To The Rescue: Peanut CEO Swipes A Mission For Working Moms
Michelle Kennedy’s newest baby is just six months old. She calls her youngest baby “Peanut,” the same nickname for her three-year-old son, Finlay.
Peanut is an app that connects like-minded mothers for social outings and resources, and as CEO and co-founder of Peanut, the app she founded in February of this year, Kennedy is one busy mama.
With 10 million swipes and 500,000 online chats in three months, Kennedy says with Peanut she is also out to help women and eradicate mom shaming internationally.
“The most common thread I see for working women who are moms is the fear of failing,” says Kennedy, who began her career as a lawyer at the international firm Mischon de Reya.
“If you’re not being perfect in every element of your life as a mom, partner, worker, friend, daughter, sister, then you think, ‘I’m dropping balls and I’m failing. That’s not failure, that’s life.”
After working for the law firm, Kennedy went to work for Badoo, the dating app, as internal legal counsel, then became deputy CEO of the $100 million company. She later helped to launch the dating site, Bumble.
By the time Kennedy became a mother in 2014 she was familiar with apps that helped people personally connect. There just were not any apps that connected mothers to mothers.
She saw the market need and jumped in.
Designed to give women a network of friends, playdates, resources and insight, Peanut lists its mission on its site this way: “At Peanut, we see motherhood as an adventure in the life of a woman. The best chapter in your book, but not the only one. Just because you entered motherhood, you didn’t stop being you. We’re on a mission to build a community of women, who happen to be mamas. Because let’s face it, the more women in your life, the better it becomes.”
Missing social connections as a new mother and with valuable experience in launching and developing apps to phenomenal international success, Kennedy felt she had a winner. But the tech start up world of bro culture and sexism was not so friendly.
“I struggled with people who did not want to take me seriously with a mommy app,” says Kennedy, whose company is available in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom and more cities scheduled.
“This is really about modern motherhood,” says Kennedy. ‘There are a million different ways to approach motherhood– as single parents, reconstituted families, half siblings, working parents, women not going back to work– and we don’t reflect that anywhere.”
Peanut solves that problem with a network for possible conversations, meetups, chats and matches. To get started, users can join via Facebook, then build a profile. Moms on the app can invite their friends to join Peanut via SMS, WhatsApp, email and messenger. Matches are based on location and algorithms of common interest.
Moms on Peanut can also create meet-up groups when they travel with their children for outings to a park or a zoo. Kennedy told the Future Laboratory Limited in a video interview that everything on the market for mothers that she saw she felt was patronizing.
Though Kennedy says she had initial resistance from funders, she is well on her way to success. And the stats bear out the propensity for female-led startups to succeed.
“This prospect makes sense because the presence of women in successful companies resulted in an average of 10.1 percent Return on Investment(ROI) as compared to 7.4 percent for those firms with fewer female members,” Belin writes.
“Today, more than 250,000 women in the U.S. own and lead multi-million dollar enterprises. The data received from these reports suggests that women have the vision and capacity to lead successful businesses. Although, in these reports there is no evidence that states why startups with female founders grow faster, there are many psychological and emotional reasons (that make good business sense) helping the ‘woman’ factor excel in this arena,” according to Belin.
The path to success—Peanut is launching on Android shortly and Kennedy has a major announcement she is keeping a secret until October—was not simple, she says. Dealing with funders and investors was tough at first.
“As a woman you have to know the pain point so well. Know your stats, know the studies, know the research. There is a higher burden of proof for women,” Kennedy says.
The market has responded quickly to the need Peanut meets for mothers searching for allies.
“I think we would have had more innovation in this space if it was men having this problem,” Kennedy says.
Speaking about the gender gaps in tech, she adds, “2017 is already a different year than 2016 with so many stories and so much out there of what females face in tech. You have to find the right people with the vision you share.”
As a working mother, Kennedy says her world view has shifted, as well as her calendar and day to say life.
“I think I have softened in my approach, I don’t see things as black and white. Grey is good,” Kennedy says. “I started life as a corporate lawyer, you are there until the partner leaves. All that has gone out the window.”
What she did not see so prevalent before was the mom-shaming and mom guilt that women heap upon each other and that the culture—globally—supports.
Even actress and “The Mindy Project” creator Mindy Kaling is dealing with mom shaming.
A mother to be herself, Kaling said recently about an upcoming Mindy Project episode, “The episode is a little bit about mom-shaming, and that’s cool. It was really fun and hit a lot of those juicy ripped-from-the-blogger-headline storylines,” according to She Knows.
Mom shaming and mom guilt have been topics for millions of working mothers for years, and what Kennedy hopes Peanut helps to address. She may have some help from recent research.
Rieva Lesonsky writes in Small BizTrends, “But now, perhaps employed and entrepreneurial moms alike can ease up on the guilt. A new study from Harvard reports that having a mother who works not only doesn’t do children any harm, it actually increases their daughters’ future prospects for career success.”
Lesonsky adds, “The survey of over 50,000 adults in 25 developed nations worldwide found that in every single country, women with working mothers and entrepreneurial moms performed better in the workplace. They earned more money and rose to higher positions than did women who grew up with stay-at-home mothers.”
With her son now three-and-a-half years old, Kennedy says she is watching both the boy she calls Peanut and the company she calls Peanut grow quickly. That doesn’t mean she has not had missteps along the way.
“My skin is like an elephant, very thick,” Kennedy says.
And everyone knows elephants love peanuts.
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About the Author
Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldon www.micheleweldon.com