The next in the entrepreneur MAMA OF THE MONTH series is about Michelle Kennedy. You may have heard of an app called Peanut – where like minded mothers can ‘meet as mama’s, connect as women’. A huge success, but what are Michelle’s secrets and advice about starting a business of your own?
- Tell us a little bit about yourself – name, where you’re from, number of children etc.
I grew up in Peterborough, but my mom is from Ireland, and Dad is from Scotland, so I suppose, i’ve always felt very celtic! Also, we’ve never had family living nearby (as they all live in Ireland/Scotland), so we were a pretty insular 3 growing up (other than friends!). I have one little boy, Finlay who is 3 ½ (going on 13…a true threenager).
- Do you think it’s possible to have children without it effecting your career?
I get asked this question a lot. Women are incredible multi-taskers, we have to be. There are still certain societal norms that we try to conform to, whether or not we think that society has moved on or not. So, can you have children without an impact on your career-yes. Will that take it’s toll in other areas of your life? Potentially. I think it’s all about juggling. When it comes to being a mama, daughter, sister, partner, employee, employer, friend, the juggle is real. We’re juggling every day. Some days, you’ll be killing it at work, some days you wont. That’s just the reality of life. I think we have to stop telling women there is such thing as balance. I think that’s a false promise. I think there is juggling. Some days will be better than others, and that’s ok. That’s absolutely fine. You just have to be kind to yourself. You can still have your career, if you love it, then not only can you, you absolutely should…it will make you a better mama to be the person you want to be. But be easy on yourself when you’re not always getting it right. We all mess up. We’re human.
- Tell us about your app Peaunt
Peanut is an app to connect like minded women who happen to be mothers. Using algorithms more typically associated with dating (no, really), it matches you with like minded women. We all need a crew, our support network, our village. Peanut gives you that.
- What made you start up an app for mothers?
Peanut was born out of 2 main issues.
The first was the emotional aspect of becoming a mother. Before Fin arrived, I felt prepared. I had bought everything I needed, I’d read a few books. Turns out, the arrival of a baby isn’t just about planning. There are feelings and demands that you can’t plan for. My girlfriends weren’t at the stage in their life where they were yet having children, and even if some of my wider friendship group were, we all lived in different parts of the city (and leaving the house to go anywhere further than 10 minutes from home with a new born felt like a military operation). I suppose what I felt most prominently, which isn’t particularly comfortable for a 30 something woman to admit, is that I was lonely. I had lots of friends, I was successful professionally, and yet, when I was at home, I felt lonely. This was further compounded by the fact that I was working in an industry (dating), where it was my day to day to produce products people could use to find a match, or a date, and I was struggling to find a woman who was like minded to go for a coffee with. A little like dating, I also experienced a lot of “I have to introduce you to my friend, she’s a new mommy too”, only to go through an awkward date where you realize the only thing you have in common is the fact that you both have a child. You don’t share the same outlook on life, values, interests. That’s actually even more isolating to be honest.
The second was my frustration with the existing products on the market aimed at Mothers. I didn’t recognize the tone of voice the products used, or the look and feel of the products. They felt outdated, old fashioned, and in some cases patronizing. To me, I didn’t feel like I’d suddenly aged, or become less modern, less cool, just because I’d become a mom, and yet, the products seemed to have that expectation. I found that confusing. I still had an expectation of great user experience, from products like Uber, or Instagram, but I wasn’t getting that.
- What did you see missing from the motherhood community?
I think I am properly a naturally awkward person. My girlfriends weren’t having children, and I knew I needed a support network, I just wasn’t sure how to meet mamas. Women who were on my wavelength, who I felt common ground with. That felt missing. I felt there was a lot out there for Fin, but when it came to me, well, I wasn’t sure what to do.
- What have been the highs and lows for working starting up your own company?
Oh SO many. The highs are extremely high: being featured by Good Morning America, or by Apple at the WWDC conference. Most importantly are when women email me. When they’ve made lasting friendships with Peanut, or even started businesses with women they’ve met on Peanut. These moments are incredible, and rewarding. It’s what Peanut is all about-bringing women together, because when women are together, incredible things happen, I really believe that. The lows are hard, because it’s personal. I care so deeply about Peanut and our community, it hurts when someone does something negative. Women should support women, any woman building a business with a purpose, is doing something incredible-why wouldn’t you support each other? That’s a logic I don’t understand.
- What has been the biggest surprise on your peanut journey?
Probably growth. I always believed that women wanted to connect, but I suppose I didn’t expect us to be growing so quickly. That’s so incredibly rewarding.
- What you would say to mothers who want to start up their own companies?
DO IT! Know your market, know your product, know why you’re the only person who can deliver that product, and then don’t let anyone stop you. And always remember there is no failure, just learning. Whatever you do, you’re going to learn and be better for next time. It’s ok for things to go wrong, dust off, and start again.
- Any top tips on becoming an entrepreneur?
SAVE MONEY BEFORE YOU DO IT! You’re not on the payroll anymore and that is tough! Try to build a safety blanket! (at least, that’s what I did). And, corney as it sounds, feel the fear and do it anyway. What’s the worst that can happen? At least you’ve tried…it’s more than most can say.
- What you would say to your younger and older self?
Younger self: You can’t make everyone like you, you’re just not everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s ok, you just need to deal with that and move on. Those that love you, will love you fiercely, and that is enough.
Older self: Now is the time to relax!
If you haven’t already downloaded the Peanut app, give it a go and find some awesome women in your area that you can bond with – over a glass of wine or an art exhibition. There are likeminded women out there for everyone, whether you’re pregnant or have a 7 year old child. What are you waiting for???