Charlotte McMillan: Storychest evolved as a way of solving a problem that I faced, and that I figured other people must face as well.
In a world where everything goes digital, the physical photo album might also have become a thing of the past as the role of the camera has now largely been replaced by handy digital devices and the photo album, by social media.
There is one problem though. We have multiple digital devices and social media accounts and our photos and memories are scattered all over them.
Former Australian lawyer Charlotte McMillan has come up with a digital solution, Storychest – a digital journal capturing our precious moments in life and enabling us to privately share them with family and friends. She launched the consumer app on Apple’s iOS App Store in Dec 2017 and is working to make it fully accessible to users of other platforms.
Charlotte started Storychest after leaving the legal sector and following another big move - from Australian to London.
She recently spoke to Advance to share her journey.
Interview by Tammy Lee, Marketing & Communications Officer, Advance
You previously had a career in law. What made you choose a different career path, creating Storychest?
Before my career change, I had worked for the better part of two decades as a lawyer. I worked in law firms in Australia and in London, becoming a partner in a London city law firm, before moving to senior legal roles within corporates, including Virgin Media and Channel 4. My areas of speciality covered copyright law, competition, commercial contracts and regulation. My fields of interest within law all emanated from my creative interests in the arts, and I mainly worked in the film and television sectors.
I really enjoyed working as a lawyer, particularly after I moved from private practice into the in-house world. However, I always felt slightly restrained by the nature of a lawyer's role, being an advisory one, and not in the driving seat.
I wanted to have a go at creating something myself, where I could make the decisions about which direction to take. I was also keen to be more in control of my work/ life balance, having had three children along the way, and so it appealed to me to work more flexibly around my family's goings-on.
One busy morning in our household a couple of years ago, I was squeezing in a shower between encouraging our three boys to get out of bed, get dressed, have breakfast and off to school (all within half an hour!) before getting on with my own day. I had been trying on and off to sort out the mountain of stuff that a young family accumulates – piles of “art work”, school reports, certificates, scraps of paper recording first words and funny stories. In the shower that morning, running through my mental to do list, lamenting on the fact that I’d made so little progress with it, and reflecting that all busy parents must have the same problem, I had my lightbulb moment.
I needed a way to digitally organise and keep the best of the endless stream of photos, videos, diaries, keepsakes, years of memorabilia produced and collected by the family, haphazardly stuffed in boxes, buried on computer drives, lost on devices, scattered in social media. But on top of that it needed to be a place to add a few thoughts, and leave a meaningful account of things as they happened and to capture memories from the past before they got lost in the business of life. I’d also had one of those moments a parent dreads – while sorting photos on the home PC that weren’t backed up I’d managed to delete swathes of photos of the boys including the baby photos of our third boy, Archie, so it all needed to be saved in the cloud. I was keen to involve my family back in Australia, and to make it easy for them to be part of our lives, and vice versa, so I needed a way to share news with them, but in a private way.
I’d seen a post from a friend the week before that said if you want something done, do it yourself. I ran the idea past my husband who said it could work and there began Storychest.
Storychest evolved as a way of solving a problem that I faced, and that I figured other people must face as well. Because I am passionate about the business it almost chose me, rather than the other way around.
What do you enjoy most in your job?
I am really enjoying learning new things. Every day presents a new challenge, and I am constantly re-skilling or up-skilling. Because we are a start up, we have a really small team and have to turn our hands to all sorts of things. I love that aspect of what I am now doing.
The mobile app market is highly competitive. What were the challenges you faced during the start of Storychest?
You’re absolutely right. The greatest challenges we have are attracting users in the first place and retaining them. We reach customers via a range of channels: word of mouth, Facebook campaigns, PR and Apple search ads. We’re pleased with our growth so far but, we know that everyone is busy, so getting users to sign up is only the first step. Keeping their attention is the next step, and we’re working hard on that too. With Storychest, the more you put in, the more joy you’ll get so it’s really important for us to keep our users engaged.
What's your next project?
We are just starting out with Storychest, having launched our iPhone consumer app in December 2017. We need to build out to Android and the web now, so that we can be universally available. Storychest is for communities of people so it’s fundamental that we are able to offer the service across all platforms. We are fundraising at the moment so hopefully you’ll see our growth across platforms in 2019.
Beyond our initial B2C service, we’d love to develop business focused applications, such as Storychest for schools and Storychest for sports clubs, but for now we are focused on growing our consumer service.