It started with a presentation from the screen of a borrowed iPad at Pumpyard Bar & Brewery in December 2015.

Two years later, Anne-Marie Walton was in London for the inaugural Startup Catalyst Female Founders Mission.

The North Ipswich entrepreneur and CEO of the Kids Wantu app was one of five attendees supported by the State Government’s Advance Queensland innovation program.

It capped a busy 2017 that included speaking and research trips to Tokyo, Austin Texas and Hong Kong.

“When I stop and think about it, what I’ve achieved to this point is quite extraordinary,” Mrs Walton, 54, told Ipswich First.

“I saw an ad for the Fire Station 101 pitch competition in 2015 and had two weeks to pull everything together. I borrowed my son’s iPad for the event because mine was too old.

“Now I’m at the point where I really believe I’m on the cusp of having a highly successful global product, and I’ll have it within three years of my first pitch.”

What is Wantu?

Wantu has evolved from a filing cabinet full of ideas to entertain, engage and educate. When a newspaper ad for the Pumpyard pitch comp caught Mrs Walton’s eye a decade-old business plan entered the digital age and a mobile app was born.

“Wantu began as Express2Fun, created from a business plan that had been shelved waiting for today’s technology to make the product a reality,” Mrs Walton said.

“The original plan was a non-viable physical product like a book, a series of cards or a busy box. That was before the rise of handheld digital technology and the use of apps.

“I’ve got two adult sons and when they were young I always wanted to do different things with them and introduce them to new experiences.

“That meant coping some flak when I bought them a doll’s house or taught them to sew, but it also exposed me to areas I wasn’t so familiar with like creative arts and science.

“Our home was a gathering place for neighbourhood kids. When they took home stories of fun times their parents often asked for the activities we did and I realised I had something to share.”

WATCH: Anne-Marie Walton talks about her Ipswich innovation.
Start me up

Nine of out 10 Aussie startups fail. You can’t ignore the stats, but you can take steps to success. Mrs Walton said a commitment to communication through mentoring was key.

“My business name has changed, my logo has changed, my revenue model has changed. I needed to go through those processes and now my confidence and resilience are much, much higher,” she said.

“I’m persistent, I listen and I learn and I am prepared to take risks. Every day is a risk but I am going to make this happen and it’s going to be a success.

“I’ve always taken a long-term view. Startup success stories just don’t happen without investing time and money and having the support of family, friends and mentors.

“A lot of people say ‘I’ve got a really good idea, but … ’.

“That’s where places like Fire Station 101 can help. People come in with ideas and we help them test those ideas. You get challenged, but above all you get supported.

“It’s not always easy, but if you can be flexible and embrace change then often you’ll find there’s no ‘but’ when it comes to that ‘really good idea’.”

What’s next for Wantu?

A bumper 2017 has continued into the new year with Mrs Walton leading events at Fire Station 101, mentoring at the Global Women Startup Weekend in Brisbane from 9 to 11 February and speaking at an International Women’s Day panel at Ipswich Civic Centre on 8 March.

“I’ve done all the mentoring and preparation that I can possibly do, now it’s on me to execute and deliver to bring Wantu to the next level,” Mrs Walton said.

“Securing investment or a pilot customer is the number one goal and I continue to work with test families in refining the product for a new release.

“The app itself is a tool that will help build a global movement and an online community where families can share stories and successes while spending more quality time together.”

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