WORDS: Lesley Apps | IMAGES: EM Photography
For a farm girl who grew up in Goolgowi north west of Griffith, Sarah Armstrong is slowly getting used to her new job title of app designer – one she officially earned when her concept Spark Drop was launched in May 2022.
But despite those hi-tech credentials, Sarah’s farming roots aren’t too far from her app’s premise which has rainfall at it core, or more accurately, the recording of it.
Keeping track of rainfall is an Australian pastime that goes well beyond the farm gates and into the urban backyards if Sarah’s growing base of followers are anything to go by.
“They’re not all farmers,” she laughs. “There are some backyard users. I call them my rain enthusiasts.”
For now, Sarah’s app caters to the Apple crowd. The next step in her IT journey is to make it available for Android users, something she is keen to get on top “once I find some more money”.
It’s this kind of what next, flying by the seat of her jeans, that has stead Sarah well on the trajectory that began as an idea in her parent’s kitchen, to signing up almost 1,000 Spark Drop users so far.
“Once we get the other app out there, those numbers will become even more relevant.”
But all these apps don’t come cheap. During a recent podcast with OAK Magazine founder and editor Kimberley Furness, Sarah crunched the numbers to reveal set up costs for two versions (Apple and Google) came in at $30,000. Add in graphic design and that’s another hefty chunk of cash she had to find.
While Sarah has a great business partner supporting her through the minefield of app ownership, she was also keen to talk about the personal cost she had to navigate while following her business dream.
The idea for the app, and the initial funds, came after the breakdown of her relationship with the father of her two young children.
Sarah said deciding to leave wasn’t easy when your natural instincts tell you to make it work for the children.
“I had to leave and thought as long as I was okay, the kids would be too.”
So Sarah and her children moved back to her parents’ property and that’s when things started to fall into place.
“It has been a rollercoaster but I left with my head held high and built myself back up. It was amazing how quickly things flowed after removing the negativity from my life. That’s when I first got the idea for Spark Drop and I’m now in the strongest headspace I’ve ever been in my life,” says Sarah.
While she knows there is a long road ahead, Sarah said the process had taught her a lot and it’s been “onwards and upwards since then”.
“I think it’s important for women to know there are options out there. Don’t stay in a situation that makes you feel powerless and feel like you have no support.”
Having the confidence and, more notably, the guts to invest her money into following her app-building dreams rather than the traditionally safer bricks and mortar was a risky move but one that Sarah would do again.
“Everyone thought I was mad but my intuition took over. The business side of things has been hard because it’s just been me. I’ve never done business before, never had my own shop, so I don’t have that backend experience. I’d certainly never built an app before but I did it anyway. I think I get that risk-taking from my grandfather Sparky (the inspiration behind the app name).”
Now with all the different hats she wears, Sarah said the toughest thing was keeping it all together.
“I can’t separate myself from being Sarah Armstrong mother, woman and business woman. It took a while to realise this but two years later I now have an app that is being used and there’s a relevance to all of this. It definitely helped me to find myself.”
With plans to expand and new ideas circling, Sarah isn’t going to let something like having no money stop her.
“Once we get past this hurdle, we will start looking at advertising options and maybe an annual subscription fee once it is fully established. There’s also a side hustle I’m thinking about – digitalising people’s old rainfall charts.”
Then there is the mental health aspect to having an app like Spark Drop that keeps driving Sarah to grow the community.
“I love seeing people putting up photos, having conversations, comparing rainfall anomalies within 10kms of each other, sharing current conditions. There’s always that banter that goes on but the weather has always been something people engage over and that’s a great thing.”
Spark Drop is an online community where farmers can easily record and share their actual rainfall.