Annie Abelman is the Founder of Mentor Mums, and mum of two. She lives in North London with her family, and is a huge literature geek – She loves reading and writing in equal measure. Day to day, she’s powered by tea (and often chocolate), and she’s never happier than when she’s being creative – in her work or in her downtime.
What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative.
I grew up in a small village in Oxfordshire, so the move to London after university was both exciting and took some time to adjust to! I started my career in corporate PR for an agency, and learned how to turn complicated messages into stories that people wanted to read about. After a few different roles in the corporate world, I moved into the charity sector, and used my storytelling skills for good causes. This is probably where I began to see that good ideas can make a real difference. When my own idea for Mentor Mums came along, I just had to see where it might lead.
Throughout my career, and as I’ve built Mentor Mums, I’ve gleaned advice from others like a magpie! People I respect, in the parenting world and who run startup ventures, have helped me see the importance of being focused on my mission, and in having the courage to try things out, even when I haven’t yet made the perfect prototype. This has helped me innovate quickly and adapt our product reactively.
Tell us something about your organization. What is it about and how is it helpful for people?
Mentor Mums is a mentoring organisation that matches mums returning to work after maternity leave with others who have already returned to work, in the same or a similar career field. We know that the return to work is a time of anxiety and stress for parents, and yet there’s very little support from employers or the healthcare system to help manage this difficult transition.
By offering people a listening ear and some friendly support from someone who understands their world of work and is a few steps ahead, we find returners become more confident and productive more quickly, and are able to keep work life and family life in better balance.
While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level?
Mentor Mums was founded during the Pandemic year, and in many ways this is because the need for support for returning parents was exacerbated by the Pandemic. At this time, the confidence of returners was low; many of them had navigated traumatic birth experiences, where their partners were not always allowed to be present, or their birth plans could not be followed because of Covid, and in the aftermath of birth, new parents were not able to surround themselves with the support they needed from others, due to isolation rules. This intensified the loneliness, anxiety and depression that people often feel during parental leave, and meant that many returners went back to their work roles feeling lost or inadequate. In addition, many returners during Covid couldn’t physically return to work, which made raising their visibility and having impact was even harder.
We were really happy to be able to step into this space, and offer support from others who understand, and are passionate about supporting others through their return.
What has been the response of the consumers towards your venture?
We have grown quickly, and had fantastic feedback so far from women receiving pay raises and promotions because of the mentoring they received from our org. Personally I’ve been astounded by the number of women who give up their free time to mentor for us, because they are so committed to offering others the support they wish they had had.
How has your life changed because of your venture?
I’ve learned a huge amount about the gaps in the current system for returning parents in the UK. My own experience of returning was challenging but positive, and yet so many people we hear from have faced discrimination or their returns to work have ben really mismanaged. There’s a lot of work to do, and this has ignited a fire in me to change workplaces, as well as supporting returners.
Do you have anyone who is the biggest support system in your life? Please let us know.
I would love to see a world where all employers celebrated and fully valued the parents who carry and care for our future generations, and remain just as ambitious for these employees as they are for the rest of their workforce. At the very least, this means equal pay, equal promotion opportunities and flexible working. At best, it means organisational leadership and management that sees its staff wellbeing as a top priority, and approaches employment with empathy, compassion and a focus on solutions.
Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?
Since becoming a Founder I’ve learned so much – in fact if I knew what I didn’t know when I started Mentor Mums I might not have started it! But I believe that passion and vision are the key to success, and anything is possible as long as you pick good companions for the journey; people who can support and advise, share expertise and offer critique. This, and building business with integrity, are principles that matter for me.