Who is entrepreneur Justine Roberts?
Co-founder of Mumsnet and sister site Gransnet, Startups.co.uk brings you everything you need to know about mumpreneur Justine Roberts…
Name: Justine Roberts
Business: Alongside friend Carrie Longton, Roberts founded Mumsnet in 2000. The site now generates over seven million visits and 50 million page views every month and preceded both Facebook and Twitter.
Why you should know her: Named in the Media Guardian’s 2010 power 100, as well as being voted the joint seventh most powerful woman in the UK by BBC’s Woman’s Hour, Roberts is consistently cited as one of Britain’s best female entrepreneurs. On Mumsnet’s 10th birthday, then Prime Minister Gordon Brown, described the site as a “great British institution”. Roberts is also married to BBC Newsnight editor and former deputy editor of The Guardian Ian Kratz.
Since founding the hugely influential Mumsnet in 2000, Justine Roberts has grown the business to the biggest network for parents – serving as the CEO for the past 16 years.
Alongside her services to entrepreneurship, she also works as a keynote and motivational speaker who encourages other women and mums to get into business.
Recently named as one of the top 50 European women in tech, Startups.co.uk has pulled together five need-to-know facts about one of the country’s most powerful women…
1. She had her ‘eureka’ moment while on holiday
Having previously worked as an economist, marketing strategist and sports journalist, Roberts left her job in an investment bank in London after getting pregnant. She said of her decision to focus on motherhood “I knew I didn’t want to work in an environment in which I had to pretend my family didn’t matter in order to get on.”
During a disastrous family holiday in Florida in which a so-called ‘family friendly’ resort was anything but, Roberts talked to other holidaying mums who agreed the need for a forum offering parental and motherly advice. It was from this experience that the idea for Mumsnet was born.
2. She launched Mumsnet at the worst possible time
They say in business that timing is everything. Fortunately, for Roberts and her co-founder it wasn’t, as Mumsnet was launched just as the dotcom bubble burst hindering any chance of investment.
Potential advertising on the site also suffered as internet-sceptical businesses were more comfortable broadcasting rather than ‘engaging’ online.
As a result, Roberts had to grow the site organically and no staff received a salary for the first five years.
However, Roberts now admits that this made her extremely resilient and she is grateful for the tough experience.
Speaking to The Huffington Post, she said: “I failed to raise any money for Mumsnet at the beginning of the journey, not least because of the dotcom bubble bursting, which was disheartening.
“But as it turned out, it was a blessing in disguise because the business model we had was unsustainable. If we'd had money, we would have just incurred too much overhead, as many other dotcoms did.”
3. She wants to see more mums have a career
A successful female businesswoman herself, Roberts believes there should be more women in high positions of power, particularly in the political sphere.
While she thinks gender quotas would be “barking up the wrong tree”, Roberts previously called on David Cameron to set an example by making Cabinet members job-share so male politicians could experience working at home.
From her time as a mumpreneur, she believes that other working mums often carry the burden of child rearing as well as their careers, and this can cause some women to lose out.
She told the Evening Standard: “Women drop out (of work) for lots of reasons, many of which are because there is total inequality in the home. The working women I see are still thinking about the play dates and the homework and the plumber. And it’s bloody hard.”
Roberts believes the biggest issue for women in the workplace is pretending their family life doesn’t exist.
Speaking to the Huffington Post, she said: “It's a sad reality that many women feel that they have to almost pretend they don't have a family to get on at work, and even sadder to think that they feel the need to ‘babyproof' their careers.
“There's a huge opportunity here for smart employers to create a culture change – and a generation of really motivated and loyal female employees – by supporting them when they choose to start a family, and offering a flexible approach to work which means that parents don't feel guilty for caring for a sick child or taking on the school run.”
4. She’s been the victim of cyber crime
While all entrepreneurs face challenges, few could ever imagine being the victim of personal cybercrime attacks.
In August 2015, in a ‘swatting attack’, a hoax caller told police that there was a murder and a hostage situation at Roberts’ private residence. A Police SWAT team was soon surrounding the family home, much to the terror of their au pair.
In a cyber-attack believed to be correlated, internet hackers from a twitter account with the handle @DadSecurity forced the Mumsnet site to temporally shut down. Fears were also raised that the passwords of the seven million Mumsnet members had also been compromised.
Of the attacks, Roberts told The Telegraph: “It was incredibly stressful and for a period I was waking up pretty much every night thinking there was an armed gunman in my house – irrationally, because obviously I knew it was a hoax, but it was a very anxious time.”
Mumsnet has also received less severe criticism from male rights campaign groups such as Fathers4Justice who alleged the site has an “anti-male agenda”. Their disapproval of the site even resulted in a naked protest outside Marks & Spencer, one of Mumsnet’s advertisers.
5. She created not just a business but a movement
No longer just a website, Roberts and her co-founder have expanded the business through multiple channels since its inception.
Gransnet, a sister site for grandparents, was launched in 2011.
Mumsnet has also published several parenting books based solely off the advice on its large online forum.
The site has been politically active in recent years and has initiated several nationwide campaigns such as the ‘Let Girls Be Girl’s campaign, which sought to end the premature sexualisation of girls, and ‘This Is My Child’, which surrounded making society an easier place for children with special needs.
The site also entered the political lexicon as the 2009 general election was referred to by some media corners as the ‘mumsnet’ election, due to the fact some politicians regarded mothers as potential floating voters.
Mumstock, a marketing conference for mothers, is now held annually. Referred to as ‘the mother of all conferences’, the event features guest speakers, panel Q & A discussions and research roundtables. Mumstock 2016 will be held on 15th March at BAFTA 195 Piccadilly.