By Allyson Downey (Co-Founder, weeSpring)
I think of myself as an accidental entrepreneur: I had a newborn baby, was transitioning into a new job, and was as sleep-deprived as you’d imagine under those circumstances.
But during all those sleepless nights (and days!), I had this idea in my head that I couldn’t shake: there had to be an easier way for new and expecting parents to figure out what they needed for their baby. I’d been doing it myself through some trial and error, and also by relentlessly polling my friends on what was indispensible (and what we didn’t need). It was expensive – I’ve learned since then that the average family spends at least $3,000 on baby gear, excluding diapers and baby food, in year one alone.
While on maternity leave, I started scribbling notes and diagrams while out on long walks with a stroller through Central Park. I wanted to be able to find out what my friends relied on, without the constant emails and text messages – or burdening my non-parent friends with tons of baby-related posts on Facebook.
My husband and I spent countless nights hashing out how it would work, then sent a SurveyMonkey to our friends. We just asked, “What three baby products do you recommend most often?” And then we gave them an extra box, in case they wanted to suggest more than three, and asked them
to pass it on.
In less than a week, we had 500 responses – and half of them used the spillover box because they couldn’t stop at three recommendations. That’s when we started building weeSpring.
We recruited an amazingly talented engineer, Madeline Hicks, who believed in our vision. We only found out a couple weeks ago (six months after she joined the team) that she’d interviewed a half dozen (more experienced, better financed) entrepreneurs before deciding to take the leap with us, and I feel so lucky to have her as a partner in this. She tells us that the passion and certainty she heard in the way we were talking about the need for this resource was what tipped the scales – and that’s the biggest compliment I can imagine.
Our other co-founder, Melissa Post, was on bed rest while pregnant with twins when we first approached her about weeSpring. We were seeking her advice as a prospective user, but she was astonished to hear that there wasn’t already a social platform where new and expecting parents could get advice on baby gear. Despite being just a few weeks from the birth of her daughters, she joined the team and has been taking the lead on building our community ever since.
We released our beta in December, and already have more than 10,000 product ratings. We know we have a huge uphill climb, but despite being first time founders, we’ve all gotten to where we are in our careers by making impossible things happen. Right now, we’re eating, drinking, and sleeping user acquisition… I hand out weeSpring flyers to strangers on the street with strollers and pregnant ladies I see on the subway, and I daydream about growth channels.
At the end of the day, we want to be the destination for new and expecting parents: the first site you think of when you need to make a purchase for your baby – and synonymous with trusted advice.
Women 2.0 readers: What is your favorite product/service started by a mompreneur? Let us know in the comments.
About the guest blogger: Allyson Downey is co-founder at weeSpring. Her entrepreneurial spirit dates back to elementary school when she had a face-painting business for birthday parties, and has carried her through roles in publishing, politics, non-profit and Wall Street. When her son was a newborn, she’d sit in Central Park with a stroller, scribbling down ideas for a network that would allow parents to collect, organize, and act on their friends’ baby advice. Nine months later, weeSpring was born. Follow her on Twitter at @wee_spring.