

The judges were impressed with Sharlene's ability to articulate the Skool Loop product and its focus on providing employment in rural towns.

The Skool Loop app was launched six years ago and started out from Sharlene's own frustrations with communications between school and home in a rural area.

''That's what made me think of it - my own struggles with communications not being in a timely manner.

''When my children were at school the technology didn't exist, so when apps were created, I thought 'I know what I'm going to do'.''

The Skool Loop app contains school notices, instant messaging and alerts, newsletters, electronic permission forms, the school event calendar, the absentee function and a new function has recently been added for parent-teacher interviews.

The free app is now used by 800 schools around New Zealand and 120 in Australia, with around 70 percent being rural schools.

She believes the app saves about ''four million bits of paper every week'', making it environmentally friendly.

''Most schools would send off two or more bits of paper almost every day and these can often get lost, but it's all on the app.''

Sharlene says her second goal was to provide flexible employment for parents so they could juggle family life.

''Almost all of my staff are parents because they understand the struggles with communication within schools and it makes sense to me that we offer them the opportunity for employment that fits around their children.''

She now has offices in Kaikoura and Rangiora, employing 10 people in each office. She plans to open branches in two more rural towns in the near future.

Sharlene has lived all her life in rural New Zealand, being born in Otematata in North Otago, was raised in rural Northland. She has lived all her adult life in rural Canterbury.

She is looking forward to attending the Rural Women New Zealand business awards evening at Parliament in Wellington on November 22, where the supreme winner will be announced.

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