The Interview — Michelle Kennedy, Co-Founder and CEO of Peanut
Michelle Kennedy is the CEO and co-founder of Peanut, an app to connect like-minded women who happen to be mothers, facilitating conversations women want and need to have. Launched in 2017, it has become a prominent voice for modern motherhood, garnered a community of over 300,000 women, and has received a host of plaudits from being celebrated by Apple at the WWDC conference to the Today show naming it the "app to change your life". Michelle started her career as an M&A lawyer at leading international law firm Mishcon de Reya. She later joined dating app, Badoo, where she rose to the role of Deputy CEO at the $100m+ revenue generative market leader. During her tenure at Badoo, Michelle was integral to the launch and was a board member of seminal millennial dating app Bumble. Michelle is also a mama to her 4-year-old Peanut, Finlay. For more on Michelle, be sure to follow her on Instagram at @michellekennedydylon. You can find Peanut on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.
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What inspired you to develop your app, Peanut:
Peanut was born out of two main issues: the first was the emotional aspect of becoming a mother. Before Fin arrived, I felt prepared. I had bought everything I needed, I read a few books. Turns out, the arrival of a baby isn't just about planning. There are feelings and demands that you can't plan for. My girlfriends weren't at the stage in their life where they were yet having children, 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 I was lonely. I had lots of friends, I was successful professionally, and yet, when I was at home, I felt lonely. 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. A little like dating, I also experienced a lot of "I have to introduce you to my friend, she's a new mommy too," only to go through an awkward date where you realize the only thing you have in common is the fact that you both have a child. You don't share the same outlook on life, values, interests. That's actually even more isolating to be honest. And 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 look and feel of the products. 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 mom, 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.
What were the biggest challenges you faced:
Gosh so many! I suppose there were a few people who did the “do moms really need this?” (Incidentally, it was never a woman who said that!). Starting something is incredibly difficult. It requires hustle, and devotion, and sacrifice, but it’s worth it.
View Michelle's Essentials
What would you say is the biggest accomplish for Peanut:
The response so far has been incredible. I’ve received personal messages via the app, and through my other social media channels, to thank me for creating something which recognizes the issues and challenges that women can face, and which helps women to connect. I’ve heard of playdates, and meetups, businesses being formed, women finding nanny share. It’s thrilling to hear about the big numbers in terms of downloads and engagement, (Apple featuring Peanut at WWDC was a pretty big deal for us) but I’m obsessed with the intimate examples of how people are using the product and the connections they’re making as a result. That’s the real difference.
Describe a typical day at work:
Ah! There is no typical day! Some days I’m working on product with the team, some days I am out speaking to people and partners, some days I am travelling. It’s a real mix, it keeps life exhausting and fun! It also means I’ve learnt to be agile, to deal with and accept change, even at very short notice...
What do you love most about your work:
There is a real purpose behind it. That a woman can have a different experience of motherhood by using Peanut. That’s so important to me. In this day and age of tech advancement, there is no reason why motherhood has not been modernized (apart from perhaps not enough mothers in tech pushing that innovation forward)... that sense of purpose makes it worthwhile.
Best advice you can give to working mothers:
Do not beat yourself up about not having work life balance. It doesn’t exist. We juggle. Sometimes we’re brilliant, sometimes we drop a ball. It’s ok, it’s life. We just can’t beat ourselves up about it. The moment I stopped trying to be perfect in every area, and realized done is better than perfect, I became immediately happier, and actually, more productive. That, and never apologize for making meetings at a certain time to accommodate you doing the school run, or bedtime we have to stop apologizing because we’re doing incredible things.
Your motto in life:
Why not you? See something you don’t like or don’t agree with? Why can’t it be you to change it?
On weekends, we’ll find you wearing:
PJS! Beautiful Olivia Von Halle PJs, but PJs nonetheless…
Your most recent beauty/fashion discovery and obsession:
Where does your credit card get the most use:
SPACE NK! Their choice of the newest beauty products is always chic and fun. You can’t have too many face creams right?