Monday, August 13, 2012
Interview with Lacey Moler, BellyBallot
If you're a soon-to-be mother, looking for baby names, how do you go about getting the opinions of your friends, family, and others about what to name your child? Austin-based BellyBallot (www.bellyballot.com) has a suggestion: let them vote on it! The startup--co-founded by Lacey Moler--came about as part of Moler's own experience as an expectant mother. We caught up with Lacey to hear more about the service.
How does BellyBallot work?
Lacey Moler: BellyBallot is a social startup, that we created to help parents that are expecting with their baby names. You can log in, and look at a bunch of different baby names, which you can browse through. Moms are really interested in names, we're looking to replace the traditional, baby name book. We let them create a ballot five boy names, and five girl names, and then invite friends and family vote anonymously on their favorite name. It's similar to what people have been doing for years, asking their firends, family, and neighbors, but in a more modern and social way, online.
What's the story behind the company?
Lacey Moler: It came about when I was pregnant with our second baby. I had a baby shower, and came up with the idea because I was not sure about names. We came up wit the idea to have people put some names down, and put them in a box we called the Belly Box. They really got into it, which was so funny. We thought--let's turn this into something. That's how the idea was born, back in 2009.
What's the business model behind BellyBallot?
Lacey Moler: Our main goal and focus is to be the top resource for baby names and expectant parents during the naming process. We are in our growth phase, and finally just launched last month. It took a long longer than we had initially thought. Now, we're trying to bring awareness to the site, and bring people to the service. If you look on Twitter and Facebook, people are constantly asking other people their opinion on baby names, and now, our product is out there so people can do that.
Do people get to enter the names they want, or do you help them with that process?
Lacey Moler: We have a full list, similar to a traditional baby names website, for people who don't necessarily want to create a ballot. They can search the names by letter, and it will tell you the popularity of that name, the history, and any famous people that have that name. We also have a whole life of fun names -- Hawaiian names, list of bad boy names, and nature names, which is very popular name. People can go on and brose those lists, by bo yor girl. We have great editors who have done tons of research to create all of that data for us. When you log on, moms and dads can spend time working on the names. You can tag your favorite names, to create your list, then you can blast that out to people, saying here are the top five girl names and top five boy names, what do you think? It's anonymous, so you avoid that problem of where you don't necessarily want your parent's input on the name directly, because it kind of ruins the process, so you can get some opinions but don't know if they're specifically from Aunt Jo or from your neighbor.
What's your background, and how did you get into the Internet startup world?
Lacey Moler: I originally came out of college and worked for Accenture for a few years. I loved that, and worked in the state and local technology department. I was in the Alliance Serviec group, working with all of the large technology vendors. Then, I totally flipped a switch when I had the opportunity to move to New York, to work for a small, startup private equity firm. I had gotten sick of all the travel involved in consulting, even though it was so fun for awhile. I had zero backgroun din finance, but it was awesome. I then started having kids, and moved to DC for three years and took some time off, when this opportunity came around. I think it's often hard for mothers to start a business. That's part of the idea we had in talking with angels who are mothers. All of my mom friends all have these awesome backgrounds, whether it was in the corporate world, or finance. Although it was maybe not the best timing, with three little babies, I thought this was kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and we'll see where it goes, and it's been fun so far. We've gotten an awesome response from moms, technology people, the community Austin, which has been amazing, and responsive, and supportive of us.
Do you think the Internet has helped mothers like yourself to start things like this?
Lacey Moler: It has helped immensely. I am on Facebook as a mom and person, but getting into business, have been diving into Twitter and other social media. It's been amazing to see how companies are completely flourishing because of the Internet. People have told us, don't even bother targeting print newspapers or magazines, everything is online. I makes it so easy, especially for working mothers at home, where you can go to your computer, chat with other people, and connect with people -- all of that is a huge opportunity, which couldn't have happened with the Internet.
How the firm has been funded so far?
Lacey Moler: We received funding last year, just from friends and family. We kicked off with that, and we're now discussing our next round of funding. We're not looking for a huge amount, but we're starting our growth phase, hiring, and marketing budget. That's where we had our brainstorm of who to raget, and we talked to moms interested in the business, and thought how awesome it would be for moms to invest in our companies--not just our company, but any startup that's applicable to them.
What's the next big step for you company?
Lacey Moler: The next step is to continue to bring awareness to the site, and really driving that awareness. People don't know it's out there yet, but I'm seeing all the time on Twitter and Facebook that people are asking around about baby names. There is a demand, and we want people to be aware of the service.
Thanks, and good luck!