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Date
16 April 2013

Business Shapers: Justine Roberts

Mumsnet was set up in January 2000 by Roberts, a sports journalist, and Carrie Longton, a TV producer.

The origins of Mumsnet go back to 1999 when Roberts went on holiday with her one-year-old twins to a family-friendly resort that turned out to be less than family friendly. She came back thinking how rewarding it would be to have somewhere for people to pool their knowledge as well as give advice and guidance. The company was launched a year later with exactly that aim.

Transcript

Business Shapers: Justine Roberts

Justine Roberts

Mumsnet CEO and Co-founder

Business Shapers from Mishcon de Reya

In association with Jazz FM’s Jazz Shapers

The initial inspiration for Mumsnet was a disastrous family holiday and all the parents who were there at this resort were bemoaning their choice and at that point I thought ‘ooh wouldn’t it have been nice to find out about it before we left’.  There’s this thing called the internet where people can swap ideas so maybe that’s an idea for a website.  I roped in a few people to help me.  We came to the conclusion that if you can give advice about holidays think about all the other stuff you can tap into, so it was not a genius idea, it was really very simple.  I personally was in the right place at the right time.  I mean, I’d come out of working for ten years in the city.  You know the great thing about the internet is, there are quite low barriers to entry, you don’t need a lot of money and I didn’t have a lot of money so that was useful. 

Six months after we started the whole sort of web bubble burst so our business plan quite frankly wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.  We essentially grew organically, we did it from our back bedroom, we didn’t have a huge cost base, we didn’t have a fancy office in Clerkenwell and we didn’t have to hire and fire a load of people.  For a very long time when we had meetings, we would say to people, they’d say ‘oh can we come to your office’ and we’d say ‘no, we’ll come to you because our offices are being refurbished’.  As many people who are much better at business than me have discovered it’s quite hard to make a buck out of the internet, even Rupert Murdoch finds it hard to make a buck out of the internet and it took a long time for us to go into the black and pay ourselves a decent salary and we now employ over 50 people.  We had a choice to stay small or grow a bit and we chose to grow a bit. 

We have this huge stakeholder in our business and it’s called you know the 5 million people who visit us each month.  Without them we are nothing.   So if we don’t listen to them, we would be pretty stupid.  The main thing is to think about why you are doing something, you know, are you doing it because you think there’s a real need for it or are you doing it because you think ‘oh I’d quite like to be a business woman’.  You’ve got to follow the utility and need of your idea.  Listen to what your audience wants and keep listening and keep asking and they’ll point you in the right direction.

Business Shapers from Mishcon de Reya

In association with Jazz FM’s Jazz Shapers