Michelle Kennedy hopes her app, Peanut, will break the stigma around motherhood.
Becoming a mother is one of those life-changing moments for a woman – it impacts everything from our bodies and our minds to our relationships and social lives. While a new mother is busy searching the internet for baby advice, her friends may be out hitting up the newest bar or brunch spot. Who can she then relate to? Who can she turn to for advice? Queue Peanut – the app saving all mothers from the nightmare of being lonely.
Michelle Kennedy is its CEO and co-founder. She started Peanut after struggling to juggle work and meet other mamas she could relate to. Michelle started her career as a lawyer at leading international law firm Mishcon de Reya. She later joined dating app, Badoo, where she transformed the internal legal offering within Badoo, and eventually rose to the role of Deputy CEO at the $100m+ revenue generative market leader. During her time at Badoo, Michelle played a big role in the launch of Bumble.
Having worked in the dating apps industry for five years, Michelle has a bank of experience and understanding of the safety and growth elements of building a social product.
Most importantly, Michelle gets all things motherhood as she is also a mama to her 3-year-old Peanut, Finlay.
Name: Michelle Kennedy
Location: London, UK.
Current title | Company: CEO and Co-Founder of Peanut.
Education: University of Sheffield.
Website / social media pages: Download app, @peanut, @michellekennedylon
What was your first job and how did you land it?
I started life as a corporate lawyer. I was working crazy hours, and I wasn’t sure that I loved it. I mean, you’re getting to know the warts of all of these companies, but then you don’t get to do anything with that company. I was assisting with the sales, acquisitions and much more. BUT if I really take it back to my first ever job pre-corporate life, it was actually working in a department store on Thursdays after school and Saturdays when I was 15. I haven’t stopped working since!
How did Peanut come about?
Peanut was born out of two main issues.
Firstly, there was the emotional aspect of becoming a mother. My girlfriends weren’t at the stage in their lives where they were having children yet, and even if some of my wider friendship group were, we all lived in different parts of the city (and leaving the house to go anywhere further than 10 minutes from home with a newborn felt like a military operation). I suppose what I felt most prominently, which isn’t particularly comfortable for a 30-something woman to admit, is that even though I had lots of friends and was successful professionally, I felt quite isolated. This was further compounded by the fact that I was working in an industry (dating), where it was my day-to-day to produce products people could use to find a match or a date, and I was struggling to find a woman who was like-minded to go for a coffee with.
The second was my frustration with the existing products on the market aimed at mothers. I didn’t recognize the tone of voice the products used, or the UX/UI being used. They felt outdated, old-fashioned, and in some cases patronizing. To me, I didn’t feel like I’d suddenly aged, or become less modern, less cool, just because I’d become a mother, and yet, the products seemed to have that expectation. I found that confusing. I still had an expectation of great user experience, from products like Uber, or Instagram, but I wasn’t getting that from the products for mothers that were out there
What was it like making the decision to leave a 9-5 as a CEO and jump into what you are passionate about, also how has it been so far?
Well, it was never a 9-5 in my former role, it was much longer hours. Leaving Badoo was scary, there are no two ways about it. I was very senior, earning great money, and I loved what I did. But, I wanted to feel passionate about the product I was building. I wanted to feel engaged in it, and most importantly, I wanted to build something for my little boy’s future. To show him you have to be brave and have the courage to try something on your own.
How did your friends and family react towards this decision?
Well, my husband was amazing. He always has been extremely supportive. Equally, my friends have been amazing. I remember discussing the concept with my best friend Sophie who simply said “yeah, why not you? Why can’t it be you to do it?”. I had absolutely no good response to that other than “I don’t know”. So, I did it.
Did you have any mentors to guide your decisions?
Having mentors has had a huge impact on my professional and personal life. Probably for 2 reasons, the first is the experience. Sometimes I have not experienced something before. To be able to turn to someone who may have had the exact experience, or at least something analogous means you can problem solve with a better perspective. The second reason is the number of incredible young women who I am still in touch with who I have mentored at some point. It’s an absolute joy for me to watch these women doing incredible roles, who have developed, many of whom I’ve known since they were first starting out.
Why an app?
Our lives are mobile. An entire generation of women is growing up mobile first, and yet when it came to motherhood, I felt there was not a social product representing this area of women’s lives, so I decided to build it. As a forewarner to anyone thinking about it-YOU DON’T HAVE TO START WITH AN APP! I started with an app because I’ve worked in the industry before, as has my co-founder. But, if you’re building a product where the proof of concept can be tested in another way-do that first (you can try an FB group, a whatsapp group, even a Squarespace site). Apps are expensive to build-be sure you’ve established your proof of concept first…
Were you ever scared this business wouldn’t work?
I am scared every day! Because it’s personal, and I care so much about what we’re doing, and the women using our app. But I never had any doubt that women want to connect and do incredible things when they do. I’ve never waivered from that belief. research showed me that. My own life showed me that.
What challenges have you faced since starting your business?
Every day brings its own challenge, you’re juggling, speaking to the team, speaking to users, speaking to investors, all of which brings challenges. But it’s great, I love the challenges, it’s why I’m doing it.
How did you balance family alongside running peanut?
Right now? I struggle. 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 my work ethic. I do, however, make sure we have a one full day at the weekend where there is no work allowed (well, none that the family can observe!)
What is your definition of success?
If we can become synonymous with modern motherhood, and provide a way for women to find a community of like-minded women through motherhood, that would be my definition of success.
If you could go back and make any changes, what would they be?
I would have launched on iOS and Android simultaneously!
Can you share a recent success story that makes you a proud working lady?
I received a message on LinkedIn from the husband of a user, thanking us for building Peanut. We receive emails from our users every day, and I love it. But to hear from someone’s partner (cool husband btw), telling us in his words how Peanut had changed the life of his wife, well, that was a special moment.
What’s the most important advice you have received that you would like to share with other ladies?
See above -Why, not you! If you see a pain point and have an idea about how to solve it-why can’t it be you to do it?
What would you tell your 20-year-old self?
Not everyone will love you, and that’s ok. There is no point in trying to get people to like you, worry only about being yourself, acting with integrity, and loving fiercely the people who do love you.
What is the future for Peanut?
MORE MORE MORE! More features, more growth, more creating amazing relationships and connections for women.
You can download the app here.