From Maternal Unemployment, Comes New Beginnings
Heavily pregnant with my second child and facing redundancy, I was at a loss. I love being a mum and thought I was looking forward to time off, but work was a big part of my identity. I struggled when people assumed I’d stop working (that thought made me want to run in the opposite direction!). But I didn’t know what I wanted to do, or what I could do to fit around my kids. With over a decade’s experience in strategy and business development, the roles I was finding on ‘mum job boards’ weren’t quite cutting it.
I got thinking. We’d just moved house with our two-year-old and I was looking for local activities. A mum near our old house had put up a simple website that listed activities for under-5s, but there wasn’t anything like that for our new area. Why were there no modern websites for mums? Why are parents stuck in the ‘90s with old-school message boards and desktop directories that don’t work on our phones?
I started to wonder just how much the world was missing through a lack of female entrepreneurs and women in tech.
As much as I wanted to create a modern website for mums, I didn’t have a clue about technology or startups. It struck me that there hadn’t been innovation for mums, precisely because mums like me don’t have the tools to make them happen (plus we’re busy with our babies!). I started to wonder how much the world was missing through a lack of female entrepreneurs and women in tech.
I decided to turn down that attractive offer of being a stay-at-home mum. I was going to start something.
The Journey Begins
The day my son was born, I opened my inbox to an email from Google Campus for Mums. It said I had a place on an early entrepreneurship course for parents, starting next week. Oh, and could I just prepare a presentation for it please?! Juggling becoming a parent again with my ambition was hard. I was trying to learn all I could, whilst also trying to go easy on myself, having just had a baby. I attended a bring-your-baby coding course, and discovered Makers Academy , a bootcamp where you can learn to code in 12 weeks. I applied the very same day. My husband would soon be starting three months of Shared Parental Leave (childcare sorted!) so it was now or never. I crammed for the interview, got a place and started a week later.
I watched my husband experience the things I’d gone through with our first child.
While I was on the course, I saw my husband experience the things I’d gone through with our first child. Those feelings of being overwhelmed, of struggling to get through the day. The loneliness of missing other adults to talk to. And all the minutes counted waiting for your partner to return from the outside world! It was a real eye-opener.
By the end of the course it was a year since I’d first had the idea for Happity. My research showed it was still desperately needed and, having experienced the problem for himself, my husband was 100% behind me. It was time to start the business.
The same week I started working on Happity, a swish new platform for children’s activities launched across London in the Evening Standard. I was crestfallen.
Whilst exploring their app, I realised my personal experience meant I saw a different side to the problem. Our new competitor was helping families find things to do at weekends, but I wanted to help people on the long days they’re alone with their children. Learning that the founders were an all-male team of established entrepreneurs reminded me why I’d wanted to become a founder in the first place. Determination and drive renewed, I realised I wasn’t going to give up!
How To Make Flexible Working Work
Since then, I’ve worked around my family to get Happity launched. Starting in just 4 postcodes of South East London in April 2017, we attracted our first 2,500 users within a month and was soon selected by Ignite Tech Accelerator – an organisation which trains first-time entrepreneurs, helping to get them investment-ready. We received £25,000 in funding whilst our competitor announced they’d raised £2.4m!
Ignite recognises the huge imbalance in the tech sector and the real diversity problem which needs to be addressed. That when given the same opportunities, we are able to help shape the world in a different mould. I’m really proud to have been part of their pilot cohort for a new model designed to appeal to a broader demographic.
My personal experiences as a working parent and of facing maternal unemployment have shaped the business I’m building. Traditional working patterns were never designed for a world where women want to work and men want to parent. Most technology companies are not started by parents, let alone women. So how would those founders understand why there should be any different ways of working?
Happity is now run by a team of parents passionate about helping other parents who are building businesses around their families. We’re seeking to prove the benefits of flexible remote working for business and reinvent the world of work for 21st Century families.
Want to support our mission?
The best way you can help us to spread the word and tell people about Happity! If you’re interested in job opportunities, volunteering or popping up some posters around your area, please drop us a line on [email protected].