Before you create Sparkle, a self-care app that encourages you to “accept who you are today”, co-CEOs Marah Lidey and Naomi Hirabayashi set a few ground rules.
“We’re not going to assume you’re working,” Lidey said. “We will not assume that you have or do not have children, or that you want children. We will not assume anything about your gender. ”
Everything that felt “precarious, costly or wealthy” was also off the table.
That foundation worked. More than 4 million users have signed up Sparkle, with almost one in three reviews describing the app as “life-changing”, according to Hirabayashi.
How do Lidey and Hirabayashi know their audience so well? They are part of it – and have been for a long time. The duo met in 2011 while leaders at DoSomething.org, a nonprofit that helps young people transform their communities. The two began having coffee, then lunch, then drinks after work, and created what Lidey calls a “safe place to deal with the tough stuff.” Over time, they came to see the “tough stuff” in a new light. “What we went through was no wonder – it was human,” says Lidey. Shine grew out of the desire to make the safe space bigger, to help others with issues ranging from building a credit score to handling employee feedback.
The app was launched in 2018 as an “accessible, but ambitious” text-based coaching program. The tone is talkative and friendly, like “the friend who has a degree in psychology,” says Hirabayashi. (Shine’s actual psycho credit comes from therapist and business coach Anna Rowley, who helped develop the curriculum.) Using a chat-based interface, the app helps you see how you see yourself. (Hirabayashi, for his part, is a “care critic” prone to “expanding compassion outwardly, but often struggles to bring that compassion home,” she says.)
Today, the app is rich in features. The Daily Shine is a podcast that Hirabayashi describes as a “secular sermon.” Challenges are short audio courses of several days on specific goals such as “Be more direct” and “Let yourself have more fun.” “Nightcap” is a collection of sleep stories like twice as flashy retellings of 2000s space coms (“The Devil Wears Pajamas”). “They’re meant to be boring and also a little cheeky,” Lidey says. Throughout the growth, the couple’s goals have remained the same. The idea is not to solve all problems, but to adjust how people approach them, says Hirabayashi. “The beautiful thing is that the pressure is to be authentic, not perfect.”
Originally published in the App Store.