Katie Massie-Taylor and Sarah Hesz met in a rainy playground two years ago, with newborns on their fronts and chaotic toddlers at their feet.
It was a sleep-deprived and incoherent conversation between them, which finished with an awkward swapping of numbers. They joke it was the only chat-up line Sarah had ever used.
Fast-forward a few months and having become firm mummy friends, they realised that their relationship had been a lifeline in what would have been a really isolating time for women… 80% of mums admit to feeling lonely as their lives undergo the huge change of motherhood and they find themselves at home for long days with small children.
The solution was hatched and unveiled 6 months later– Mush, a free app to find other mums nearby with kids the same age and similar interests.
Now a year on from their launch, they have raised over £1m in investment from social impact funds, have over 60,000 mums around the UK (and pockets in Australia and US) making connections, and a growing team in their South West London office.
Their vision is that no mum does it alone, the world over.
Here, I interview this powerhouse of a duo.
Describe a typical day?
Katie: The morning is a scrum. Kids wake us both way earlier than we would like, but it gives us time to do the stuff around the house that gets neglected otherwise! Throwing something in the slow cooker, pulling washing out of the machine, setting kids up with fifteen bowls of cereal, responding to urgent user feedback, and getting ready to walk out the house. Our long-suffering brilliant nannies arrive to take over with the kids (both of us have wonderfully active 2 & 4 year olds).
Sarah: Our small team works together in Battersea. We all sit around the table and we work very closely and constantly swap ideas and tell each other when we’re being brilliant / stupid. We have so many plans for how the app will evolve. Managing our expectations and excitement over what is possible takes a lot of our Head of Product’s time! Our role within Mush has become marketing and sales, and networking whether we are talking with our champions (local mums spreading the word in their area), midwives and health visitors, with brands who want to work with us, or other business owners who have synergy with ours. It’s a cliche, but no two days are the same.
What do you feel are your biggest achievements?
Katie: We were two mums without tech experience (I worked in finance, Sarah in advertising), and we have managed to garner support and investment and create an app. Getting it off the ground on the back of a pitch deck and our passion was a huge achievement. Latterly, getting support from midwives and NCT, and reading emails from grateful mums who have benefited from the community… There is a mini whoop whenever we get a particularly heartfelt email through.
Sarah: Mush works for such a diverse range of mums. High achievers who were floored by the change in pace after having a baby, finding another career-focussed bezzie with the same age baby, mums who had preemie babies and missed their antenatal classes, adoptive mums who missed out on the camaraderie of pregnancy, mums who have suffered anxiety and depression and need other mums to share those experiences with and then there is the gaggle of 40 women who regularly use it as a way to organise meetups. Being a part of these stories is very rewarding.
What’s in your handbag/ satchel?
Katie: Baby wipes. I wonder how old my kids will be when I finally take them out of there. Computers are permanently loaded, wallet, lippy, chewing gum, and usually a soggy brown banana we have forgotten about. Our phone remains pretty steadily in our hands at all moments.
Sarah: My handbag is a disgrace, I couldn’t tell you want made up 50% of the weight I lug around (presumably business cards, lollypop sticks, craft projects that have been thrust into my hands as I leave the house). However, the reason for the bag’s existence is to transport my beloved laptop.
What are your ambitions in life?
Katie: The gag is that Sarah wants an MBE and I want nice holidays. Clearly we are both joking but it does happen to align the focus on both doing good by mums, and making Mush a successful business longer term. Helping mums is what drives us. Becoming profitable will mean we can grow bigger and make more of a difference to all of the mums around the world.
Sarah: We know we are fortunate to be doing something which is both a huge adventure and enormously fulfilling. My ambition is to make Mush a global success and demonstrate that women with an idea and a good dose of grit can achieve anything.
What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career you now know?
Katie: I wish I had known that my career would evolve, and it would turn out alright in the end. I was pretty unhappy in a couple of my jobs, but didn’t know how to get out. It took the change in perspective of becoming a mum, as well as the gap in the market I experienced first-hand, that led me here. Opportunities can come when you least expect them; be ready! Surrounding yourself with brilliant people you admire is also a pretty key learning I wish I could have followed from the start, but I think the mistakes we make.
Sarah: I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time assuming I was the least qualified person in the room. What I now know is that everyone is winging it 90% of the time. Like lots of us, I have struggled with self-confidence, but once you realise that we’re all mostly making it up as we go along then it is very very liberating.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Katie: We would absolutely love for Mush to be the go-to community for any new mum- that’s the ambition for our business. Personally, I would like to continue spending time with other women who want to get their business ideas off the ground. Being able to invest in great ventures that are presented to us would be brilliant; we certainly found the investor community to be predominantly male, and would love to redress that balance.
Sarah: The most important thing for me is that we continue to learn, improve and have fun along the way. We will continue to surround ourselves with brilliant people and ensure we make a product which can help all mums.
What advice would you give a budding tech entrepreneurs?
Katie: The advice we would give is you don’t have to understand tech to be a tech entrepreneur. Tech enables lots of businesses, but it really is only an enabler. What sits behind the tech is a need that you as a founder want to serve. Finding the tech experts that can bring your vision to life are more and more readily available, although they don’t come free (unless you find a technical co-founder). We would also say that with various free bits of software like prototyping technology, and cheap websites, often you can prove your product without any cost. We ran a trial on a free website locally and had an immediately positive response, which really helped make us credible to investors.
Sarah: I’d say stop planning and start doing. First get started, then get better!
Finally, happiness is…
Katie: Happiness is a glass of wine at the end of the day, cuddling kids, a brisk walk or jog on a fresh morning, bright coloured clothes, the rare but brilliant date nights with husbands and our Mush team whatsapp group!
Sarah: Listening in to my two kids earnestly discuss their favourite things.
You can download Mush for free on the App stores by searching for Mush or follow them on social media @mushmums