Hanging with Alice Pritchard-Davies and Millie Zinner from Motherhood App

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Gen caught up with Alice and Millie from Motherhood. Motherhood App, a free mobile app connecting mums with each other (and other carers) in the ‘hood for flexible child-minding.  It’s all about mums supporting each other to find the balance they need to be the best version of themselves, creating a local support network that enables them to follow their dreams - whether that be spending time doing a hobby, starting a business, continuing their careers, or having some ‘me-time’.

Alice Pritchard-Davies is CEO & Co-Founder of Motherhood App. Alice has a brand and strategic marketing background at Virgin Mobile, Mars, and most recently Universal Music managing the launch of Spotify in Australia. Millie Zinner is Co-Founder of Motherhood App. Millie spent the 16 years prior to Motherhood's launch working in the childcare industry, and has a deep understanding of the sector in Australia.

Alice: Start up.

Gen: Hi, how are you going? I'm Gen from tamme, Marketplace Meet Up, Like Minded Bitches and today we have the lovely Motherhood ladies. I'll let you introduce yourselves.

Alice: Hi, I'm Alice.

Millie: And I'm Millie Zinner.

Alice: We're the co founders of Motherhood App. Motherhood App is a marketplace to book last minute and scheduled child minding.

Gen: Yep [crosstalk 00:00:23].

Alice: From local mums and minders. So it's a community where women and mums are supporting each other to be able to live their dreams, whatever they are and to help women thrive at work and at home.

Gen: Great, and when did you ladies start?

Alice: So we launched a pilot version of the app in January 2017, so nearly two years ago and we launched sort of properly with a bit of marketing hoo-ha at the start of this year in January 2018, so yeah, it's been quite a journey.

Gen: Awesome and what made you decide to start the business?

Millie: So, Al and I have actually been friends, school friends since we were 11, we went to the same primary school.

Gen: What? That's incredible. Here I'm asking like how are you guys going to get along.

Millie: Yes.

Alice: Well, it could go either way.

Millie: We were on the same netball team and we realized we're both competitive, we are both team players-

Alice: But also kind.

Gen: That's good. What position did you play in netball?

Millie: The center and goal attack.

Gen: Nice.

Alice: Wing attack, goal attack.

Gen: Perfect.

Alice: Yeah.

Millie: Yes, and then we went to the same high school then we worked at a hotel together so the list kind of goes on that we've really been interweaving into each other's lives and we were living together in Paddington two years ago and we were discussing our futures and we're both incredibly ambitious, we were both working in corporate companies and we were talking about our friends having kids and how, as amazing as it is, I guess all these massive sacrifices that they were making, whether it was financially or-

Gen: Sleep.

Millie: Their sleep, their career.

Alice: All of the above, yeah, social lives, hobbies.

Millie: Yep.

Alice: I think we realized that a lot of our female friends, their lives were changing so dramatically when they had kids and obviously it's for the better, and it's really joyous but it's a bit of a shock to the system and also in modern western society, we raise children very differently to how humans evolved to raise children, inside our homes and very isolated and we saw that, that was having negative effects on people long term and short term.

Millie: Yeah and the majority people are doing it alone, they are under more pressure than ever, you're wanting to run your own businesses, you're wanting to have a social life, you're wanting to look after your health and it's, how do you do that when you're doing it by yourself and so we saw there was this massive need and there's also communities just like, Like Minded Bitches who are all supporting each other but there wasn't a platform where you could, I guess be connected and share the child care responsibilities so like why don't we rebuild the village and create an app where you can go to a last minute meeting, you can go for drinks with your friends and be spontaneous.

Millie: You post a job on the app and then within a minute sometimes we see other mums or other minders on the platform stepping in and wanting to help each other. So, we know that there's a need for it and it's just this amazing community, when women support each other it's so amazing.

Gen: Magic things can happen, hey?

Millie: Yeah so I guess we came with the idea and we were like wow, no one in the world is connecting mums with local mums, so we're like, let's start a business. We didn't have any tech backgrounds, and we're like, we're onto something, and we haven't looked back since.

Millie: It's been incredibly hard so many amazing learning experiences, it's been a huge journey, but we now are building such an amazing team, and you realize you can't do it by yourself, you need to have an amazing network around you or you need to be a learner or learn as much as you possibly can to grow as a business, grow as a founder.

Alice: Yeah and surround yourself I guess with people who know what you don't know, as Millie was saying, that's been so important to us being our first business. We met a lot of amazing people through the Sydney start up scene who have been so helpful.

Millie: And another thing is, I went to Gen's last Meet Up group, the Marketplace Meet Up-

Gen: Which is the group we're in right now.

Millie: It is the best thing ever, so I went to Harrison's one for Airbnb and the thing I loved that he said was, it's actually a blessing to be the dumbest person in the room, if you surround yourself by incredible minds and you can just learn from that, that's actually a good place to be in.

Millie: So, don't let that hold you back, because that did hold me back quite a lot when we first started, thinking, all right, I didn't go to university, I didn't study this, I don't have the right terminology, I don't have the skill set but you know what, I flipped and I thought, you know, how inspiring would that be if someone like me can eventually create great change in this world just because I have drive and I'm ambitious, and I really want to make a proper difference.

Gen: That's fantastic.

Millie: Yeah it's not necessarily a bad thing not having the skills at this early stage.

Alice: Yeah and a healthy little bit of naivety as they say can be super useful as well, not knowing quite what you're getting yourself into.

Gen: Definitely, definitely, and so what was, from making the decision, okay let's get started to testing out an MBP, what did that look like?

Alice: Yeah so we very quickly just got a splash page up and put $50 on Facebook telling people about the idea.

Gen: Splurging.

Alice: I know, it felt like it at the time.

Millie: Hey big spender.

Alice: It was $25 each and we'd quit our jobs. And so we just told people, would you like to connect with other mums and help them out, do you need more flexible child care and we had 250 people in Bondi register interest from that $50 spent on Facebook and we were like wow, that's pretty good validation as a starting point.

Alice: Then obviously we spoke to a lot of friends and family as well about it and it's interesting, you hear that, don't listen to the naysayers, everyone will tell you it's a bad idea and don't do it and it's too hard, we didn't have anyone say that, everyone was like it's such a good idea, why hasn't it been done before?

Millie: Or people would say, I had that idea, I just never executed it, and you're like yeah.

Gen: [crosstalk 00:06:32].

Millie: But that's awesome.

Alice: It's further validation.

Millie: It's so much work to actually execute what you want to do so that was fine but-

Alice: Yeah so that's how we started validating it.

Gen: And then from that point of okay, we've actually got something here, what were the decisions on which path to do, you know, how to build your platform? You know, by the sounds of it, no technical background so how did you up skill yourselves to make those decisions?

Alice: Yeah so we Googled first of all for, which was a great starting point, how to write [inaudible 00:07:05], so that was a starting point but we actually had, my brother has an app development company.

Gen: Well that's handy.

Alice: So we decided to go IOS to start with because that was where our audience is mainly as well so we engaged my brother's company to build our [MBP 00:07:25] or our pilot which was great and serendipitous really.

Gen: And did you get family rates?

Alice: Yeah, in exchange for equity though, so a bit of a-

Millie: Yes, and there was a small amount of equity, we definitely learnt to negotiate as well but they were on board with our vision, they-

Gen: Oh here we go, we're back, yep.

Millie: Technology, but we traditionally used to raise our kids ... Unique ... Vision and having someone who believes in you for equity.

Gen: And is along for the long run.

Millie: Yeah exactly.

Alice: So that's the like tech part and so they're amazing-

Millie: Oh, the best.

Gen: That's great, and so we've got a question from Justin [Hills 00:08:26] who should be at work right now but he's not.

Alice: Justin.

Gen: Which side of the market place was more challenging for you guys to scale?

Alice: So ours is interesting because mums actually both book and help each other out which is quite unique, so it's more like Airbnb where you can both host and book accommodation.

Gen: Or even a dating site because you're technically both sides of the market.

Alice: Yeah both sides of the market but one person. So, yeah and we actually haven't had any trouble getting amazing minders which has been great. I think it's the way we communicate as well, our offering, is that we attracted really great people on both sides of the market place.

Gen: [inaudible 00:09:10] by the sounds of it.

Alice: Yeah I think getting parents to kind of post their first job is the biggest challenge, once they do that they have a great experience, we see amazing repeat usage and they get it and they actually become addicted to this flexibility and spontaneity that they've never had before.

Gen: Eight hours sleep, what?

Alice: Yeah it's like a meeting's popped up and I can actually book a minder to help me out. But, getting that first usage is probably, what we find challenging. I think like any marketplace as well, for the supply side, getting their first rating and review also is something we're focused on.

Millie: I think as well with parents, we've noticed that new parents are an amazing audience for us because it's a lot about behavior and a lot of parents who have got a support network already are very set in their ways whereas new parents don't have that support network and so they're learning that gosh, using technology can connect you instantly with a network of support so it's just much easier to onboard new parents.

Alice: Yeah it's how they do it from the start and then you know-

Gen: You could stand outside the delivery room.

Alice: Yeah, I don't know, maybe.

Millie: We've actually got a lot of midwives on our app wanting to help other parents as well so they are delivering the baby and they're like, by the way, you know.

Alice: If you want to book me out of hours.

Gen: That's awesome. And you guys have this great network effect, once they buy into it, they try it, they love it, they stick to it. How do you instill that vision so easily by the feel of it to these people to feel the same way?

Alice: It's been amazing that we have attracted these incredible people from Millie and I both being so involved and close to it, launching in a very small area and being very involved and so we actually realized how valuable this incredible community is and so we've actually just recently launched Community Guidelines which then reflect back to the community of how amazing they already are but it helps as we scale to ensure that, that quality and-

Millie: And we also, when we were working in corporate jobs, we both quit our jobs so we could nanny full time to truly understand what our customers wanted so we could see both sides of the marketplace and I think having compassion and empathy for both and actually, not just saying that this is a good idea, like using the app. And really, what we're doing is quite unique, were trying to, we want our carers, I guess, our minders to be valued which is not necessarily a unique thing but we want to create a standard-

Gen: Change the, yeah-

Millie: We want to change the perception that this is one of the most important roles in our society is to raise the next generation, so because of these comms that we're having, we've got doctors on our app, we've got CEOs of businesses wanting~ to, I guess baby sit for other mums because they get it, they're there to support each other. And, why not earn a bit of money on the side when you can have your kids, the kids have a play date-

Gen: A couple of extras.

Millie: Yeah exactly, you're earning money and basically supervising kids having fun so it's like, why not?

Alice: Yeah it's really important to us that society values the role of care, it is super important as Mil said and why not just, if you are available and can help out, it's just a really nice thing to do.

Gen: Vision to scale, how do you take where you are today to the next step?

Alice: Yeah so we have some really exciting plans for next year that we can't reveal right now but-

Gen: [inaudible 00:12:41] specific plan.

Millie: This is our product [inaudible 00:12:43].

Alice: But we've been talking to our customers constantly so we have some really exciting updates that reflect what they want, becoming a bit more of a wholistic child care solution and also enabling our loyal and passionate customers to share the app with their friends more easily.

Alice: But we also have expressions of interest open for our crowd funding campaign as well, so it makes a lot of sense to us to allow our passionate users to invest and to own a bit of this business that they already love and use so much. So, if anyone is interested, you can check out on our website, the link to Birchal which is housing our crowd funding campaign.

Millie: Register on the website.

Gen: The website is?

Alice: Our website, it's www.motherhoodapp.com, so the info is on there.

Gen: Yeah that will be great and, how have you gone about deciding to go down that path, crowd funding and how did you approach it?

Alice: Yeah there's been some examples overseas of it being a great strategy for marketplace businesses and our customers, like a lot of our customers have been so engaged with us on this journey and communicating how they think we can improve and grow in the future, so yeah it just, when the laws changed in Australia to make it possible for non sophisticated investors to invest in tech start ups, we had a chat with Birchal and they're an amazing team and they've seen a lot of success as well. So yeah, we decided to get expressions of interest up and see if it was something that our customers and community did want to be involved in and we had an incredible response so, yeah it's been great.

Gen: That's awesome and Justin again, asking questions while he's working on his multi tasking.

Alice: Oh thanks Justin.

Gen: Do you guys need to provide any insurance, do you see this expanding into e-commerce for your customers?

Alice: Oh, great questions. No, we don't need to provide insurance and it is something that it's kind of up to the nanny or the minder if they want to get nanny insurance for themselves.

Alice: And, e-commerce, it's interesting, I think our priority at the moment is to scale across Australia and to have this amazing community of mums and parents across Australia and obviously that leaves us open to potentially going deeper into the parenting market in the future but it's not something that we're focused on right at this point.

Millie: And the other great thing is, people traveling to Australia can also use our app. So if you don't have child care and you have friends that are coming to Australia but don't have that support network, again we've got hotels, we've got QT Hotel in Sydney and in Bondi, it's quite nice as well, so it is something that will eventually be very, easily readily-

Gen: Available.

Millie: To be able to scale yeah so it's all about building a support network no matter where you go in the world.

Gen: So Justin does a business called Camplify which is-

Alice: Oh you're Camplify, are you at the ... Hey you can't speak back, were you at the Airbnb, was Justin at the Airbnb, someone from Camplify was at the Airbnb Marketplace Meet Up.

Gen: Yes, I think there's [inaudible 00:15:54] team. So Camplify is-

Alice: So cool.

Gen: Airbnb for RVs right, which is great for kids and families which would make sense I guess for some of what you're doing if we jump in an RV and go to the south of Sydney.

Alice: Absolutely, there's a Motherhood App everywhere you go.

Gen: Yes.

Millie: The main thing is, for people who travel, you're not only necessarily getting flexible child care, but you can potentially book another mum and their kids, the kids have a play date and actually get to experience what it's like living in a different part of Australia or you know, like different cute little towns and stuff.

Alice: Yeah it's not just a babysitter, it's a really unique local experience and creating meaningful real world connections as well.

Gen: Yeah fantastic. Now there are lots of sharing economy style businesses, particularly businesses like this. What are the ones that you're seeing that are doing well that you look to for advice or design?

Alice: Yeah there's so many great businesses out of Australia as well, carnextdoor is fantastic, I think I was one of the very early users of them when they launched in Sydney's east, great environmental aspect to that as well. Airtasker, obviously a huge success, a lot of parallels with our business with that as well, so we've learnt a lot from all sorts of people in the marketplace.

Millie: And I love all these different marketplaces can also help each other because there's a lot of cross over with them as well so it adds more value to the community and we love real world connections.

Alice: We love Mad Paws as well, I use Mad Paws for me, to look after my puppy.

Gen: Oh what puppy do you have?

Alice: Well I can't really put her in a box, that's all.

Millie: You could say mongrel/meerkat.

Alice: Kangaroo, deer.

Millie: She's interesting and I always call her a he because she looks like a boy dog [inaudible 00:17:42].

Gen: And internationally speaking, what was the global domination plan that you feel comfortable obviously disclosing today?

Alice: Yeah I mean we definitely I think, our sights are on dominating Australia first, that's an aggressive one.

Millie: Yeah.

Gen: Is it [inaudible 00:18:00].

Alice: We want to help the whole of Australia have flexible child care and then we'll look, and we think the UK makes sense because they're the first port of call for international just because of our cultural similarities whereas the US is a bit more fragmented.

Gen: And they have Camplify there as well, so perfect to explore.

Alice: Oh fab, yeah, done deal.

Millie: Thanks Justin.

Gen: Cool, that's great.

Alice: Yeah so UK, US, people have been speaking to us about Japan as well because they have a huge child care problem over there so yeah, opportunities are endless, we will see, watch this space.

Gen: Awesome and then as leaders, managing teams, people, customers, by the sounds of it, you're very hands on and actually going out and doing work which is fantastic and understanding what the customer is going through. How do you keep up skilling yourselves to make sure you're reassessing, are we doing the best that we can? Can we do this better? Cheaper? Smarter, et cetera?

Alice: Yeah, again it comes back to community and network. We are part of a Startmate program from the start of this year and that's been completely valuable for, you're still part of that network and can still ask questions and engage specific people who know, experts et cetera.

Millie: And thanks to Startmate, we're actually in their office right now, they're constantly helping us, so yeah, we're very, very grateful to the Startmate community.

Gen: What was your perception on going into it, what you thought you were going to get out of it, versus what you have actually gotten out of it?

Millie: We did a lot of research going into it.

Gen: Doesn't seem like something you girls would do.

Millie: No. We made a lot of calls to people who had done the program, Alice basically added every single founder, investor and mentor on Linkedin.

Alice: I spoke to half of the people on there.

Millie: And that's how we met on Linkedin, Linkedin is amazing, I actually met my boyfriend on Linkedin.

Gen: What!

Millie: Anyway, I'm like rambling. I want to say, Startmate, we did so much research and it went above what we originally expected. We had very high expectations, we knew exactly what we wanted to get out of it, it pushed us to our limits.

Gen: I would check the comments at the same time on my phone but it's playing so, yeah.

Millie: Yes, I highly recommended it if someone wants to try the program, it's a phenomenal network to be a part of.

Gen: Great. So then pod casts, books, how do you keep self learning?

Alice: Oh, yeah my reading list is way too long.

Millie: Audio books is awesome if you want to go for a walk and you want to take in knowledge, like learn things or pod casts on the go because I really struggle reading at night because I fall asleep at 8:30 at night, but I'm up at like 5:00 AM so-

Alice: But Harrison at the Marketplace Meet Up last week had about eight books or something that I've written down to download onto my Kindle or Audiobook, so yeah, always reading or pod casting.

Millie: Coffee dates, if you can squeeze in coffee dates from other people like amazing other founders and just gather as much, learn from other people as well, just squeezing into those times that you really think are down time, if you can still squeeze in as much as you can. We also check in with each other once a week too.

Alice: Once a week? We speak non stop.

Millie: We speak non stop but we sit down and we do our, how's the week been? What are we grateful for? How can we improve? I think having a weekly session of that-

Gen: Self assessment.

Alice: Yeah that was something we got out of Startmate was the process around how to prioritize and set goals for the week and months ahead because there's a never ending list of course when you are a start up of what to do.

Gen: They change all the time.

Alice: Making sure you have kind of a top three and that you're really focused on them through the week and if you haven't achieved them, reflecting on-

Millie: Why and how.

Alice: Why and how we can improve, so that's been key.

Gen: Nice. And what is things you think that people who are wanting to start a marketplace or a business in general should really think about? Try to skip some of the easy pit falls up front, the mistakes. What do you which you knew, day one? Don't do it!

Alice: Yeah no I think-

Millie: Yeah maybe just know you've got a really long road, it doesn't happen overnight, it really is blood, sweat and tears, you don't just fall lucky.

Alice: Those overnight success stories are-

Gen: They say it takes, on average, those overnight success stories are seven years minimum.

Alice: Yeah and I think it feels, before you are a part of this world, it feels like these things happen a lot faster, so yeah I guess setting expectations on yourself, it takes a long time.

Millie: And I think as soon as you hit a rut where you feel like you don't have momentum, reach out for help, like just reach out for a coffee date or whatever it is, just to I guess nut out what it is maybe that's stopping you to get the ball rolling because as soon as you initiate that first, come on, we need to create momentum, and really start creating some really strong focus points, yeah I think it's quite easy to have a high moment and then stop, so just to keep-

Gen: And everyone is going through the same thing.

Alice: Yeah so to talk to other founders and get things off your chest and brainstorm and tackle problems together.

Millie: And look after your mental health.

Gen: Yes.

Millie: It's so important, your health, it's so easy to get burnt out. Try to sleep as much, like when you can, exercise, eat well because it's so easy just to freak out or whatever and then emotionally eat and then just go and have a nap, and I'm talking from experience.

Gen: That sounds like a really great afternoon.

Alice: I had coffee for breakfast and an ice cream for lunch.

Millie: This one is the worst.

Alice: I'm terrible because in the afternoon I felt so sick and then I realized that wasn't good.

Millie: So highly recommend looking after your health.

Gen: Justin has just sent through a fantastic connection of familydaycare.com.au for you guys to look at to get some ideas.

Millie: Thanks Justin.

Alice: Thanks Justin.

Millie: You're amazing.

Gen: It's very true and unfortunately it's not spoken about enough and that is, well it's always my thing that I ask with these things so it's great that you girls straight away cover it by yourselves, which is awesome.

Millie: Yeah.

Gen: And if you could have a super power, what would it be? I ask everyone this as well.

Millie: I don't know.

Alice: Oh, I went straight to Captain Planet and what super power would I try to pick.

Millie: You would save the planet. I would love to create more hours in the day, I feel like there's not enough and that it's exhausting trying to squeeze everything in but that is not a very exciting one.

Gen: That's great, it sounds a bit exciting.

Alice: Is being Beyonce a super power because I would probably choose that.

Gen: That could be a super power, yep. I love to say that you have the exact same amount of hours in a day that Beyonce has and I'm like yep, she's [inaudible 00:24:29].

Millie: She's Beyonce.

Alice: She's perfect, yeah, that'd be mine.

Millie: So yours actually sums up mine as well.

Alice: Yeah exactly, yeah.

Gen: You guys are like on the same page. Now if there's any way that people in the communities can help you ladies or how can you help them, what are you looking for, what can people reach out to you for?

Alice: Yeah so if you have kids, check out the Motherhood App and next time you need a sitter.

Millie: Yeah or if you're running your own business, which a lot of you are and you want to earn money on the side and you really want to support other people running their own businesses, you can jump on the app and also become a minder as well to support other people with kids, earn a flexible income and I guess we love rewarding our community no matter what that is so if that's minders or whether it's parents, if there's any products that you guys want our audience to know about, please shoot us an email or you'll find our email on our website, we love supporting other people as well.

Gen: Or Netflix recommendations, I find these two are grateful.

Millie: Don't get me started.

Alice: Yeah we do this fun thing where we turn Mondays into Mumdays and we surprise a mum in our community with something fun on Mumdays so yeah, if anyone has anything they'd like us to share then reach out.

Gen: Great, awesome, thank you. Well thank you so much for your time, we look forward to you to grow, or your business to grow.

Millie: We are growing.

Gen: And on that note, see you all next time, thank you.

Alice: Bye.