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Being an ambassador was never my dream. But when I came across the mombassadors startup I knew it was made for me. So please welcome the new mombassador of the state of Tel-Aviv - me! For this exciting occasion I met for an interview (over email, unfortunately I didn't travel to London for that) with the entrepreneur and the managing director of the website momaboard.com
I will let her tell you what is this site but if you want the brief version I can tell you that the idea is very simple. When we travel around the world the chances of finding hte really good places in the city, the ones that local know, is quite low. I believe this is one of the reasons we like going back to the same place again and again, because we already know where you can find good coffee and which grass if good for a mid-day nap. When you travel with children this knowledge becomes a necessary commodity.
Travelling with children is a form of art. Generally living with children is an art by itself, but we have time to study, practice and understand our routine. While being abroad on the other hand is not our regular way of life and when we travel it is a shame to waste any minute. I will write more on another post about how I do it, so here I will just say that this amazing project aims to connect local moms with travelling moms so that we can travel more like a local.
The site works in a very simple manner – you enter, choose your destination and give all the relevant information about your family – ages, hobbies, what do you like to do abroad and what are your expectations. This data is sent to the local mombassador, who will plan your visit. She will offer places to stay, what to do every day, give you tips on where to go and what to eat and general information about the city. This excellent service costs 50$ and there is a cheaper version in which you can get a list of places without specific trip plan per day. There is also another option for families who plan relocation, but that is for another post altogether. Now is the time for my interview with Kaamna Bhojwani Dhawan
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? Where did you grow up? Where do you live now?
I was born in Mumbai, India and lived there for 18 years until I left for college to the US. My parents believed travel was the best education so we spent every summer visiting places like London, New York and parts of Asia. So you could say I got the travel bug young! I moved to the US for college and graduate school and settled in San Francisco for my first job! Silicon Valley was just embarking on the tide of Web 2.0 and it was an exciting place to be. During this time I met a man who had a similar love for travel and one day he got an opportunity at work to move to Sydney. We were just the two of us (or so we thought) so we jumped at the chance to live in a different country we didn't know very well. Turns out I was 5 months pregnant when we left for Sydney and I got to experience first-hand what a carefree and kid-friendly people the Aussies are! We replicated this experience moving back to San Francisco and having our second child and in 2013 we ended up moving to London which is where we live now! Fun and exhausting actually!
What is MomAboard? How does it work and who is the target audience?
MomAboard is a trip planning service for families. We offer detailed itineraries built by local moms, so you get the best of the local and the parent perspective. Further, each itinerary is completely tailored to the family's demographic makeup, special needs, interest and budget. All you have to do is tell us about your family and a local mom will produce the perfect plan for you!
The target audience is any mom who wants to travel better and easier! We plan trips for families with infants, toddlers, teens, grandparents, special needs, multi-city, you name it!
How did you come up with this idea?
I'm a mom who travels! Like many of us I've had the misfortune of booking the wrong hotel, or taking my kids to a completely inappropriate restaurant. Planning the right trip is time consuming (our research shows that the average trip takes 8 hours to plan) and stressful because parents are faced with too much uncurated data from too many unknown sources. How do you know if the reviewer on TripAdvisor is like you? You don't. But with MomAboard, we connect you with a mom who understands your needs and whom you can trust.
When did you understand that you wish to develop this idea into a website and a business? And
how long is this website operating?
I started MomAboard as a blog when my son was born in 2009. We conceptualized and test the trip plan in 2015 and launched the official site in 2016. I knew the family travel market well and knew that we could offer more value than just writing blog content. I figured out that local moms had to be at the center of it, and we spent about a year figuring out what the product and process would look like.
Did you have support when you started? From whom?
My years of startup experience in Silicon Valley prepared me I think for the roller coaster that is entrepreneurship. Every day is different and a learning experience and you have to keep moving forward. I have been extremely heartened by the number of women who have signed up to be Mombassadors. They see the value in the product and they want to be part of something so unique. My husband is also very supportive - he's proud that I am trying something new and he holds down a steady job so I can really give this a shot!
How does it feel for you as a mom to work from home? What do you like about it? And what are the challenges?
The most obvious benefit of working from home is flexibility, and that I am always available if my kids need me. From a business perspective, it also limits the overhead. The biggest negative is that it does become hard to switch off. With my office being in the center of my house, it's hard to "leave work behind" although I am getting better at drawing those boundaries for myself. Working from home, while convenient, is also lonely. For an extrovert like me, people are my energy source so I have to make sure I take a few meetings in-person every week so I don't go into withdrawal!
I think that what you are doing with this site is creating amazing links between mothers throughout the world. How does it feel to you to be in contact with mothers from different places? What do you like about it and what are the challenges?
It's the best part of my job! I've met some amazing women through MomAboard and particularly in the Mombassador community. They are of different nationalities, ethnicities, sexual orientations, socioeconomic groups and professions, and yet we all have the same goal when it comes to our children - to give them the best we can (and not lose our minds in the process).
I've learned a lot about different parts of the world and love hearing the tales of these women and why they want to become Mombassadors.
The downside? I'll let you know when I discover one :)
What is your vision for the next years?
I want MomAboard to become THE go-to destination for traveling moms. We deliver a high quality, unbeatable product at a very low price that I can proudly say truly makes mom's lives easier. We have 60 Mombassadors today. I want to have 100 by the end of the year and continue to offer service around the world.
And finally, what do you like about the city where you currently live, London?
London is a truly an amazing city that offers something for everyone. It has history and culture, art and fashion, and an amazing restaurant scene, cutting-edge stores and there's always something going on. Yet for those who prefer a quieter pace, the parks are peaceful and beautiful and pub culture is always welcoming and unassuming. London is also one of the most family-friendly cities in the world with tons of free museums, events for children and of course, theater for all!