Interview with Founder Carole Juge, By Dawn Z Bournand, Business and Life Coach, Photograph – Douglas Cabel for alike
Deciding to take the entrepreneurial leap is a daring decision no matter where you are based, but sometimes getting out of your comfort zone, immersing yourself in a new environment and noticing what is working well around you can be the ideal creative stimulation to guide you to the perfect business idea. That is exactly what happened for Mommyville.com founder Carole Juge. Though born and raised in France, Carole found her first spark of motivation and enthusiasm for the entrepreneurial life while living abroad in the United States. She has now come back to France to launch an online community that she believes will create the support and information network for moms and moms-to-be that has been missing in France.
Carole, can you share a bit about you and your background?
I grew up in France and I moved to the US for my Master’s Degree in 2004. I lived in Chapel Hill for a while, I fell in love with it, I fell in love with the States, and I decided to stay for my Ph.D. So I got into a joint program with the Sorbonne in Paris where I could study in the US. I attended Brown and later Emory on research scholarships and I graduated with my PHD in American Literature in 2010. I specialized in Cormac McCarthy and the modern American West, the establishment of the American Adam, and so on, so definitely not the typical entrepreneur background!
Where did the idea for your company, Mommyville come from?
It came to me when my sister got pregnant for the first time. She had just moved to Brittany with her partner and she had a difficult pregnancy, she had to stay at home a lot and she hadn’t had time to meet anyone. So she basically was alone for her first pregnancy and later when her daughter was born, she found it very difficult to meet new moms like herself. I was in the US at the time and I was shocked because in the US, there are support groups for, literally, everything. In the US the sense of community is very strong and it’s so easy to meet new people and make new friends that I found it very sad that nothing like that existed in France. Especially for young mothers, and expecting mothers, who definitely need the support and the feedback from other mothers.
What was the moment you realized you had a winning idea?
I talked to my friend Sonia Zarowsky, who is an HEC graduate and Marketing Director for a fashion company (ChicTypes.com), and she thought the idea was brilliant and encouraged me to get into it even though it was not my field – I am an assistant professor at the Université Paris 12, so motherhood and the online world were really not my areas of expertise.
What were the first steps in starting to create your business?
I guess that’s where my researcher background helped a lot. I read a lot of books. A LOT. To learn stuff that people would usually learn at business schools. I’m lucky enough to have many friends in the business world so I talked to them, I listened to their advice, and benefitted from their experience. I then took it from there and gathered all that I had learnt from everyone who shared with me and I built a richer project from their experience and expertise.
Christophe Raynaud from ISAI was probably the one person who was the most decisive in the process – I met him at a time when I was already considering starting my business very seriously, but I needed the extra kick, the extra push. And when I heard what he had to say, he was so inspiring, so endearing ..that was my extra push. Meeting him was the moment I decided I couldn’t NOT do it. Which I guess is what starting a business is all about.
What do you find are the biggest differences in being an expat entrepreneur vs. an entrepreneur based in your home country?
Bureaucracy in France makes everything much more difficult, and much longer. The start-up industry, however, is so dynamic even in France and so positive, it feels very American. I guess that’s probably one of the only business circles in France that resembles that in the US, because it’s so upbeat, and forward-moving. And the community is incredible, the support we receive is exceptional. I do strongly feel that we are privileged to have that.
What is MommyVille, who is it for and how can it help expats?
MommyVille is a social network dedicated to expecting mothers and young mothers. You sign up by creating a profile of you as a woman and a mother or mother-to-be, and on the website you can find mothers with a profile close to yours and connect, on line or IRL (In Real Life) at the MommyClub meetings. Everything is free, and will always be free. Our goal is just to help mothers live their pregnancy and maternity the best way they can, to forge new friendships, and to create a network of supportive women who are going through the same thing.
What are the long term goals for Mommyville?
My goal is to make sure women and mothers find all they need on the website and to continue providing that. To give them a great platform that they enjoy, where they feel safe to connect and share. That’s my ultimate goal. To become the reference for mothers to get useful, quality information and to make mothers happy.
There are 8.7 million digital moms just in France. We hope to have 300 000 members in the next two years and take it as far as we can.
If you had one piece of advice to give to someone who is considering taking the entrepreneurial path, what would it be?
My advice is to do your homework first, and to take some time to think about your idea. It’s easy to fall in love with an idea and assume that everyone will equally fall in love with it. You can lose perspective and to get biased on your own idea. But at the same time, I guess you have to own it, you have to be passionate about it and to be ready to sacrifice a lot of your time, a lot of your energy for it. That perspective is hard to find, it’s hard to get to. But it’s all worth it.
Last but not least, where can we find out more about Mommyville?
You can go to www.mommyville.fr , create your profile, and start sharing your experience as a mom with other moms!
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