Life is here to test us and in doing so, it moves us and helps us evolve. It’s the ultimate journey—no matter how many times you ask, “are we there yet?”, there’s no way of knowing if you’ll ever reach a definitive endpoint, and often the route you planned to take to get there is littered with detours and roadblocks and choices that throw a spanner in the works. That’s why when we experience something truly life-changing – pregnancy, career setbacks, success, loss – it’s sometimes difficult to comprehend life beyond it. These are the experiences that shape us and open doors that otherwise may have remained closed.
Melinda Nicci is invested in sports and fitness – she studied sports psychology and worked as a trainer – so when she fell pregnant and was advised to stop exercising completely, she started to question the medical advice she had received. “I quickly realized there was a lack of relevant adequate information around healthy exercise during pregnancy, as well as resources surrounding all aspects of a woman’s health and wellbeing during this time,” she explains. Having a first-hand understanding of what pregnant women and new moms needed, Melinda was inspired to create Baby2Body—a website and app that provides women with daily inspiration and week by week pregnancy tips on how to live a healthier lifestyle throughout their pregnancy and beyond.
By focusing on the mom and her lifestyle, Baby2Body empowers women to have the kind of pregnancy that their mind and body needs, rather than feeling restricted or limited. “It’s like having a best friend in your back pocket that’s always there when you need them most, with the right kind of guidance,” Melinda says. Aside from finding out how Baby2Body evolved, we spoke to Melinda about the challenges she had growing her business, how she broke through an especially competitive market, and how she navigated the world of venture capitalism to fund the growth of Baby2Body.
When I was pregnant with my first child, my healthcare professional had no concrete information for me on how to safely stay in shape during my pregnancy. In fact, I was effectively told to avoid exercise altogether. I was an athlete and a fitness trainer, and exercise was a core component of my lifestyle – and I couldn’t believe that not exercising was the healthiest option for myself, or my baby. When I went looking for my own answers, I quickly realized there was a lack of relevant and adequate information around healthy exercise during pregnancy, as well as resources surrounding all aspects of a woman’s health and wellbeing during this time. This made me to want to create a resource for women that inspired and enabled them to maintain a healthier lifestyle. Baby2Body started as a service-based business for women in the Greater London area, but my goal was always to grow it into a global concept, and create an all-in-one resource for happy and healthy living, through pregnancy and beyond.
The platform is now fully digitized to reach global audiences and deliver the ultimate inspiration to women everywhere. Currently, Baby2Body provides digestible and actionable content that is specific to each woman’s day of pregnancy or week of new motherhood, delivered through an iOS app or email subscription.
We know every new and expecting mom is completely focused on the health and happiness of her baby, and that’s why we’re here to completely focus on her health and happiness. We stay with our users every step of the way during that early journey of motherhood: from when she’s planning for pregnancy all the way through to life with a toddler. We’re all about providing inspiring and uplifting content – so new and expecting moms can feel empowered and motivated, rather than limited or restricted. Many pre and postnatal resources have overwhelming amounts of information that’s not always relevant to the woman reading it, which can lead to a lot of fear, anxiety and uncertainty.
HOW THE IDEA CAME FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
I’d moved to London just before my first pregnancy and my mom and most of my family lived nearly 6,000 miles away from me – so there were many long distance calls! I definitely reached out to her on everything I needed and wanted to know about becoming a mom and being a mom. But the biggest piece of advice that I was looking for was information I could trust on how to maintain my active lifestyle during pregnancy. My mom didn’t have those answers because it was definitely a different time to when she was pregnant. But what I was looking for was research-backed, expert insight that specifically looked at exercise during pregnancy.
THE HIGHS & LOWS OF OPERATING IN A COMPETITIVE SECTOR
We had to find that niche; we had to be very different to everything else that was out there because it is such a noisy space. We focused on making sure we were unique from top to bottom – from our branding, to our product offering, to our tone of voice, and everything in between. When you are in such a busy space but do something different, people notice. It is definitely a challenge breaking into a crowded competitive landscape, but it’s also been fulfilling to identify where those holes exist and then work to fill them.
You have to commit to doing proper research on the competitive landscape, talking to potential customers as often as you can, and understanding from real people what is important to them and what their biggest needs are. Then you need to take a serious look at what you want to create and honestly decide whether it can add value to people’s lives.
Many of the other services out there are focused primarily on the baby – and the woman almost becomes secondary to the experience. At Baby2Body we look at every mom and say: “Hey, we’re here for you and we’re going to help you know how to maintain the lifestyle you want, look amazing, feel as good as possible, and have a healthy baby while you’re at it.” The unfortunate thing is, a lot of times when a woman becomes pregnant she’s treated more like a vessel rather than a person. That can really threaten identity, self-esteem, and self-efficacy – and have lasting negative impacts. There is no other experience in the world that you can equate to what it’s like to grow and carry a baby inside of you and bring a child into the world – but it’s so important that women are reminded that they are still a unique, incredible individual, that their needs matter too. That’s our USP.
Some of our content is still free on the app but our premium content experience is the complete offering, which really takes healthy living to the next level, and has everything a woman needs to feel empowered and able to live her best during this time in her life. We started with this free model because we wanted to introduce women to a new way of digesting information, and the experience of having the content you need sent directly to you, rather than having to go out and search for it. Of course, when your initial product is free it is always challenge to make money! It’s also harder to prove to potential investors that customers are willing to buy from you at some point, so that’s been a definite challenge we’ve had to work through. Over the past year, we’ve been testing several monetization models, and we’ve shown that our users do trust us, and that they are willing to buy from us. We have now launched premium and are generating revenue from that, and we are gearing up to launch several new projects that we believe will take our business revenue to the next level.
THEIR MONETISATION PLANS
Our focus is always going to be on adding value to the user journey, so we’re not interested in flooding them with advertisements that aren’t relevant to them. We have several strategic partnerships in place to help further our premium content offering and the premium experience on the website and app, and we’ll soon be introducing an e-commerce component. So, we won’t only be helping women with what they need to know when they need to know it, but also with what they need to buy when they need to buy it.
We’re also going to be leveraging the incredible work that is coming out of AI, so we can learn more about our users and their needs to better deliver information to them. Using data in a valuable way to create a better experience is really what we’re working towards.
HOW SHE SECURED HER FIRST CUSTOMERS OUTSIDE FRIENDS & FAMILY
I’d walk around London handing my business card out to pregnant women and new moms that I saw. I really didn’t do this too much, and don’t worry, I only ever approached women wearing a “baby on board” pin! But I will say, every single woman I did approach was so gracious and seemed genuinely excited about Baby2Body and we definitely got sign-ups from it. We also did small marketing campaigns around the UK targeting areas that were frequented by our target population. I remember when we got to our first 5,000 after two or three months and I was just amazed at how fast people were jumping on it. I’m still amazed – and grateful – every single day.
THE EVOLUTION OF HER TEAM
When I launched the initial website to sign up for Baby2Body emails, it was just myself. I was working out of a VC firm that helps start-ups get off the ground so I was able to work with the team there to get assistance with tech, product, and design. Then I had an Editor join shortly before we launched the email newsletter service – which was late January 2015. I now have a Head of Content, who has been with me since the business was 2 months old, a Head of Operations, a Head of Design, a Lead Developer, a Growth Hacker, and a Community Manager – and we’re hiring! Right now, our focus is on growth and building the best product possible, so everyone is on board and focused on that.
I won’t lie, building the right team around your business isn’t easy, but right now I have an incredible group of people who are excited about the product and passionate about my vision – and that makes all the difference. We all come from very different backgrounds and from all over the world, and the diversity of our insights and experiences have really made the business better.
WHY SHE TOOK OUTSIDE INVESTMENT & WHAT MAKES A GOOD INVESTOR-ENTREPRENEUR RELATIONSHIP
When I decided to create Baby2Body as a tech start-up, all I really had was a PowerPoint with my business plan and product idea. I didn’t have the tools to completely create the business I envisioned on my own. I ended up securing initial seed funding from a VC firm that was structured around providing assets (developers, designers, product people, office space, etc.) to help turn ideas into businesses. It allowed me to bring my vision to life. Since then, I’ve developed great networks with several people at VC firms and it always felt like the right type of relationship for my business. Ultimately, it’s about finding the right people who get behind you as the person behind the business. When you work with people in this capacity that trust you and your vision and focus on supporting that, that’s when it’s good.
At the end of the day, they’re investing a lot of time and money into my business, so I’m incredibly accountable to them. I try to make the relationship as transparent as possible, because I know if we are struggling in an area, they’ll know just how to help guide us or introduce us to the right people. Similarly, when we are successful, they know how to help us build off of that and really capitalize on it. The firms who have invested in us all have a representative that sits on our Board, and one of our top angel investors is the Chairman of our Board, so they’re all incredibly involved. Any major company decisions go through the Board for approval – just like any business – and at the end of the day, our success is their success, so it’s really a supportive relationship overall.
THIS BUSINESS IS ONLY THE BEGINNING…
Sometimes I wonder: is there life outside of my business, or were all those earlier years just a dream? It is important to be open about life beyond your business. As with a child, we have to let them go once they’ve grown up, right? There will definitely come a time when I’ll feel as though I’ve done what I can and accomplished what I set out to do with Baby2Body. And that’s when I’ll move on and go after the next thing. I’ve been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug so I’m certain I’ll get involved in another venture.
HER APPROACH TO CREATING BOUNDARIES BETWEEN WORK & LIFE
You definitely need to find your healthy switch-off method – whatever it is that allows you to disconnect from work, life, and everything in between. For me, it’s exercise and mindfulness. After particularly long days at work, I’ll pop over to the gym for an hour so I can totally decompress and recharge my body. That way I’m able to go home with renewed energy and spend quality time with my kids. It also makes me so much more productive with any work I have to do later that night. I always say I get my best ideas and come to the best solutions when I’m working out – so there’s always an excuse for exercise. I think a lot of it has to do with allowing myself to be fully in a moment that’s separate from everything else. That’s where mindfulness comes in, and it’s something that I’ve been a long-time proponent of. I’ll use mindfulness meditation right before bed and first thing in the morning to help focus myself and prepare for the day and I find it really helps me form those healthy boundaries between work and life.
I do think it’s a funny balance that entrepreneurs have because we’re incredibly passionate about our businesses, otherwise we wouldn’t be running them. That in itself can make it hard to find the line between work and life, but I think there’s also a great blessing in being able to do something you love every day. I truly believe the sentiment that when you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life – and I definitely count myself lucky that I am able to do something I love (almost) every day. We all have those tough days from time to time, right? I think I’ve also found success in my business because I know that my identity as a CEO and the vision of my business is entirely based on my personal identity, what I believe in, and what I stand for. That allows me to remain confident in my decisions, and myself, and it’s brought me fulfilment in work and life. To finish off, I’d say my advice is to never forget: happy, healthy CEO’s make for happy, healthy businesses. Don’t forget to take care of you!