Interview with Holly Zoccolan, founder of the Carol app

Read our interview with Holly Zoccolan, founder of the Carol app, the free app connecting and supporting mums throughout their motherhood journey.

What’s your career background? 

After studying law at Newcastle University, I then went on to complete Nutrition Studies at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. I started my journey as an entrepreneur by building a wellness brand The Health Zoc in 2016.

Then after having my son in 2020 with little support around me, I felt that there needed to be a mobile app that connected and supported mums throughout their motherhood journey and so in 2022, so I built it! 

Carol is a mobile app that connects mums based on similar interests, location and children of the same age and offers expert-led resources across Pregnancy, Postpartum, Baby Sleep, Baby Feeding, Baby Development and The Early Years all in one place. Think of the resources as the encyclopedia of all things Motherhood with answers to the most frequently asked questions all in one place.

I am the key decision maker for the app and have a small and rapidly growing team working with me.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

When I was pregnant with my first child, I kept being told that ‘it takes a village to raise a baby’ but I knew this wasn’t going to be a reality for me.

My mum passed away when I was 17 and I had no real support system or family living close by in London and when our son was one, my partner’s mum tragically passed away, so we really had no ‘village’ to rely upon. There was nowhere for me to meet mums who could relate to our position of raising our son without a support system, or a ‘village’ as some refer to it, and therefore Carol was born.

We wanted to create a place where mums could find their community, have honest conversations, make friends and get advice all in one place. It was important for us to create an app that not only connected mums, but also supported them with answers to the most frequently asked questions in one place. Scrolling the internet trying to find the answer to even the simplest of questions isn’t ideal with a screaming baby.

We couldn’t find an app that not only connected mums but supported them, particularly with things like going back to work after having a baby and maternal wellbeing, so we built it! We found the few Apps that were available only tackled half the problem and missed a key element of the Motherhood journey – support. 

How did you move from idea to actual business? 

From initial idea through to concept and then actual business and product we knew we needed to hire the right people to help us grow and launch our business. We started by interviewing app developers and after a few weeks hired our App developer who has developed our iOS App.

Alongside this, we hired a team of lawyers to help us develop our T&Cs and Privacy Policy, trademarked our business name and brand, registered our company at Companies house, registered our office address and opened our Business bank account.

We then hired our PR Manager and Marketing Manager and started to build our brand messaging, social media strategy and marketing strategy. 

What’s your USP?

Our USP is the Resource section of our app. We have compiled 100’s of the best articles and answers to FAQ’s across Pregnancy, Postpartum, Baby Sleep, Baby Feeding, Baby Development and The Early Years all in one place.

There isn’t an app on the market that connects and supports mums and we felt that they both go hand in hand. We all know that the internet is a minefield, especially when it comes to questions around motherhood and parenting.

So we’ve done the hard work for you and have the answers to the most common FAQs within the app making it very easy to find the answers to the questions you have as you move through motherhood, and all for free.

Who’s your target audience?

Our target audience is pregnant mums and new mums who are looking to make like minded friends with similar interests, live close by and have children of the same age, as well as get answers to their questions around motherhood and parenting all in one place.

How do you spread the word about what you do?

Marketing, social media, word of mouth, press, advertising.

What’s been your most successful marketing strategy?

As we are still growing and haven’t been in the market that long, we still have to analyse our marketing strategies to see which is most effective for us. Press articles have been huge for us so far, with a number of our articles getting a lot of traction for us and increased brand awareness.

We are also focussed on our SEO and making sure that our organic reach is increasing month on month. Social ads also play a role within our user acquisition, so this will be a focus for us for the next 12-18 months.

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

I would say that the biggest obstacle was hiring our developer! I’m not particularly fluent in tech jargon and that meant when we were hiring someone to develop our app, I was a little in over my head about what kind of questions I needed to ask in terms of the back-end and the actual nitty gritty of developing an app.

After interviewing five developers I definitely had the hang of it and actually let them take the lead on how they would develop the app and based on the types of questions they asked me about our app and their experience, it made it much simpler to narrow down who we were going to hire. I learned so much during that process!

And your proudest moment so far?

My proudest moment has been seeing the app come to life! Going from an idea and prototype that I made myself on canva in early 2022 to now having our app in the hands of mums is very exciting and slightly surreal.

The most exciting part is when someone that you don’t know downloads the app – when this happened for the first time during our beta test with quite a few mums, we were all so excited.The feedback is great to hear too.

We know that Carol helps mums to feel less lonely and that the resources are incredibly helpful at such a vulnerable time in a woman’s life, but to actually hear it from our users is the best feeling. Knowing that you are supporting mums as they navigate motherhood is so rewarding, especially as I’ve been in their position and know exactly what it’s like.

Why is work so important to you?

Work is so important to me as I feel so incredibly passionate about supporting other mums throughout their motherhood journey and I believe that my life experiences have brought me to this moment.

Who inspires you?

I would definitely say my mum. Although very different circumstances, my mum was incredibly strong, confident, resilient and such an incredible role model for me.

My mum battled cancer from me being the age of 10 through to when she passed away seven years later. She got up every day ready to face day; whatever it entailed, did her makeup and got dressed up, always had a smile on her face and made sure that my sister and I had the most ‘normal’ childhood we could in our circumstances.

She inspires me to be the best mum I can be for my son, to show up everyday with a smile on my face and to make the most of life because you never know what’s around the corner.

How do you balance your work with your home life?

I would say it’s definitely a juggle! Making sure that I get the most important tasks done in the morning means that if my afternoons are a little all over the place, at least I’m on top of things.

Occasionally I have my son with me all day, and that means working first thing before he wakes up, taking him to a playdate, logging back in when he’s having his nap and then again when he’s in bed. He’s been a part of zoom meetings a couple of times, but that’s just the reality of being a working mum.

What are your three top pieces of advice for someone wanting to do something similar?

I would say, hire a team to support you – understanding your strengths and weaknesses is really important for growing a business and delegating helps make sure the right person is doing the job. Also, be patient, this is something I’ve definitely had to learn!

And finally keep going, if you believe in what you are building, who’s to say you shouldn’t give it a go? I really think being focused and looking straight ahead is so important if you’re building a brand, product, app – whatever you’re building. Stick to your vision, work hard and try not to be distracted by the outside noise too much.

Find out more about the Carol app.