Creating a site relevant to parents

Written by: Lianne Castelino

Published: Mar 17, 2010

Parenting probably was easier before it became a verb. Andrea Howick and Lianne Castelino, two former Montreal television reporters, have spent the last few years tweaking the company they created when they became mothers.

 The latest refinement is, launched last week as “Canada’s first online community for parents by parents.” Castelino was in the sports department and Howick was reporting news at what was then Pulse in 1997.

That was also the year Castelino had the first of her three children. Howick also has three, the first of whom was born in 2001. “We found that the tools available at the time were not the best quality and were not the most current,” Howick said during a phone conversation this week. “If you got any visual aids during your prenatal class, it looked like Norwegian porn from the 1970s.” If you were lucky.

 The videos we watched at prenatal class in 1985 looked like outtakes from Leave It to Beaver. (My favourite prenatal class vignette occurred during the dads-only session. When the CLSC nurse told us it might relax our wives if we had sex in the labour room, one of the guys asked, “With whom?” But I digress.) Howick said the biggest problem as a parent is “you want to relate to the person giving you advice.” “When I looked at these tapes,” she added, “it didn’t even look like my mother. It just wasn’t relevant to our day and age.” Thinking along the same lines, Castelino and Howick put together their heads and their broadcast journalism expertise to produce a 2003 DVD on caring for newborns.

Bringing Baby Home ran 70 minutes and covered 120 topics, pacing and punch that suited a TV-raised generation more familiar with Mr. Spock than Dr. Spock. While producing DVDs (there was another one on nutrition) and creating a website, Howick and Castelino were learning how to become online entrepreneurs. Neither of them had a computer engineering degree or an MBA. They were journalists, practitioners of a trade not widely noted for technical wizardry or financial acumen. “We came at it kind of from the same brain,” says Howick, who got a BA in political science from McGill before studying journalism at Concordia. “We’ve learned every step of the way.” Part of the learning process was naming their website. It originally bore the name of the company they had formed, Liandrea. The combination of their two given names was concise, catchy – and ambiguous. Howick recalls people saying, “Liandrea, that’s neat … what do you do?”

They came up with, in part, because Howick and Castelino wanted to expand their audience beyond fellow mothers to nurturing fellows. The website has some material geared to fathers. “The world is changing,” Howick says. “Both parents are becoming more hands-on and wanting information at their fingertips.” The site – rebranded, in marketing parlance – is being refreshed more frequently and has incorporated a social media function. WhereParentsTalk has chat forums and is on Facebook and Twitter. “Moms and dads have become more technologically advanced than college students, who historically have been the most plugged-in segment of society,” Howick said. “Everyone is multi-tasking. The mothers at hockey practice are on their BlackBerrys doing three things at once. We want our site to reflect that.”

Published by:Mike Boone

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