Just how to carry out those well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions is yet another quandary for multi-tasking mothers who have nary a minute to spare.
Evanston entrepreneur Elisa All is making it her business to provide suggestions to fellow moms in just half that minute – to relay advice they can retrieve in small snippets of time salvaged from carpool or grocery checkout lines.
With 30Second Mom, a free mobile website and app, Ms. All aims to transform these “found” moments – to “keep busy moms ‘in the know while on the go,’” she says. Her idea is to dispense fun, helpful hints in half a minute or less where moms are most likely to access them: on their smartphones.
She launched the business called 30Second Mobile in October 2011 after realizing how vital cellphones had become to the lives of 21st-century mothers.
“Five years ago [when picking their kids up from] school, the moms were chatting,” she says. “Now they’re on their phones.” Research has borne out her hunch that “moms are more likely to have a smartphone than the general population,” she says.
In the beginning 30Second Mobile rallied 25 contributors to deliver these tips; it now boasts 100, some of whom weigh in from around the globe on 14 lifestyle topics, including money, travel and food.
Mothers are no longer tethered to their laptops when seeking advice and information. They can access the Internet almost everywhere with a cell phone and the tap of a finger.
“This is the next thing,” Ms. All says of the smartphone potential her new company is harnessing. She is comfortable being on the leading edge of a media format; she has been there before. The advantage of being “a pioneer in the space,” she says, is that “you get to help shape the format”; the “challenge” is that “others don’t understand.”
A 1986 graduate of Evanston Township High School, Ms. All originally connected with the media when she earned a masters degree in journalism from Medill at Northwestern University.
She beat the dot-com rush to the Web in 1996, when she established the first pregnancy-related website, iParenting Media, to answer her own prenatal questions. She spent the next 10 or 12 years at the helm of the company, expanding it to include information about toddlers, elementary school children and beyond.
In the process she initiated the iParenting Media Awards, issuing recommendations for family products and achieving “quite a bit of caché” with client companies, she says.
Perhaps it was those awards that caught the eye of the big players.
In any case, Disneyfamily.com bought iParenting Media from Ms. All in 2007. She stayed on for two years, helping Disneyfamily.com integrate the company into their business. But Disney’s request that she relocate to Los Angeles confirmed her sense of being a Midwesterner, and rather than move, she says, she “retired.”
Not quite. Ms. All seized upon the notion of the mobile phone as the indispensible tool of the active mom and spent her first “retirement” year developing the concept for what became her next venture.
She says it took another year, 2010-11, to “build [a presence] on social media” such as Facebook and Twitter. Social media are powerful tools for spreading a message, Ms. All says. With contributors to 30Second Mom promoting their own content by posting it on one or more of the social media sites, word of the app and website spread rapidly.
At the tender age of 14 months, 30Second Mom and Ms. All, its CEO and sole full-time employee, have grown used to receiving attention and kudos. Named one of the five hottest startups in Chicago, 30Second Mom was also a finalist for “App of the Year.”
Ms. All, a finalist for “Tech Woman of the Year,” was invited to be part of a prestigious Chicago technology incubator called 1871 (the year of the Chicago Fire, a metaphor for the rapid spread of technology) with offices in the Merchandise Mart.
Though she has quite a bit of control over her schedule, Ms. All admits she has to “pay the piper” at some point, skipping coffee with a friend or skimping on sleep.
She picks up her 13-year-old twin girls from school every day and drives them and her 16-year-old son to athletic practices and events.
“I don’t want to be the mom who’s not there for things,” she says. Her favorite family time is their after-dinner “study hall,” she says, when separately and together they work on the day’s homework.
Though it can be seen as an isolating phenomenon, the smartphone has not yet obviated the will to gather – somewhere.
Seven of the 15-18 30Second Mom contributors who are local came to the most recent “contributor meet-up” at Symphony’s on Central Street on Nov. 30. Using their phones, they videotaped segments for a story on women entrepreneurs at the behest of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Every Wednesday night at 8 p.m. 30Second Mom hosts a Twitter party online. At that time participants can chat live on a predetermined subject and listen to a prepared Q and A with tips from an expert.
The iParenting Media posts – once-a-week articles of 1,200 words – proved unsuitable for the 30Second Mobile app format. In the new, faster 21st century, daily tips of 600 characters are the norm.
Ms. All says the smartphone – and 30Second Mom – represent “another way to connect – an extension of interpersonal relations, not a replacement.”
The technology “is not going away,” she says, and that is fine with her. “I love being part of it. I love my job,” she concludes.