The Accidental Entrepreneur. This is how Allyson Downey, co-founder of weeSpring, describes herself. The first time mom found herself stuck on this idea–there had to be an easier and more efficient way to figure out what was needed for her son.
From baby gear to diapers to formula, parents don’t have to go far at all to find tons of options to choose from whether they’re in a store or online, and that was the problem. Where do you start? Should you listen to that overeager salesperson? How do you begin to trust all those countless online reviews? Nine months after the arrival of Downey’s son–with the help of SurveyMonkey–weeSpring also came into the world!
New and expecting parents spend thousands of dollars on products they know virtually nothing about. weeSpring helps them collect advice from their friends about baby essentials, and then shop or register for the products they need.
For parents, by parents, weeSpring beta-released in December of 2012 and already has more than 17,000 product ratings.
Here to share with us the story of weeSpring and how surveys helped launch a business is the Accidental Entrepreneur herself–Welcome, Allyson!
The first time I walked into a Babies R Us, I burst into tears. I looked up at a ten-foot wall of baby bottles and saw–in all of those options–a metaphor for how completely unprepared I was for the hundreds (thousands!) of choices I’d have to make for my baby.
When I got home, I started looking at Consumer Reports and the Amazon reviews–but they were just as overwhelming. When you do a keyword search for “strollers” on Amazon, guess how many results pop up? 24,431. Literally.
So I started sending emails to my friends: What kind of car seat do you have? What diapers do you use? Do I need to be able to collapse an umbrella stroller with one hand? Should I get a high chair with a tray? My inbox soon overflowed with advice from my in-the-trenches friends. They sent me Word documents and Excel spreadsheets that they’d compiled, listing all of their must-haves and don’t-buys.
I soon realized–our friends’ advice was the only advice that mattered…and there had to be a better way to collect and organize all of their suggestions. My husband and I knew our friends loved talking about baby gear (three weeks into parenthood, every parent’s an expert on car seats), but we wanted to do a gut check. This is where SurveyMonkey came in.
We sent a survey to about 100 friends, asking what three baby products they recommend most often–and also asked them to forward the survey on to other friends with kids. We also included a text field with the label, “Here’s some more room, in case there are more than three.” At first, it wasn’t what people answered that we were most interested in, we just wanted to see if they’d answer, period. Our hope was to hear back from at least fifty people. We ended up getting 500 (!) responses. Half used the extra box because they couldn’t stop at three recommendations. A-ha! We were onto something.
So we started building weeSpring. While we were designing and coding, we used a SurveyMonkey survey as our most basic prototype, where we collected ratings from people who visited the site. This version had pages upon pages of questions, inviting ratings of “love,” “regret,” “have,” or “want” on hundreds of products–and also asking which other products parents couldn’t live without.
We collected nearly 5,000 product ratings in those initial months from our own personal networks while we were still building our beta, and we used those ratings to seed weeSpring with valuable content for our users. It was truly astonishing to discover how many products people rated in the extended survey (our first prototype). We received surveys back with dozens of ratings, and some people rated more than 50 products.
Our friends weren’t our only respondents either; people we didn’t even know had found their way to the site, and made it through our very, very long survey. That helped us understand that giving parents a list of products they could scroll down through would encourage them to rate even more products. So we built a “rate everything I’ve got” option for weeSpring that allows users to flip through pages of gear by category.
Now that the site’s live, we’ve seen more than 10% of our users rating more than 25 baby products. The SurveyMonkey data truly gave us invaluable early insight. Since we’re building up an active user base, we want to engage them regularly for feedback and we’ll definitely be using SurveyMonkey to connect with them!
Not only did Survey Monkey help test our theory that new parents are eager to share their insights about the baby products they love, but it helped us launch weeSpring. Surveys allowed us to gather parents’ must-haves and don’t-buys while we were still building the site, so when we released our beta we’d have a rich database of ratings and comments for our users.
For you parents out there, we here at weeSpring would love to hear from you! You can take our (very short) survey below out for a spin:
Allyson Downey is co-founder at weeSpring. Her entrepreneurial spirit dates back to elementary school when she had a face-painting business for birthday parties, and has carried her through roles in publishing, politics, non-profit and Wall Street.
Questions, comments for Allyson? Leave them in our Comments section below!