Dreaming of Baby Entrepreneurs Segment
A conversation with Mompreneur Irina Lunina, founder of Miramom
Platforms to assist freelancers find jobs didn’t cut it for Irina Lunina, so she decided to create her own. Following a career on Wall Street, the birth of Irina’s daughter led her to seek career alternatives that allowed her the flexibility to still be close to her daughter. A year and a half later, her vision and determination for Miramom is still growing strong. Irina speaks with Dreaming of Baby about the tenacity required in pursuing mompreneurship.
Charles: Hello and welcome to Dreaming of Baby, the site for moms and dads-to-be! Today we have with us a mumpreneur that is happy to share her experience with you! Irina Lunina, would you be so kind as to introduce yourself and tell our readers a little about you, your business and your path to entrepreneurship?
Irina Lunina: I am a first-time mom to my beautiful 15-month-old baby girl, Aurora. I worked on Wall Street for 15 years, and as Managing Director at Nasdaq for the past four. Needless to say, I have had a very interesting and demanding job where I had to travel at a moment’s notice to other parts of the world. Once I had a baby, everything changed. I could not put in the hours at the office and travel to week-long conferences, so I had to make a pivot in my career.
Charles: I would like us to focus on the planning for the shift; what did you do to set yourself up for success?
Irina Lunina: I tried by looking into platforms which can offer flexible jobs for experience-level professionals, so I can work flexible hours remotely or sometimes on site, but I found nothing. There are a lot of platforms for freelancers, but I never worked as a freelancer. I needed a regular “white collar job” so to speak. I decided to create the platform myself. As I already had experience in running a startup before, I was ready to dive in, obviously with my family’s support. I knew that there would be no better time than right now when I have a baby and the flexibility to create a startup.
Charles: So tell us a little more about this startup.
Irina Lunina: Miramom is a social networking website that allows the utilization of a person’s credentials and skills to find the best-suited job given their availability. The company is tailored to service parents: mothers and fathers, and to help them find jobs that enable them to take care of their children. Think of it like LinkedIn but for parents looking for flexible, full-time or part-time, or temporary jobs. The platform is being built and we are targeting a first phase to be launched as a pilot in December.
Charles: And how is the business being funded?
Irina Lunina: I was accepted to Founder Institute for their January cohort which is very exciting. We are targeting a first seed round of angel investing in May after graduation from FI.
Charles: So at this point the project is unfunded?
Irina Lunina: Right now, its funded by friends and family.
Charles: That’s a big risk, what keeps you going?
Irina Lunina: I spend a lot of time talking to moms like me, who now have only 2 choices: either you work after having a child or you don’t. I think our society can do better than that and give parents the flexibility. We spend so much money creating work that can be done remotely; our modern world now needs flexible arrangements and I believe in that. I believe in helping people find suitable jobs, so they can continue caring for their children and take them to ballet classes and have more choices. I also want to help companies improve their diversity by hiring more women and giving them better opportunities. That is a real driver. Also, I try to go after the financial industry, which is most conservative when it comes to flexible work. But, we have come up with a technological solution that would make managers less hesitant to hire workers remotely.
Irina Lunina: “I spend a lot of time talking to moms like me, who now have only 2 choices: either you work after having a child or you don’t. I think our society can do better than that and give parents the flexibility.”
Charles: Is the technology still in development and how do you juggle building out a startup whilst also raising a little one?
Irina Lunina: Yes, we are still developing the technology, but it would be groundbreaking when it comes to remote work. My schedule is super planned, like to the minute. I have a nanny to help out, thank God. I honestly can’t spend a lot of time doing things that are not relevant now. Everything I do revolves around the business, so I don’t spend my time on anything else. When it comes to baby, I am here for her every day. It’s tough, but I think planning is the key. I plan my week 2 weeks in advance, so I don’t have any last-minute plans. It’s no fun, but I manage.
Charles: What are your goals with the startup, how big do you want to take it? What will success look like?
Irina Lunina: I want to be the next LinkedIn, but for parents looking for flexible jobs. The key is for experienced level professionals, not just freelance or gig work. For me, success would be seeing moms and dads being able to put forward their availability calendar to the employer and be upfront about when they can work and not be judged for it. I want the flexibility to be not just a perk, but the essential part of doing business and working from now on.
Charles: I admire your spirit but I have to ask one big question; do you think the technology is what was missing? I ask only because you had many years of experience in the industry but had a hard time finding the type of position you are trying to facilitate; would the types of position not need to exist to facilitate the matching?
Irina Lunina: No, I don’t. I think the positions which would be suitable for remote work exist. They are not being advertised as such given that they are always performed in the office. The mentality and HR practices from the employer need to shift and that would take time. The technology part is crucial in terms of communicating with the employee, especially in the first 6 weeks of onboarding period. But, for a lot of companies who are used to hiring remote, it may not be needed. For financial services, the technology part of hiring remotely is essential for keeping control on their employees, but for an e-commerce firm which has done hiring remotely in the past, this kind of technology does not make a difference.
Charles: So the technology would solve that? How?
Irina Lunina: If you are scheduled to “be in the office” from 9am to 2pm, then Miramom would provide an iPad which would live stream you from your workspace to the workspace of your employer (like their office). So, the team in the office and your manager can talk and connect with you in real time. This is critical for at least the 6 weeks of onboarding a new employee. So, live streaming from employer and employee would make sure that both stay connected. Also, employees stay connected, feel part of the team and continue to be engaged. Miramom is able to come in after hiring and set everything up for you and your employee.
Charles: Ah ok so more than a website, Miramom intends on being a hardware and service provider? Why wouldn’t a company just use a teleconferencing app? I am sorry I am asking so much I believe this solution is interesting to parents-to-be.
Irina Lunina: They can use what they like or feel comfortable with. However, this is a solution for companies that are new to remote work, especially with regards to newly hired people. We are all more comfortable allowing people to work remotely if we are already working with them. Since this is a new relationship, the live stream is constant, like you would have if you are in the office. So, if I am telling you that I would be working for you from 9am to 2pm, then I better be logged in and live stream to your office. You can then come up and have a spontaneous conversation with me or a brainstorming session that does not have to be scheduled. Once the 6-week period passes, then we would already have established a working relationship. The critical part of us getting to know each other has been a lot easier.
Charles: Very interesting, so in a way, the company may rent the iPad specifically due to the fact that they may not need it 6 weeks later?
Irina Lunina: They can rent it or pay for it and have it since it’s their way to connect with this person who may work longer. They may choose to not log in every day, but it would be up to them.
CharlesMost parents-to-be are often concerned with taking the plunge, they say research and market testing is very important to ensure your idea has the highest chance of success. Have you had any experience speaking with potential employers and have they been receptive?
Irina Lunina: Yes, I actually have more than a dozen companies, ranging from top-tier asset management firms, large insurance companies to small innovative startups, that are interested in posting jobs. Solving the problem of getting to know a new employee is important, but like I said, some companies are advanced enough in working remotely and they just like an experienced pool of people who would like to work.
Charles: Amazing, so now what happens in the next few months? What does your day to day as a mompreneur look like?
Irina Lunina: It’s intense since we are building a platform, and posting to social media in order to continue a buzz. Starting January, the Founder Institute curriculum is very intense, so I think I would be losing a lot of weekend fun with my daughter for at least the next 5 months.
Charles: What makes it worth it to you? Is the income something you desperately need or is your goal more than that?
Irina Lunina: I definitely like to make money since it’s a business first. What drives me is the creation of a solution which would be used by a lot more of my peers. If it would be successful, I would be proud of my accomplishments.
Irina Lunina: “What drives me is the creation of a solution which would be used by a lot more of my peers. If it would be successful, I would be proud of my accomplishments.”
Charles: To the scary part: if it fails or there are setbacks what’s the plan? How do you handle failure?
Irina Lunina: Failure is a part of life. But I would not see it as failure, but as a lesson learned. A lesson which I may not have been able to learn otherwise.
Charles: I love that spirit!
Irina Lunina: Thank you
Charles: I know I have been hard on you today but I really wanted to understand the vision and the tenacity of the person behind it! On a final note, one and a half years into parenthood and building your business, what advice would you give parents-to-be considering an entrepreneurial path alongside parenthood?
Irina Lunina: Just make the first step; this is actually the hardest part. Don’t think that the business would be the same as the one you created on the business plan, it would evolve, the most important is to start. Also, having your business is harder to work full-time, but it would allow you to be with your kids more and to share what it takes to build something from scratch.
Charles: You have been an amazing guest Irina Lunina, how can our readers reach you and find out more about Miramom?
Irina Lunina: Thank you so much for your questions and it was a pleasure. Please visit our page and social media, we are posting every day on Instagram, FB, Twitter, LinkedIn. Sign up for updates and we would love for you to support us. www.miramom.com IG: www.instagram.com/miramom_flexjob FB: www.facebook.com/miramom T: www.twitter.com/miramom_flexjob Like and share with your friends and hope we can roll to the future of jobs together.