SupportPay, launched in 2013, is the first-ever automated child support payment platform, poised to transform the complex, time-consuming & stressful process that impacts nearly 300 million parents exchanging more than $900 billion in child support & child expenses worldwide. With SupportPay, today’s modern families can spend less time managing and arguing about child support, expenses and alimony and more time focused on raising happy, healthy children.
Founder and CEO of SupportPay, Sheri Atwood says, “We want to make family life easier by changing the way families manage money across households – from a conflict-ridden, time-consuming & stressful event to a collaborative process between family members. We want to make single, divorced, and blended families’ lives easier by delivering innovative applications that will save parents time, money, and headaches. ”
As the only payment platform that manages child support, shares child expenses directly between parents, and manages spousal support too, SupportPay allows parents to track costs, send payments to each other, and avoid disputes by making the whole process transparent. As per Sheri, SupportPay’s online platform provides a shared log of receipts too, which helps ensure that money is going where it’s supposed to go from the very first transaction.
The following are the highlights of the interview between World’s Leaders and Sheri Atwood:
Brief our audience about your journey as a business leader and how long have you been associated with the organization?
Prior to SupportPay, I had a very lucrative career as a marketing executive in Silicon Valley, including being the youngest Vice President at Symantec. I was a divorced single mom busy juggling a career and raising a child and quickly realised that you get a bill for everything in life but you don’t get a bill for child support. I searched high and low for a solution and was shocked to find out there was nothing available. At the same time, my daughter had to have emergency brain surgery, which really forced me to look at how I was spending my time. I realised then that if I was going to spend so much time away from my daughter, I wanted to work on something that made an impact on the world. I decided to quit my job and start SupportPay, giving parents who live apart a solution to manage their child support and share expenses.
In December of 2016, I closed a $4 million Series a round. The capital enabled me to continue to grow SupportPay, but it also meant I gave up control of the board, with me being only one of three votes (the other two were investors). Seven months after raising Series A, I was fired from my own company and replaced with an investor insider. Within 30-days of me being fired, 20 of the 25 employees quit or were fired, and within two-months the product did not work. A few months later, I found out alongside the other shareholders that they were liquidating my company. I reached back out to the board to let me come back and fix the situation, as I felt I owed it to the investors who believed in me and the parents who rely on our platform, but unfortunately, my request went unanswered. After several offers to acquire the company were cancelled, I decided to make one last attempt. In early 2018, I formed a new holding company and made an offer to acquire all the assets back. My offer was accepted, and I used the rest of my savings and a personal loan to buy SupportPay back. Since then, I have focused on fixing the product, getting the previous users back and driving revenue to ensure we are now financially independent. If nothing else, I am a founder with grit and determination, and this story, while it didn’t take place at the very start of my career, feels like the origin story of who I am today.
What is the direction and state of innovations in the company?
My hope is to make SupportPay a huge success, delivering a much-needed solution to the millions of parents and children who have to deal with the complexity of managing child support and sharing expenses. Although there have been significant technological advances in many areas of people’s lives, the new family dynamics of separated parents working together to raise children have been totally ignored in terms of technological advances. Today, we are helping parents who live apart in giving their children the financial support they deserve. In the near future, we are looking to expand to using the same technology to help siblings and other family members who are providing financial support for their ageing parents. Together, SupportPay will be the de facto standard for families managing finances across households.
Does your organization’s corporate responsibility strategy match the availability of your current resources?
SupportPay’s main mission is to help today’s modern families spend less time managing and arguing about child support, expenses and alimony and more time focused on raising happy, healthy children. With countless initiatives to make their services accessible to those in need, SupportPay’s latest announcement, timed to Domestic Violence Awareness Month (October) to remove the worry of financial instability for domestic violence victims, stands as a great example of the organisation utilising its current resources to bring its corporate social responsibility strategy to life. In alignment with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, SupportPay is offering a free subscription to SupportPay premium for those experiencing domestic violence.
More than 90% of domestic violence victims forgo support and expense reimbursement due to fears of increased violence. Mothers avoid collecting support or reimbursements due to fears of being hurt again, while others do not collect support because they lack a way to preserve confidentiality, or are limited by court orders barring communication. Even when victims are able to get support, they are often unable to maintain accurate records of all transactions due to the stress, and potential relocation, that comes with escaping abuse.
SupportPay’s contact-free system provides a reliable platform to receive support without worry, whether parents are paying support directly between each other or through state agencies.
How effective is your organization’s strategic vision? What are the three things you would like to share about the company?
With an ultimate mission to get all children the financial support they deserve from both parents, our culture of integrity and innovation stems from people who have seen children without this equal financial support – or experienced this situation firsthand – go through. A majority of SupportPay’s employees have/are single parents or have directly experienced the impact of divorce somehow in their lives. Having this unique insider perspective pushes us that entire extra mile to make parents & children’s lives easier with Supportpay, starting with ensuring all children get the financial support they deserve. We work hard to achieve our mission because so many of us have been on the other end, in a world without Supportpay struggling to make child support a seamless experience.
When starting SupportPay, the initial roadblocks were lack of capital and lack of awareness that a solution to the issues that come with child support existed. Most parents don’t realise there is a solution, and don’t think to look for one. These challenges forced myself and my team to think outside of the box, overcoming lack of awareness by seeking to educate parents and family law professionals about SupportPay, and working hard to raise over $7M in funding over the course of five years.