Shanèy Vijendranath got married at the age of 20, and became a first-time mom at 21. She quickly realised that motherhood can be a very lonely journey, especially when none of your friends are parents yet.
“I felt that there just wasn’t enough support for new moms, especially when trying to filter through baby products and trying to decipher which are the best options,” she told Disrupt Africa.
“I wanted advice from moms who tried, tested and used the products in their daily life. The internet offered too many choices, but with little real-life data or first-hand opinions, so making the correct decisions was extremely difficult.”
Vijendranath decided to fix the problem herself with her blog You, Baby and I, which became extremely influential and won awards. In 2016, after two years, she realised the site was more than just a blog.
“It became of tribe of moms who trusted each other’s opinions,” she said. And that tribe is now the focus of Vijendranath’s business – MomSays – which went live earlier this year.
MomSays is built of three parts. The platform helps first-time moms build their essential shopping lists based on reviews and opinions, helps brands market more personally to moms, and supports local businesses, specifically what Vijendranath calls “mompreneurs”, who need assistance with research, marketing and product development.
“We all know that mom knows best but sometimes mom isn’t actually keeping up with the new trends and technology. This is where MomSays comes in,” she said.
“We bridge the gap and give you access to a platform that shows you the trending lists of products based on what your friends, family and experienced moms say, that rewards you for sharing your opinion, and gives you an opportunity to collaborate with some of the biggest brands in the world.”
In short, MomSays helps its users pick products, and have authentic conversations with people who have been on the same journey. Meanwhile, it helps brands plug into this audience.
“Many brands have no idea how to market to moms and what they should be saying. We wanted to create an authentic way for companies to connect with moms, and understand their needs and wants more clearly,” said Vijendranath.
“I think we need more data on South African shopping trends, especially for the parenting market. We assume we know our consumers, but we always compare them to countries like the US and UK where there is such rich data. We don’t have that here. What works overseas, might not always work here.”
MomSays is looking to change the game, and raised seed funding early last year to help it do so. It already has close to 8,500 users.
“It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster getting where we are, but we are finally on track! We’ve received amazing feedback already from our users and have a few campaigns coming up with big brands in South Africa,” said Vijendranath.
For now the startup, which has various revenue streams that include consumer insights, product testing, advertising, influencer campaigns, is focusing on South Africa, but that will change over time.
“For the next five years, I plan on expanding my startup into Africa and then eventually taking it to the international market. I would like to see MomSays as the number one parenting platform for moms to connect, collaborate and educate each other,” said Vijendranath.
Being a female entrepreneur in South Africa is not easy, she said.
“When I came up with the idea for MomSays, I assumed it would be easy to get this idea off the ground and build something fast, but I was wrong. What awaited me was tears, negative words and many mountains to climb,” said Vijendranath, who has helped to launch the SoGal initiative in Johannesburg to help female entrepreneurs.
“I remember the first time I pitched my idea to a group of investors… I was told that this would never work because moms don’t need help. It was tempting to give up, but I couldn’t ignore the reality I was living. I was a mom, I needed help and support, and every other mom I spoke to agreed. So, no matter what the initial investors said, I knew there was a need for a reputable platform where moms could recommend and ask each other for advice. I knew this industry isn’t going anywhere, and it is about time that we start investing in it.”