INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S WEEK: MICHELLE KENNEDY
To celebrate International Women's Day, we've decided to turn it into a week full of celebrating women we admire and who we think are really making a difference. Every day this week, we're going to be bringing you one powerhouse a day.
In the third segment of this series, we got to interview Michelle Kennedy founder of Peanut. Peanut has been coined 'Tinder for mothers' and it's a matchmaking app that allows you to connect with local mothers, share opinions and stories... and be heard in a meaningful way.
In your own words, tell us what you do?
I am the co-founder and CEO of Peanut, an app for connecting like-minded women who happen to be mamas. An entire generation of women are growing up mobile-first, using products with beautiful user experiences and interfaces such as Instagram, Snapchat and Uber; yet when they reach motherhood, everything seems to regress. Peanut is here to challenge that.
What inspired you to start Peanut?
I started Peanut out of a couple frustrations. Before I had Finn, I felt like I was completely prepared. I bought the products and read the books, but it turned out that having a baby isn’t just about planning. I had lots of friends, and was successful professionally, and yet when I was home with my newborn, it felt isolating at times. My friends weren’t yet at the stage where they were having kids, so I found myself browsing outdated, anonymous blogs for baby advice at 2am, while my girlfriends were out in clubs.
I was also surprised to find that when I became a mother, there weren’t any modern tech products to help make the process of finding information or meeting like-minded and nearby mamas more accessible. I was used to using beautifully designed apps for every other aspect of my life, so it was shocking having to revert to products for motherhood that had an outdated, old-fashioned and patronizing feel to them.
I found it really difficult to relate to the portrayal of motherhood I was seeing across social media and in the books and forums. I didn’t recognise the tone of voice being used to address me, it was infantilising. I was lonely and that was a really difficult realisation.
I created Peanut to connect like-minded women who are mothers, and provide a safe platform for mothers to ask questions, share learnings and be heard in a meaningful way.
When you started Peanut, did you think it’d become as big of a success as it is?
We did a lot of research before we started, so we knew that Peanut was something that women wanted and needed.
However, we didn’t realise how quickly the community would grow! One of Peanut’s biggest breaks came four months after launching, when we received a call from Apple. They wanted to feature Peanut as part of the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, which showcases new software and technologies.
We were still a tiny company of five people and there they were, talking about us on stage in California. We then started to realise that we were building something special.
My favourite thing is hearing about the friendships women have formed on the app. A mama who joined the app when we first launched, reachout out to me the other day to tell me that the mama she met on Peanut nearly two years ago is still her best friend and not only that, but their children have grown up together and are now best friends to. This feels like success to me.
Do you find it hard to balance life as a mother and life as a successful businesswoman?
I struggle, I think every working mother does. Becoming a mother immediately taught me how to be more efficient with my time, to fit more in, to cut out the ‘noise’. I am absolutely committed to taking my son to pre-school, and making it home most evenings for bedtime (albeit, sometimes I can’t do that). It means a lot of early starts (to try and get some work in before Fin wakes up), and lots of late nights (I start work again as soon as he’s in bed). I also haven’t seen some of my friends in a really long time, but they understand how important this is to me, and what my work ethic is. I do, however, make sure we have one full day during the weekend where there is no work allowed (well, none that the family can observe!)
Any up and coming projects you can tell us about?
Addressing female issues is something that we had always set out to do, to be part of in the big vision and in the future. We see ourselves leaning into that more and facilitating that conversation. The thread will always be motherhood but the core will also be about womanhood too!
What’s the best advice you’ve been given… ever?
Don't ever quit! Even if I have to work harder or longer, or redo things multiple times, that advice has stuck with me. I think that perseverance has got me to where I am today. I also try to be fearless, because what's the worst thing that can happen? No one will hate you for trying. I think that's a very difficult, but extremely important, mindset for success.
Not everyone will be on the journey with you and that’s ok. Whether that is professionally or personally, not everyone will understand the absolute dedication that it takes. Things move on and you don’t have to fight to save every relationship, it doesn’t mean you’ve changed, and the ones who are there at the end are truly your ride or die.
What advice would you give to women wanting to start up a business now?
Know your product and your market extremely well. In many ways, the burden of proof for women can be higher, you have a few more perceptions to challenge, so make sure you really know your pitch, and have anticipated any holes/downsides/objections you’re going to face. Change your vantage point. This can be a really hard one, but if you can, try not to think like you. What would your vantage point be if you were looking at your market from a different industry perspective?