We love a good success story over here at heymama, and community member Dori Graff and her co-founder, Mary Fallon, have just that. The duo created Kidizen, a mobile marketplace for moms to buy and sell pre-loved kids’ clothes and accessories, after bonding over new motherhood at their agency jobs in Minneapolis almost a decade ago. They have since grown their business into a robust digital community of over 250,000 women buying, selling, and supporting one another through e-commerce. Below, Dori shares how they followed their instincts and focused on solving the needs of the mamas they knew around them and grew their business into the mega-success it is today. Read on…


Kidizen app interview

To be fair, Mary and I have one distinct advantage when it comes to growing a community of moms in an app designed to maximize every mom’s potential to share, connect, and make money — we are moms! We understand what changes after you start having kids (everything) and we sympathize with moms who take pride in their family but still crave the companionship of other women with shared interests and experiences.

So it should come as no surprise that when we’re tasked with thinking through a new product feature and how it could best serve our community, the user research often begins in our own heads. A long shower at the end of the day or a few extra minutes to let our minds wander as we make the kids’ lunches is usually a good jumping-off point.

Then, because each mom who uses our app has her own preferences, experiences, and ideas, the next step is to tap into our agency backgrounds (Mary was on the creative team, I was on the account side) with more scalable methods around strategy and analytics. While our journey has had many ups and downs, I’ve outlined a few of our tactics for learning, testing, and iterating below that have benefited us along the way.

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Start With The Problem

Where are you getting frustrated? What would make your day easier? In our experience, a successful business idea, and certainly a sticky community, fills an unmet need for a particular audience. Look for the pain points that lack a solution or areas where you might have the special sauce to build something better.

The idea for Kidizen’s first iteration was born out of the shared experience of two professional women who bonded over the lifestyle shift that happens when you become a mother. (Hint: it was us.) We lamented all the stuff that piled up and the lack of resources to sell it. There was the hassle of Facebook groups. The impersonal nature of eBay and Craigslist. The uncertainty of buyers calling “dibs” in Instagram comments. And so on. At the same time, the idea of a sharing economy was also emerging and we saw consumers were purchasing fewer, higher-quality items, seeking out smaller homes, and even challenging the idea of owning things outright.

Roll Up Your Sleeves

So now you have your solution. You build it. Release it into the world. You’re done, right? Oh how we wish. Now the real work begins as you dig into how to adjust it to better meet the needs of your audience. That’s when you roll up your sleeves and get in the middle of your community.

We are in constant amazement over how clever our moms are — when it comes to finding solutions, they’ve even taught us a thing or two. And we’ve been right there to watch the evolution of it. For example, because we use the app just like our moms, we saw early on that moms were piggybacking on our marketplace to make it more social. They preferred to conduct transactions with people they felt connected to and it was extending way beyond buying and selling. Today, they support one another as entrepreneurs, but they also have threads around children melting down at Target or husbands who aren’t doing their share of chores. As a result, we’re starting to build more features around supporting social commerce.

Remain Valuable  

The truth is, if you’re around long enough, others will come along and try to build on the service you provide. By focusing on the problem you’re trying to solve (even as it evolves) and keeping your ear to the ground to ensure you’re truly fulfilling the needs of your audience, you remain valuable.

What started as an easier way to share and sell our kids’ clothes and accessories has turned into a platform that empowers moms as micro-entrepreneurs. As we watched moms use the Kidizen marketplace to make parenting and its financial constraints work for their family, we realized the greater value of what we were providing. And when we saw moms hacking what we had built to make it more social, we knew there were new areas we could explore to continue providing greater value. We love how this resulted from our partnership with the community. The real frosting, though, is its value to our team—everyone feels incredible knowing their efforts contribute to an ecosystem that empowers parents to parent in a way that works better for their families.



Photos courtesy of Sara Montour Photography 

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