If you have been pregnant, lived or simply communicated with a pregnant woman, you will notice an underlying trend; especially with the 21st century mother-to-be. They are on an endless quest for information. What to do, what not to do, what to eat, what to drink, where to go, why does the urine smell so bad? Why is the poop so dark? It does seem like a million and one different things are happening to you at the same time and you can’t live in your Ob/Gyn’s office perpetually. So what do we do? We browse. We google and bing and yahoo, until we get a myriad of often confusing and conflicting answers. Somehow, we stumble along and get to our due dates, yippee!!!
However, these two women decided that it was time to end the stumbling; mothers and mothers-to-be are entitled to accurate, experiential truths when they go online for information. Thus Yasmine and co-founder Zeinab Samir [formerly co-workers in an internet start-up] set about creating a website that offers pregnancy and parenting advice for mothers in Egypt and Arab Africa; the first of its kind in the Arab world. With family friend Shereen El Sammaa – now the site’s marketing director – they hit upon the idea for a site which is verified by healthcare professionals. In their initial discussions about the site, Zeinab explains that they described it as “Tools for moms to become supermoms, and then we kept saying, Supermum, until we decided to tweak it, so it is familiar for Arab mothers.” They settled on SuperMama, Zeinab explains, “Since mama is what we call our mothers.” They began to research, conduct feasibility studies and speak to mothers on an informal basis.
Embarking on this venture was a big risk for Yasmine. She invested her life savings in the project without, “any clear direction of where it was going to go,” she told BBC Arabic’s Marwa Amer and Tom Santorelli. Assistance was delivered on the wings of the MIT Arab Enterprise Forum Business Plan Competition, where entrepreneurs from across the Arab world pitch their business ideas. Out of 3,800 applicants, Yasmine’s startup, SuperMama was one of the 30 semi-finalists. Yasmine picked up invaluable contacts in the IT industry that helped develop the business model and pointed out its weaknesses. They also won the NexGen IT Competition, an Innovation Competition based in Poland, and Arabnet Cairo. They were chosen as semi-finalists in the Google Ebda2 Competition. Participating in, and winning these competitions granted the duo an invaluable networks of mentors and investors. They have been mentored by Thomas Mygdal-Madsen, as well as Shama Kabani from the US. Aside from the workshops they have participated in, they have also received mentoring and advice locally in Cairo. Through these connections, Yasmine and Zeinab have taken the opportunity to learn from other people’s experiences, and mistakes. Yasmine says: “They tell you their lessons learnt – what worked and what didn’t.”
What’s Different? SuperMama prides itself on providing extra features that are not available on similar sites. It provides online forums in which mothers share advice. They also intend to remain non-political and non-religious so that the site can be used by anyone and everyone across the Arab world. SuperMama provides information, without attempting to influence readers with personal opinions. It also provides localized service for the Egyptian and Middle Eastern audience. According to[ Yasmine, “The Middle East and North Africa is so different from Europe and the US, not only in how people react and are motivated, but also in the details, like how much babies should weigh and vaccination schedules and how to handle teenagers. That’s where SuperMama stands out. That’s why our experts are Arab, or Egyptian. They know what mamas need to know. Within 4 days of launching, the site received over 5,400 visits, over 200 registered users and a significant following on Facebook and Twitter.
Modus Operandi: The site has a large network of researchers and writers comprised of mothers and includes doctors, teachers, psychologists, nutritionists and exercise experts – all volunteers – who provide the essential final checks. They work from home and meet once a month to discuss upcoming topics and articles. SuperMama offers content in Arabic and English divided into six main sections: Pregnancy, Parenting, Kitchen (nutrition, recipes), Homes (cleaning, budgeting, planning a party), Me time (exercise, diet, health fitness, balance), and SuperPapa, a portal dedicated to helping men better understand mothers and mothers-to-be.
Revenue: SuperMama was projected to have an annual turnover of over $1.6m after its first year, making its money in the traditional online way: Selling advertisement banners, sponsorships, and product placements inside the articles and videos. It has also worked out deals with affiliate sales sites to provide specialised discounts for mothers keeping an eye on their budgets. It still faces financial difficulties – but there are a few tax breaks open to the business. But for Yasmine, it’s not simply about the money: “We didn’t want to have just another commercial product; we wanted an idea that made a difference.”
Future Plans: Yasmine has big plans for the site in the future, including the expansion of current online tools which help mothers manage their time and budgets, and directories of local services such as nurseries, paediatricians and maternity clothes shops. She hopes one day “the word SuperMama would be the first to jump into the mind of every mother or pregnant woman when looking for information”. They want to reach out to all mothers and mothers-to-be and help them with information, shared knowledge, a community to rely on, and tools to improve the quality of their lives. “Who knows, maybe by then, we’ll also be on radio or TV,” Yasmine opined, and Zeinab added, “Or have our own radio or TV station.” They would also love to mentor people and start the Egyptian Entrepreneur Ecosystem; give back a little of the help they received when they started off.
Still holding on to that idea? It might be time to put some action where your dreams are. You may be surprised at the help you will receive. Go build!!!
© 2013 – 2017, Jennifer Nkem-Eneanya. All rights reserved.