How did Victoria Oldridge, Founder, Moxtree go from being a medical sales consultant to creating an online community for moms to connect? Learn her Aha moment, TIPS on how she learned to work with developers, market research, and on getting reputable press to cover MoxTree’s launch.
“You try for what you believe in.”
MoxTree connects moms and personalizes it by allowing them to connect based on common interests, similar stages (i.e. expectant women through to women with older children), and create their own groups on their profile page (i.e. book clubs, exercise clubs, professional networking clubs/groups). Everything a new or seasoned mom needs in one place! Connecting moms is now made easier and focuses on the entire modern mom!
READ the Transcript
Rachel: Hi. I’m Rachel Olsen, founder of Best Mom Products, where mompreneurs share their adventures in business. Today I’m talking with Victoria Oldridge, founder of MoxTree. MoxTree uniquely connects moms based on common interests and stages of motherhood along with ability to form groups all in one place. Today we learn Victoria’s ah-ha moment, how she went about building an online community, and how she manages it all with two children under the age of three. Wow. Welcome, Victoria. It’s so nice to have you. Let’s start with what exactly is MoxTree? When did you start this venture and how did you come up with the name?
Victoria: Well, the idea of MoxTree came about October of 2011. I was just immersed more in the mom world and I noticed that there had to be a more efficient way that mom’s could come together. As MoxTree came about, I’ll be honest. The first thing was I tried about 80 other domain names, and they were all take and all cost anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000 to actually obtain. So, I ended up just going down the line and thinking.
We came up with all these different things. And, finally, it really hit me. And I’m glad that this is the one that stuck and wasn’t taken. Mox comes from, obviously, moxie which symbolizes creativeness and adventuressness. And that’s moms I think are the epitome of courage and adventure. So, it made just sense that MoxTree and then tree symbolizing the branches of connections that mom’s will form on MoxTree, and it just seemed intuitive. That’s how MoxTree came about. And from there it was a matter of looking for a developer after October. And then I’d say November, December we started working on it and it’s been a real ride since then.
Rachel: What exactly is MoxTree?
Victoria: MoxTree connects moms based on commonalities. Basically, and this isn’t a way of branding it, but if you can basically you need a real quick visual, you take the concept of a dating site for men and women and you combine it with some features of today’s wave of social media, Facebook, in a sense that you could friend somebody. Combine those and that’s kind of what MoxTree is.
So, you would get onto the site, create a short profile. It takes two to three minutes. And from there, based on your age range, your geographical location, your children’s age range, and even ethnic background. And you could further filter based on your interest in fitness, professional networking, if you’re a stay at home mom, working outside the home, mom with multiples, single mom, interested in travel, a whole slew thing of things. From there, you would further filter. Basically, it’s as easy as hitting search moms. And then moms would populate the screen that have any of those overlapping commonalities with you. And from there you reach out to each other.
Rachel: Interesting as technology evolves as well in social media that now we’re actually organizing our friends is how I think of it. Our interests and our groups of friends all on one place.
Victoria: Perfect. It’s all on one place. It makes it more convenient. You know, woman and moms are dominating social media. They’re dominating all angles of social these days. Especially moms. And so this is a real quick, convenient way for a mom to connect with other moms that share her interests. I think we focus so much on connecting with other moms because we have a child in common, but what about other things about things we have in common with them. I mean, we had all of these interests prior to becoming mothers and because we have a child that doesn’t change. It adds a new dimension to our lives. It doesn’t change necessarily our goals and interests all together. So, I think, instead of purely connecting based on our children and our child’s centric interest, let’s focus on our mom/woman centric interest. So, that was a lot of the vision initially for MoxTree.
Rachel: How did you decide that this was the idea that you were going to go after and then how did you execute on it?
Victoria: Well, first I just saw a gaping hole in the way moms were coming together. It hit me like a ton of bricks. The more I was immersed in these mom groups and play groups and even fitness groups, just different things, it just hit me like a ton of bricks that the one commonality was children, but a lot of groups were falling apart because schedules were different, because some moms were working outside the home, some were stay at home moms, so their schedules weren’t aligning very well after maternity leave, for example.
In addition to that, in general, people just have other interests and it was the child that was bringing them together and that was it. So, the more this epiphany came about, I asked other moms and I said, “You know, how about a way we could together based on more commonalities and what are you thinking about your group that you’re in or this play group you’re in?” And they all said, “Hands down. This would be a great resource for me.” And I started pursuing developers.
What I would say in the development process is the one thing that I had to learn the hard way was communicating with developers. So, not only is it a woman communicating with a man, which is already Venus and Mars, but on top of that as a non-developer, myself, communicating with men who speak entirely different languages on top of being a man and speaking a different language. So, I learned the hard way that I needed to really be a lot more succinct the vision with the developers and find out more about the languages the developers wrote.
So, what I would say to everybody to a tech startup or anything that involves an Internet platform which many are these days, most are, is really if you don’t admit to yourself that this is not your forte, know where your strengths are know where your challenges are and find someone who doesn’t have that challenge, that can really help bridge that gap because it makes everything a lot more efficient. You save money and there’s a lot less pulling out the hair. So, my husband has been great for that.
Rachel: In doing your market research, how do you do that? How do you determine what people like? Is it based on what they click on? Are you doing A/B testing? Can you talk a little bit about that?
Victoria: It’s really basic. It’s just basic surveying and getting out there and going to different meet-ups that are mom centric and asking groups of moms. It’s basic data pooling right now and basic surveying. And even though we keep all of this documented over time and see what the vast majority of people are leaning toward or what they prefer and then we sort of make our modifications to the site and our vision through that.
So, right now, its, I would say, kind of primitive in the way that, but primitive and basic, it always works in a lot of ways, and this is one of them. I’m working on getting some more consulting as I move forward here. I haven’t been very proactive in pursuing funding yet at this point, but at some point when I become a little bit more assertive in that department, maybe I’ll enter consultants and things like that that help give us some tips on that front.
Rachel: You know, where you were doing your launch, I’m going to go back a little bit, you were featured on Women 2.0, Geekwire, Macaroni Kid, Chat with Women, how did you about getting this press in the beginning?
Victoria: Well, I would still consider ourselves in the beginning now. A lot of this press has been over the past two or three months, so it’s all been very recent for the most part. But I would say the basics of hitting the ground and being persistent with people. I think a lot of times people are afraid to pester other people and bug them, but if you really feel strongly and passionate about your products, it resonates. I think people hear that and they see it.
On top of it, it helps if they really believe that you have a great product as well, obviously. But a lot of it has been hitting the ground. I mean, I have hired a little bit in the way of PR, a publicist to help, but it’s been so minimal. And even that traction has been, I would say, a little bit less that what I’ve been able to do on my own. So, I think at the end of the day hiring someone through the PR route is fantastic. They may have connections you don’t have. They can phrase things in a more succinct way about your product sometimes than you can. They can figure out new angles and help you figure out new ways to present your product.
But I also think at the end of the day you know your passion about it more than anyone else, and it comes through your voice more than anyone else’s. So, I really pursued a lot of this myself, and it’s been through word of mouth, too. I attend meet-ups that protect centric and there they have connections to someone else. You know, it’s a lot networking, too.
Rachel: Right. So how are you juggling all that? You have two little ones that are we are saying three and almost a year and a half, so how often are you working on this? How do you find time to go to these meet-ups? Can you talk a little bit about how you juggle the work/life balance?
Victoria: I have a fantastic husband, and I don’t say that lightly. I think for most people anything is possible. If you have a goal, anything is possible. But I’m not sure this would be possible without the husband that I have. So, he and I get a little choked up about actually. I have to try and [inaudible 10:00]. But he has been such a support, and he believes in this vision too. He’s become as passionate about it as I am. So, that has been hugely helpful.
He might sometimes go to work extra early in the morning and come back at a time that I can attend meet-up for an hour and we do the tradeoff with the kids. Here, throw them up in the air and then he caught them. Now I’m going to run off and I get home and he throws them back. Literally, that is how we do it minus the actually throwing. But that is how it happens. We work together at night very often. We will up till 11:00, 12:00, 1:00, 2:00 in the morning sometimes, many times over the past six months working on this together. And if the children nap, if they nap.
Rachel: Oh, no. You’re already at that phase.
Victoria: We’re working and so it’s not easy. There’s nothing easy about, but when you believe in what you’re doing and you are excited about, there’s the challenges. Absolutely, there’s the challenges and you sometimes say to yourself, what am I doing, you know? But you’re in the middle of it and you’re passionate, so you keep going. It’s like another child.
Victoria: It’s like talking on another child, another child under three. Not an independent child, obviously. So, it really feels crazy, but I feel I’m not doing this the conventional way. I’m not putting 3000 percent into this because I can’t. I have two children that also need me. So, I’m not doing this, I would say, the conventional startup way, but I’m very much a believer that you try for what you believe in. And even if you’re not doing it the conventional way, you give it your all and there’s nothing bad that can come out of it. Maybe a little bit of money went down the drain.
But you can sit back and say I brought a product to market, something I really believe in and the people in the networking and the challenges and the wisdom and knowledge you gain along the way can always be applied to everything else in your life moving forward. So, I’m a huge advocate of just taking the plunge even though it feels like you’re jumping off a cliff without a parachute.
Rachel: I feel like the way you just phrased that entire thing is exactly how I feel and how I felt and how every mom entrepreneur friend that I talked to feels the same way. It’s like, what is the bare minimum? What if all of this failed tomorrow? Or you decided not to do it for some reason at the ultimate lowest point. And it’s like, you have amazing new connections and amazing new skill set. You’ve done something. And when you talk about it being your next child, I have a very supportive husband, too. So, I definitely can relate to you. He’s more excited about this, and he worked from home today so I could do this and then go to a meet up later.
Rachel: You know, and it’s like I recognized and I talked to plenty of women who don’t have that and who also say their advice to everyone is find a support system. And it just depends on what your support system is, whether it’s childcare or what have you. But having that as, you know, he made sure that I was set up properly before he left. You know, it’s nice.
Victoria: Right. All those little things add up when you’re innovator. You have to feel like you have a team, even if they’re not functionally working on the project with you, which mine actually happens to be helping with the communication aspect of things. At least if they’re helping you on the family front however they can to ease you up a little. I mean, it’s all invaluable. So.
Rachel: Right. You’re right. We’re both very lucky. So, I have two questions as we wrap up. One would be we didn’t talk about, how do you plan monetize that? For the person that’s listening that says, “Oh. This is great. Is this a paid service?” Can you address that?
Victoria: At this point, this service is free for moms to join and do their profile and connect with other moms. There may be features that we add in the feature here that may be free, but we’re not there yet. My basic goal as to function is to focus on the functionality of the site which is bringing moms together. So, that at this point is free.
Monetizing will be on advertising. So, right now I’m actually having real estate reconfigured on the site. This is one of our mistakes in the beginning is we thought, well, that our revenue stream is going to be advertising. Yet, we didn’t enough real estate on the site for the advertisers. So, we have the functionality down but not the real estate for advertising. So, then people started coming to me over the past couple of months about advertising. I said, “Just a minute. We’ll be back in a week, and I’ll have the real estate there.” So, it will be advertising and that’s the focus for now. Obviously, business models change. Things evolve and maybe things will be a little different in the future, but this is my focus at this point.
Rachel: What advice do you wish somebody would have given you before you took the plunge into all of this?
Victoria: To take a deep breath a little more often. I think when you, like anything, like I said before, I used the analogy of this feeling like another child. When you take on a child, you don’t do it lightly. And you put your whole heart and soul into it. And if the child seems like they may not be okay for a minute, you panic and rightly so. But at the same time, I think, as mothers or entrepreneurs, we have to take a deep breath and realize that things are pretty good and we’re on the right track and just recalibrate a little more often. And I think most people doing any startup, they don’t ever talk about taking a deep breath and recalibrating and taking things in stride a little bit more. They say I’m working 24 hours a day, I’m stressed out, I’m tired, and you don’t hear any more about the balance aspect of it. And I think you get afraid that if you let it go for a minute, it’s going to just fall apart.
And for your own survival and insanity and those around you, you have to do that. It’s imperative. And, yes, it’s a risk. You wonder if you let it go for a day, a couple days, what’s going to happen? But the reality is, you’re probably going to come back to it. You’re going to pick up more rested, and you’re going to keep pushing ahead more efficiently than when you were when you were frazzled. I know everything is a rush in this industry and everything is times of the essence, but life is still there too. And if you want to feel healthy and continuing with that life, you have to learn how to separate a little bit from the project.
Rachel: Yeah. I think that’s great advice. And I think you had mentioned earlier, which struck me as this might not be this conventional way to do it, but I feel like in today’s age, there is no conventional way. It’s interesting. People compare it to I’ve heard the analogy from other tech moms who are doing tech startups, like frustrated, saying, “Well, I’m not 24 or 25. I don’t have 24/7 to spend on this, you know. But, I also have a lot more experience and knowledge that I’m bringing to this. And I can hire someone to do things that maybe at 24 or 25 I would have done.” And so, I think that when you mentioned not as conventional, I think times, obviously, are changing and that’s what I’m learning from doing these interviews with women like. And it’s refreshing to hear people say the same things. You’re going for quality. You’re going for something that people really want and you’re building it the right way. It may take longer, but, hopefully, it will stick around a lot longer, you know.
Victoria: Exactly. Exactly. And the reality is, whether you’re a single woman, you’re a mom, whatever it is, you have other interests as well. You can’t if this becomes a huge part of your life, but you have to maintain that level of balance. And I know the more balance is so elusive these days. Everyone says balance, balance like it’s going out of style, but the reality is at the end of day it’s really important.
And I think there’s been controversy these days in articles like the recent one in the Atlantic where he said, the title was Why Women Still Can’t Have It All. Whether you think you can or you can’t, I think you really have to say this is my version of having it all. It’s all in small doses, but it’s your way of piecing together your version of having it all. So, instead of getting caught up on doing everything, create your own customized idea of what your version of having it all it is and be okay with that version.
Rachel: Victoria, thank you. You’ve given a lot of great advice and I wish you the best of luck with MoxTree. I hope everyone out there listening goes and checks it out at www.moxtree.com.