When Anike Lawal was pregnant with her first baby in 2013, she was frustrated by the lack of an online community for expectant mothers like her. Despite having no experience in building an online community or an online business, the former management consultant was inspired to try building one. “I’ve always loved the online world and have been in various communities and forums since my teens,” she explains. “I had no clue how to start, but I knew it was possible. So I researched online communities in various parts of the world and started to read about how to build and grow one.”
Growing up online
That’s how Anike found herself welcoming yet another new arrival, this time to the online world. Starting out as a website offering a place for parents and parents-to-be to ask questions, share experiences and learn more about parenthood, Mamalette.com has grown up to become a community that’s committed to giving back. As well as providing education, meet-ups, support and online events, Mamalette is a social enterprise that focuses on improving health outcomes for vulnerable or marginalised women and children through its Champions programme.
By training experienced mothers to work as Champions with women in their neighbourhoods, Mamalette is helping create new opportunities for women as well as supporting those who most need help. It took several years to steadily grow a community that now sees over 150,000 monthly users on the platform. “Communities don’t get built overnight,” admits Anike. “Hard work and consistency are essential ingredients.” The other essential ingredients for growth, she found, were publicity and word-of-mouth. “The best advice I ever received when I was starting out was from my mother, who told me not to clap in the dark,” Anike recalls. She has used Facebook and Instagram to help shine a light on all that Mamalette has to offer and now sees more than three-quarters of her membership referred from these platforms.
Designing the future
As she looks ahead the future, Anike is optimistic about where Mamalette can take her – starting in Silicon Valley. In January 2018, she was selected as one of 15 founders from around the world to participate in Blackbox Connect, an immersive two-week residential experience hosted in San Francisco. With innovation and disruption on the agenda, it’s the perfect opportunity for Anike to take stock and look ahead to the future. “It’s important to remain innovative and constantly maintain the interest of our users,” she says. “That’s why you have to keep learning, know your numbers and stay abreast of industry trends.”
Today, Mamalette employs six people and Anike enjoys the high quality of life that she’s created for herself, both at work and at home. Having raised her business alongside her children, she has been able to build in flexibility and avoid the kinds of time pressures she might have experienced as a parent in her former corporate career. “Being able to achieve my business and career goals while being a mother is very rewarding,” she says. Asked what her own advice would be to women starting out in business, Anike points out the need to look at the bigger picture. “Being an entrepreneur is a long journey. You have to be patient with the process and keep things in perspective, so that you can appreciate both the good times and the difficult times.”
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