Mums on the underground
Jennie Moeller had years of experience as a web developer before she had her son a year and a half ago. She initially planned to go straight back to work, but kept delaying because she didn’t feel it was the right time. Earlier this year, however, she started to get itchy feet. She had loved her job, but she didn’t want to go back to the full-time grind.
When her son was born she had looked around to find information to help her negotiate all the stairs and escalators on the London Underground with her baby. She was amazed there was nothing that could help her. She decided to do something about it herself.
"I was contracting as a web developer for different companies in London before I went on maternity leave. Going back to work as a permanent employee was not appealing and I knew that it would be hard to get part-time freelance work. I also had no idea until I had my son how hard it would be to leave him," she says.
"I had lived in the US for 13 years where it’s normal for people to take just six weeks off and put their babies into full-time daycare. When Leo was born, though, I didn’t want him in care with someone else looking after him for such a long time. Six months off became nine months and then a year and I was till not ready to go back. Then I got the itch to do something for myself. I was lucky to enjoy my job. The idea to create an iphone app to help mums travelling around London with babies had stuck in my head."
She found it hard to motivate herself at first, but gradually she set to work researching all the data she needed on different stations. She had made a list of the stations she wanted to visit which included the big ones like Baker Street with a lot of interchanges. She spent hours underground taking notes on all the exits and entry points. "People thought I was lost as I was wondering around for so long," she says.
She also consulted friends who lived in different parts of London. It was a complex process, for instance, in Baker Street there are two exits for the Jubilee Line, one of which has stairs and the other of which has an escalator. She had to figure out how to deliver the information in a way which wasn’t confusing.
"Some mums are confident bumping down the stairs with a pushchair, but might not be so happy trying to get up stairs. A lot of mums, though, avoid the Underground and use buses because they feel intimidated by the tube. However, when they travel by bus it can take longer, which can be difficult if you have a fretful child," says Jennie.
She started work on the project in March and has been working on it during Leo’s nap times, in the evenings and while Leo is at nursery two mornings a week. "I was always on the computer," she says. So much so that she got a bit run down and had to cut back on her evening work, particularly as Leo has been waking up in the night more due to teething pains.
Jennie’s husband, who is a creative designer, has helped her with the logo for the app, which is called Mumderground.
She had wanted to incorporate the London Underground sign, but it cannot legally be used as it is. Her auntie suggested working in a pram image to the tube sign. Jennie researched pram pictures and sketched out a design and her husband finessed it. The app was submitted for review to Apple and was launched two weeks ago.
Jennie says the feedback from mums has been great and she has had some mumpreneurs getting in touch about other iphone app ideas. Some of the feedback may be incorporated into a second version of the app, for instance, suggestions for adding in which stations have baby-changing facilities and for journey planning, which is slightly more complex. She also plans to contact Transport for London about the app.
Jennie says she has learnt a lot from doing the app, which she has never done before. "I was missing out on a part of my life," she says. "There is a self-satisfaction from achieving something. I have learnt new skills and I feel I have pushed myself. I also feel connected to a community of mumpreneurs," she says. "I didn’t want to work full time, but I feel I have now got a really happy middle point and I want to keep up the momentum."
More information: www.mumderground.com. If you have any feedback on the app, email email@example.com. Mumderground is also on facebook (www.facebook.com/mumderground) and twitter (www.twitter.com/mumderground).