Published on 12 April 2018
A Sunderland graduate has created a new website to help single, separated and divorced parents to better manage their finances.
Helmut Okike, who is a separated dad with three children, says he knew from personal experience and his own struggles how difficult it was to keep track of his finances – which led to him developing the potentially life-changing business idea.
The 37-year-old entrepreneur has created Fammily - an online platform that can track household spend, provides a budgeting tool and can find money-saving deals, but also take contributions from friends and family who wish to help out financially.
Helmut, who graduated from the University of Sunderland’s Business Management degree in 2009, says: “Fammily helps parents and their support network focus on the happiness and wellbeing of the children after a marriage, divorce or partner separation. This means closer management of personal and household finances, communication between parents, and transparency on all child maintenance and expenses payments. Fammily offers easy access and management of important documents in one place.
“But this is more than a budgeting tool, it’s also about finding solutions, that’s why we’ve built into the platform a section to find money saving deals. Fammily is geared towards solving several household problems all in one place.”
Helmut knew there were lots of finance apps out there, as well as online discounters, and money advice websites, but none targeted the unique challenges faced by those caught up in a family breakdown, all in a one-stop-shop.
He continued: “You become a deer in headlights. You don’t know where to turn. A lot of products on the market were more focused around tech than actual solutions, they are feature rich but solution poor.
“My target audience aren’t interested in financial technology, they’re people who put their heads in the sand. Of course, finance doesn’t work that way and things spiral out of control.
“I knew my app would have to solve four or five problems in one go. It’s for people who’ve got kids to think about, bills coming in, being chased for money and trying to find extra cash.”
Helmut, from Washington, is an experienced marketing and growth strategist. He won the University of Sunderland and Regional University Blueprint competition for his events business in 2009. He co-founded Campus Games, which provided a fully-managed on-site video gaming experience for students.
Inspired by his personal experience, Helmut hopes his new venture will help families to stay in control of their finances, give access to offers and vouchers - and offer access to a supportive community.
Business support for Helmut’s venture comes through the Enterprise Place, the University’s business start-up service, which is funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and available to all students and alumni of the University. The Enterprise Place offers office space and facilities, start-up and growth courses, and specialist advisers offering support and guidance all aimed at helping you turn a business idea into reality.
Enterprise Place Project Manager Laura Foster said: "It has been a pleasure to support Helmut in the launch of his new business and we wish him every success. Sometimes the best ideas come from a personal experience and to see this come to fruition is really satisfying - we know how hard he has worked to launch this service.
“Helmut has recently completed our 12 hour, Grow Your Business course which looked at sales and marketing strategies, recruitment and HR issues as well as securing finance for your business and trading internationally. Anyone interested in joining the next cohort, which starts in May, can contact the team for more details."
After positive feedback to Fammily.co.uk during a closed trail of 70 users, Helmut has now entered the platform into the UK and Ireland’s Voom Pitch 2018. Entrants can win a share of £1m in prizes for their firms, and finalists will pitch to Virgin boss, Richard Branson and a panel of business superstars on May 23.
The unique business has already attracted a fair amount of attention and Helmut has been accepted on the Natwest Accelerator for tech start-ups, as well as landing second place in a national competition run by startups.co.uk.
He said: “I’m always excited about anything that gives start-ups an opportunity. Things like Voom give you a new audience and of course brand association. Hopefully it will bring me closer to delivering my vision of simple tools that help millions of people keep their personal life and family life both on track and on budget.”
You can find out more about Fammily here
Hope Street Xchange is the University of Sunderland’s centre for enterprise and innovation. It offers collaborative space for business-to-business engagement and innovative fledgling enterprises. The centre is also home to the region’s first FabLab – the inspirational space provides open access to the latest digital fabrication equipment, support for prototyping new products and an introduction to technology and innovation for schools and community groups.