Written by Stuart Foxman
Any mom or dad can tell you that running their children’s schedule is a job in itself. Signing up for the right activity on the right day, searching for the ideal summer program, finding a babysitter, learning about kid-friendly happenings around town – it all takes time. Now, for Toronto area parents, there’s an app for that.
It’s called HELM, which stands for Helping Everyday Life Moments (helmapp.com). “HELM is the control panel for your life as a parent,” says founder Elize Shirdel.
Shirdel studied electrical and computer engineering in university, and also earned a PhD in computational biology and medical biophysics. During her academic tenure, she published an online tool for identifying microRNA gene targets.
Now she targets ways to make family life more convenient. A mom herself, Shirdel turned her attention to what she calls FamTech – technical solutions to keep the home going.
Her first creation in 2014 was Datenight, an app that allowed parents to locate, book and pay a pre-qualified babysitter. Shirdel pitched the idea on the CBC show Dragons’ Den, and got some backing.
That was a prelude to HELM (Datenight is part of that app now), which launched in early 2018 and covers much wider ground.
On HELM, parents can easily search for registration information for everything from ballet to soccer to piano. They can see what spaces are available at various summer camps. Or check out things like public swimming schedules, or nearby festivals and family events. HELM users can even book a doctor for a house call.
The search function is robust, with users able to look for options by neighbourhood, type of activity and age group, in Toronto and surroundings, and elsewhere in the GTA.
To help kick off HELM, Shirdel received funding available for technology and innovation-focused entrepreneurs through SmartStart. The program was run by the Government of Canada (through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario), and the Government of Ontario (as part of the Ontario Youth Jobs Strategy). She used the $30,000 in funding for marketing, as well as some technical development.
Besides saving users time, HELM can save them money. Using the app, there are lots of discounts available on events and children’s activities.
Why aren’t there more FamTech apps? Shirdel thinks it’s because routine household and parental tasks are undervalued. She aims to be part of a movement that changes that.
As a female tech entrepreneur, Shirdel is also passionate about supporting other wannabes. She has received an Empowering Women Entrepreneurs Grant from the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship at Ryerson University. Through this program, her company is providing reliable and flexible child care to women entrepreneurs. That will allow them to attend networking meetings, trade shows, sales meetings, accelerators, etc.
Shirdel says getting a business off the ground can be a challenge for entrepreneurial moms. She should know. As HELM grows, she hopes to help others to helm their own business dreams.
Photo credit Zlatko Cetinic, Images Made Real