It wasn’t until after Michelle Kennedy gave birth to her son, Finlay, that she realized she needed more moms in her life. “I had the realization that, at 2 o'clock in the afternoon on a random Wednesday, there is no one to hang out with,” Kennedy says. Having advised on the launch of Bumble and served as general counsel and deputy CEO for a similar European model, Badoo, Kennedy decided to do something about it for the sake of mom-kind: She founded her own app, Peanut, in London in 2017.
The moms-only social networking app has since amassed more than half a million users around the world, first with its swipe-left/swipe-right discovery feature and now also through its new community chats for neighborhood moms, LGBTQ moms, crunchy moms—you name it. While it’s already available to all moms in the U.S., Peanut will officially launch in Houston on July 30, which means more services, meet-ups, and programming for Houston moms and moms-to-be.
We talked with the supermom Kennedy ahead of the big event (and a mere four weeks after giving birth to baby girl Nuala) about her own mothering woes and why Houston is a hotspot for Peanut.
What was your experience like as a brand-new new mom?
When I first had Fin, everything changed and nothing changed, if that makes sense. I still had the same friends and I was still living in the same area. I still worked at the same place, but all of a sudden life had completely changed for me. I felt like I was very much doing it on my own, but I didn't feel it was a very comfortable thing to say to people. I was a 30-year-old woman and I had friends, but at the same time I was feeling lonely. It really wasn't something that I wanted to say.
Was there an 'aha' moment behind Peanut?
When we started working on Bumble, Fin was only 6 months old. I’d seen what it takes to start something from day one. That was probably always in the back of my mind. But the real pivotal moment was when Fin was a little bit older. I was doing the drop and dash—dropping him to nursery and dashing to work. All of these other moms just looked like they had their shit together. They looked so calm and like they knew what they were doing. I felt like I permanently looked manic. I just thought, I would really like to speak to those women and find out what their secret is. I kept talking about it with one of my friends; she was like, “Why don’t you just do it? Stop talking about it and just do it. Why can’t an app be made?”
Why do you think it’s important for moms to connect with other moms specifically, not just other women?
I had my girlfriends when I had Fin—it’s not like I didn't have friends—but sometimes you really need to be able to speak to someone who is going through the same thing or is ahead of you in the curve. In turn, you want to do it for the women behind you in the curve, and you want to help them along. If you think about what brings us together when you are making friends in real life instead of through an app, what connects you are shared experiences, whether it be because you both love travel or you both support a certain football team. Motherhood is almost that leveler. It’s not the only thing that you should make a friendship on, and we are very clear about that. It’s like, okay, we both have this in common, let’s see if we can build from there.
Peanut recently launched its community section. What was the driver behind that?
The driver was our users. They are pretty vocal and tell us what they want. The women wanted to either have connection on a local basis or on a subject basis. We originally started Peanut Pages that are very much about topics: motherhood, fashion, beauty, work, money. We started there, and we recently launched the community element. The engagement of the groups is insane. It’s that thing: I might not want to make a new friend, but I want to chat with other women who are around me right now.
Moms in Houston can technically already use the app, right? What does it mean to be officially launching here?
Peanut is available across the U.S. and it has always been able to be used. When we see a certain number of women using the product in an area, we know that if more women join they will all have an amazing experience because of the density. Basically, the chances of them finding women around them are much increased. Houston has been bubbling up as a hotspot for us. The community is really growing there, and by launching we can come in and do an event and really start to build the user base more. We can start to do more programming in Houston. We’ll start to work with partners, and it brings the local community in.
You worked on the launch of Bumble, which is based in Austin, and you've also launched Peanut in Dallas. What do you think about Texas, and why do you think Peanut will work here?
There is a genuine wish for women to speak to each other and help each other out. There isn’t a shyness, there’s a genuine care. Call it Southern charm or whatever you want, there’s a different mentality. Also, in Texas generally, the users tend to be early adopters. This isn't trying to break into a market where women aren’t tech-savvy—all of the women are tech-savvy, so the appetite is there. More people are moving to Texas from other states, and we know there are businesses starting up where there are more favorable tax positions. So many people that I've spoken to along the way are new and have moved with work or have moved for lifestyle. In today’s climate, we move all the time. Because there is such movement, we don’t have those support networks we used to have. It’s so common that we have to build our own families again, so we need tools to help us rebuild that support.