From mum to a dig­i­tal phe­nom­e­non

Good Housekeeping (UK) - - Good Advice - JUS­TINE ROBERTS

‘Work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life’

What sparked the idea?

The idea for Mum­snet came from a dis­as­trous fam­ily hol­i­day in Florida... If only, I thought, we could have tapped into a net­work of peo­ple who’d al­ready worked out that un­der-fives and jet lag don’t mix – be­fore we’d shelled out a small for­tune. And what if that net­work could also ad­vise about sleep, pushchairs, go­ing back to work and nits – all those things that so many new par­ents are un­pre­pared for?

How did you get started?

When I first had the idea, I was turned down by pretty much ev­ery tech in­vestor go­ing, ex­cept for the one who gen­er­ously of­fered to put in his money if he could run the com­pany in­stead of me! But I thought the idea was a good one, so I just went ahead from the back bed­room with­out the money. It took sev­eral years be­fore we started to make money, but I knew from the start that the strong re­sponse the ser­vice was get­ting showed it was use­ful. At some point, I felt sure the busi­ness model would work it­self out.

What’s been the toughest chal­lenge?

Get­ting sued sev­eral times, most no­tably by child­care guru Gina Ford in 2006, plus in­evitable on­line at­tacks and hacks are chal­lenges the team have faced. In some ways, Mum­snet was ahead of its time. It took Face­book and Twit­ter to come along be­fore brands re­ally be­gun to en­gage with the so­cial web. That meant it was about eight years be­fore we could pay mean­ing­ful salaries to the peo­ple who were putting in the hours. Dur­ing that time, we worked on a shoe­string bud­get.

What are your golden rules?

Work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life. Thank­fully, the skills you need for par­ent­ing – cop­ing with pres­sure, ne­go­ti­a­tion, mul­ti­task­ing – turned out to be use­ful in busi­ness, too.

And the se­cret of your suc­cess?

A few cakes and bot­tles of gin! Se­ri­ously, re­mem­ber that deal­ing with ad­ver­sity can have its pos­i­tive side, too. It got the Mum­snet team and com­mu­nity pulling to­gether in an in­cred­i­ble way.

What ad­vice would you give to your younger self?

Learn how to make dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions, change di­rec­tion where nec­es­sary and bounce back from dis­ap­point­ment. Even if you’ve done your re­search and you know that there’s a real need that you can ad­dress, you still might re­quire pa­tience.

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