A Life Well Lived
As part of our journey to redefine Wealth we are exploring what “A Life Well Lived” means: interviewing artists, entrepreneurs, explorers, and change-makers as they share their stories and ask “what is my life well lived?” Here we talk to Katie Massie-Taylor, co-founder of the social network app, Mush, about her business and what living well means to her.
After meeting in a London playground, Katie and her co-founder, Sarah, both realised that as mums to two young children, they had a very similar need. Their chance meeting, that had blossomed into a friendship, was something that all young mums needed and yet so often struggled to find. And so, in April of 2016, Mush was born.
“Mush was born from a very real need that me and my co-founder Sarah experienced when we had our second babies. We were floored with tiredness and those days with kids were endless and hard to fill. We were used to offices and people and chocka diaries, and suddenly we were ‘home people’ at the beck and call of tiny kids. It was really isolating (we since know that 90% of new mums feel lonely). Sarah approached me in a playground and we became great mates. A few months later we were getting all soppy about how the friendship had ‘saved us’, and we thought, “why isn’t there an easier way to make local mum friends?”. The idea of a friend-making app started to gain traction, and we quickly took it to investors to raise seed funding and get it off the ground.”
A free app that connects mums with others in their local area, Mush has since become the #1 local social network for making “mum friends”.
“You can find new friends with kids the same age and the same interests, see stuff going for sale in your area, join local conversation groups and see many of the free meet-ups mums are organising. Essentially, Mush exists to bring new mums together. Because it’s way better when we do it together!”
On Launching the App
“I was in the City, broking derivatives for 8 years, but it had lost it’s appeal as I started a family. I spent a couple of years trying everything else I could: PR, sales, community start-ups, art commissioning platforms and even elite matchmaking whilst living in New York. Turns out I was searching for something I could help people with, that I was an expert in. Motherhood opened a brand new set of problems I was desperate to solve, and a renewed drive to do something that ‘counts’.”
“The fateful teatime chat with Sarah (whose background was in advertising) happened in April 2015, and the app launched in April 2016 (getting an app off the ground isn’t an overnight thing!). That period was an evolution, from ‘let’s see if people invest’, to handing in notice, to getting nannies and working full time. Mush now has hundreds of thousands of mums from the UK and Australia and we have been responsible for over 1.5m friendships, which we are extremely proud of.”
At the time both Katie and Sarah were juggling young children – and everything else that comes with raising a young family – when they decided to launch Mush. So what was that journey like?
“The journey from concept to launch was so exciting. We had ad hoc childcare which was always challenging, but we were basically trying to impress each other as new mates, and competing on what we could achieve over nap time or after the kids had gone to bed. We were the queens of list making and document sharing, iterating on proposals to get investment, jumping in cabs to get to investor meetings organised that morning, calling each and every contact that knew anything about apps or raising money. We hustled, we read books and we tried to get a base knowledge of every aspect we would need to know about. It was the most fast-paced and efficient progress either of us had ever made, but it never felt like work!”
On Being an Entrepreneur
“I am a pretty headstrong person, and I always struggled to take instructions! People who start businesses often say they make terrible employees. I don’t think that was the case for me, but I definitely went above and beyond for my own thing in a way I didn’t think I was driven to. Becoming a business was a gradual thing; until we started to hire a team (a year after launch) it just felt like a fun project! I absolutely love it, now.”
With the benefit of hindsight, having launched and now running a successful business, one of the most commonly asked questions is surely, ‘is there anything that you would have done differently?’
“I mean, it’s more like what would we have done the same?! Having a long term view on tech and product would have been extremely helpful. Getting in specialists in this area would have saved a lot of time (though potentially expensive as an initial outlay). Remembering that the design phase is way cheaper and less complex than the building phase, we could have done with testing things more. But hey, responding to user feedback for 18 hours per day was an extremely valuable exercise in order to be obsessed about what our audience wanted. If things had been perfect from the start, we would have missed that constant dialogue.”
And when it comes to working for yourself, to running your own business, does it ever feel like the daily grind?
“There are some things that will never feel 100% fun. Reconciling accounts, managing spreadsheets, reporting bugs. But on the whole, Mush has been my third baby. It’s part of the family. It’s not work.”
From the outside you might think that would allow you more freedom or flexibility. But is that really true?
“Running your own business means that for a long while, you are on call day and night. But (mostly) everything can wait a couple of hours, so yes, clocking off to work flexibly around other life stuff is less complicated when you are in charge of your own thing. We would love to see everyone able to work as flexibly as founders can.”
“I joke that Mush is my third baby. At the start, Mush and my kids were entirely the same thing- attention went to the baby who was the most in need at the time. The minute we formalised our working hours and hired nannies to look after our real kids, it started to separate. It’s no different now to other working parents… A constant juggle!”
“To not view starting a business as a massive life change. To just get on and do it and take little steps towards proving the concept. Starting with a high level business plan or deck is such a useful exercise, even if you don’t need investment. If you are able to cover all aspects of the product/ launch/ sales/ marketing in a few bullet points a page, you will clearly see what you need to do to get there.”
“Success is eliminating loneliness amongst new mums and giving every new mum at least one new connection for that amazing – but tricky – period of the ‘Mumsition’. Personally, being able to do Mush and be at all the salient life events of my family when they need it (something we insist all the team do too!), is pretty cool.”
On Living a Good Life
“Feeling safe, getting out in the fresh air, working on something meaningful, spending time with my kids, drinking wine with my husband, haribo sweets.”
“Personal fulfillment for me – selfishly! – is usually at 7.30am on a riverside run listening to happy pop playlists.”
Wealth for Katie is “Being able to do everything you would like to do, at least once, even if it means sacrificing in the short-term.” And when it comes to retirement, Katie says that she pictures “The water. A river or sea view – better still – a boat travelling from place to place and seeing the world.”