The Mamalode Starter Series is an exciting opportunity for us to introduce you to some of the amazing people we get to meet. Starting something takes enormous amounts of work, faith, help and community. Every week we'll share another story of starting. So, community of Mamalode, read up, get inspired and check out these wonder-folk.
Interview with Tina Fitch, founder of Hobnob app.
Tell us a little bit about your business and how you started it.
My newest baby, Hobnob, releases in the Apple App Store this month. Hobnob is a design-focused mobile app for creating gorgeous, custom event invitations and managing your party and guest communication, all from your phone. It’s the third startup of my career, but being the first as a mom, it has special meaning to me.
I had worked obsessively my entire career to build two companies from scratch, expanding internationally, spending weeks on a plane and 14 hour days in engineering meetings and conferences. After building my most recent software company, I felt ready to trade the relentless schedule and constant movement to finally focus on a different way of life and building a family. My husband and I ensconced ourselves in the country to start a farm, have children, and change our pace.
But it’s like that old saying: wherever you go, there you are! With one kid and another on the way, and volunteering with local accelerators and parent groups, I found myself with a dizzying social schedule—from baby showers to birthday parties, parent meetings to mom’s nights out. Keeping all the details straight was confounding. Watching my friends and peers struggle through a hodgepodge of email-based invitation services, or worse, the dreaded group text, the entrepreneur in me couldn’t help but notice a real need in the marketplace for a classy, convenient way to gather friends for an event.
So I organized a great team and together we have re-imagined event invitations for the highly efficient, visual, mobile era: Hobnob!
What do your kids think about your job?
They are quite young (1 and 4) but they know when “mommy is working” and that it requires my focus and attention. I love that they see that I am passionate about working and creating things, and that I thrive on it. But they know that if they need me, I am there for them. I feel they also deserve my full attention, and that is part of the deal I made with myself in starting another venture.
Having lived the start-up life a couple of times, I know the intense amount of work, the struggle, the roller coaster ride that it is. Frankly, the commitment I had to my previous companies and teams was why I delayed having children. I didn’t know if I’d be able to give proper attention to either the company or my kids if I did both at the same time. I knew other women did it, but could I be both the CEO and the mom I wanted to be? I had the good fortune of being raised by a successful working mother, her strength and independence were huge influences on me. But as a child I often felt in the way of her work and personal time. I swore I would never put myself in a position where my kids felt they were a nuisance or an unwelcome source of stress.
I tried to push the idea of doing another tech startup out of my mind while I was pregnant with my second child, but told myself that if I was still thinking about it when she was born, I would do it. And I have.
Now that I’m a mom and in the midst of my next startup, I realize that children provide perspective and balance that not only make me a better entrepreneur, but a better manager and customer advocate, as well. You have to be more targeted and effective with your time. You can ride the highs and lows with a more even keel, because you are forced to be grounded every time you look into your kids’ eyes. I directly learned what our client base wants and needs by being one of them: a mom juggling everything from work commitments to family schedules, and wanting to do it with efficiency, elegance, and a personal touch.
Tell us about a total mom+ biz fail?
I was in the middle of a product design session with my co-founders when my youngest was 6-months-old and still nursing. We started talking about use-cases for the app, and the topic of baby showers came up. Just mention of the word ‘baby’ made me letdown. My first clue that my entire blouse was flooded was when my partners suddenly seemed intently focused on the whiteboard instead of me. When I realized what had happened, we all had a good laugh. Thankfully, we are a family-oriented startup and quite a comfortable group. They got me a blow dryer for my shirt and we kept working.
Share with us a total win (brag away!)
I mentioned that this company is more special to me than the other businesses I have built because I am doing it as a new mother and in unlikely circumstances. I think, in the future, my fondest memories of building a company won’t be from my past experiences of jetsetting around the world in designer suits, or speaking at conferences in Berlin, London and Singapore. They will be of me on the farm at sunrise, standing at my kitchen island in well-worn pajamas with spit-up on my shoulder, designing product and writing up technical specifications for Hobnob on my computer, all while wearing my daughter in a baby carrier and trying to bounce her to sleep. It’s especially gratifying now that I can send out invites to that little one’s birthday party to all my ‘mommy’ friends who helped me beta test it during her first year.
What's your relationship with Mamalode?
I was a guest at Hawaii’s first Mother’s Day Eve event last year and loved it! I have been a fan and a follower ever since, and really appreciate the Starter Series (that once featured my MDE Host, Sara Smith of Wrappily) that gave me that extra encouragement to launch another startup even with two small children. It’s the act of coming together in real life to talk, laugh, and feel a common bond that really reinforces the dialogue we are fortunate enough to have online. Mother’s Day Eve was the kind of gathering that influenced Hobnob: gathering people for real, personal connections by using the best attributes of modern, mobile tools.