This Founder Wants Moms To Feel More Connected To Their Local Communities
Layla Lisiewski is a mom of four and CEO of The Local Moms Network, a platform of local resources for moms by moms. After six years at Merrill Lynch, Lisiewski walked into a meeting about to get promoted, when she unexpectedly quit.
Inspired by her grandfather who built a community in his Iraqi village a few generations ago, Lisiewski realized her mission in life was to do the same for moms. Now with 115 chapters across 32 states and plans to expand to all 50 soon, The Local Moms Network is doing just that.
Amy Shoenthal: How did you come up with the idea for your business?
Layla Lisiewski: After six years at Merrill in private wealth management, my boss called me in for a meeting to promote me, which is when I abruptly quit. I was pregnant with my first child and, while I did enjoy my work, I just felt a void. Every night when I went home I thought, this is not my mission. It’s not what I’m meant to do. It was a wonderful learning experience, it just wasn’t my end game.
Feeling unfulfilled professionally led me to look at the role models in my life for inspiration — namely my dad who helps people immensely because he’s a neurosurgeon, and my grandfather, who spent his life caring for the members of his village as the leader of a tribe in Iraq.
Once I became a mom and moved from NYC back to my hometown of Greenwich, CT, I felt isolated and found myself looking for resources to navigate the challenges of motherhood. I knew there was a need for a parents’ connection to the community, and so The Local Moms Network was born. We provide that connection through our network of local parents curating content, resources, and events for communities across the country.
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Shoenthal: You mention your grandfather and how he ran his tribe, how did that motivate you to do what you’re doing today?
Lisiewski: My grandfather basically ran a small city in Iraq and he built a business where the proceeds went to help his tribe. Living in Iraq is a completely different universe and he spent his entire life working very hard not only working to provide for his family but his entire community. I’ve tried to create that by building a supportive group where we can rely on one another. We have somewhere to go for a comprehensive collection of resources, community driven events, community support and career opportunities. We’re doing for moms what the leaders of a tribe do for their people.
Shoenthal: What obstacles did you face as you were building it?
Lisiewski: Building an authentic audience has been of utmost importance as we grow, and since we are doing this at a local level, it has required patience and hard work. We started with one group in Greenwich and have grown to 115 in just five years. That growth is incredible but has not been without its challenges. There is this constant challenge to maintain a consistent voice and feel across the brand while at the same time ensuring each platform reflects the wants and needs of each local community.
We are a lean and mighty team, and we’re currently self-funded so it’s a lot of effort to continue to scale and build out our technology and offerings. We’ve had talks with investors over the years, but have never found the right fit that felt like we wouldn’t have to compromise our values. My co-founder Jessica Blouin and I feel fortunate to be surrounded by a small yet nimble team of smart, dedicated and passionate women who are solution-oriented.
Shoenthal: Where does your revenue come from?
Lisiewski: Our revenue comes from ads, sponsorships, events and subscriptions. We do advertising on a national and local level. We do quite a bit with affiliate marketing as well.
When we saw the success we were having in the Connecticut suburbs, it validated the business case to expand. We now have a turnkey process in place to continue to expand. We have increased our revenue by over 100% and are continuing at that pace. All profits continue to go back into enhancing the platform. The goal is to grow to over 3,000 community sites within the next 3 years.
Shoenthal: How has the pandemic forced you to pivot your business? How has that gone?
Lisiewski: The pandemic has also really validated what we are doing. Moms more than ever need a connection to their community. Plus, with so many new families moving to the suburbs, our platform has been instrumental in making the transition that much easier, providing suggestions for schools, camps, home needs, doctors, activities and so much more. One major pivot has been with our events. Like so many other businesses, when the pandemic hit we had to shift gears and go completely virtual.
We also saw firsthand the desire in each community to want to support their local businesses in a bigger way. That insight led us to debut an e-commerce arm: The Local Marketplace. We round up local offerings from businesses and artisans in each community. Given how Covid has made in-person shopping more difficult and given how many local businesses are struggling, our goal is to provide a direct online channel to help people support small, local businesses. The mission is to simplify the way people plan and make their purchases all while giving them a new and inventive experience.
Shoenthal: Do you focus mostly on suburbs? Are suburban moms more in need of connection?
Lisiewski: I definitely think the purpose of us being in suburbs is because a lot of people leave the city when they start their families and when I did that, I found that there weren’t any resources for moms in my town of Greenwich. I spent hours a day uncovering services for my family. You’re more inclined to need a community driven platform in a suburb. We have presences in some cities where we break our communities down by neighborhood. For example, Houston is a city but it’s so spread out. So we have Katy moms, South Houston moms, and more.
Shoenthal: How do you differ from local Facebook mom groups?
Lisiewski: We bring moms together not just digitally but also in person. When someone asks a question on Facebook, you can get 5 million responses and no real answers. We’re carefully curating our platform because moms don’t have the gift of time and we want them to get those answers to them in a succinct manner so they can read it while they’re on line at the grocery store.
Shoenthal: Do you tend to try to hire moms? In your Local Marketplace, do you feature mom-owned businesses?
Lisiewski: Moms make up nearly our entire team. We are very much about female-founded and showcase that often.
Shoenthal: What about dads?
Lisiewski: Greenwich has quite a few dads on our platform because they want to show their significant others that they know stuff about the area. The local marketplace is definitely both. We touch on a lot of topics that dads may not want to necessarily learn about. We want to be there to support both, but our demographic is 94% women.
Shoenthal: What are you most excited about right now?
Lisiewski: The Local Moms Network provides women all over the country with entrepreneurial opportunities to run their own chapter in their individual community. This year I am excited to announce that we will add at least 50% more platforms with chapters in every state by year’s end. In the process, we’ll be able to provide career opportunities to even more women.
In a time when America’s mothers are in crisis and being pushed to the limits on so many levels, we are happy to be at the forefront of making families’ lives easier, providing both resources and career opportunities. We would also love to expand our incubator strategy, so we can not only support moms via resources and content but monetarily.
Shoenthal: What’s your personal motto?
Lisiewski: Never underestimate the power of women and of the mom community. We can do anything when we work together to help one another succeed.
Shoenthal: What advice would you give to others starting their own business or embarking on a new venture?
Lisiewski: Choose work you enjoy and give it all you’ve got. As you grow, build a team of people you admire with skills complementary to yours. The people you surround yourself with make all the difference. I couldn’t do what I do every day without the dedication of my co-founder Jessica Blouin, editor Amy Weber, team manager Stefanie Horn and all of our mom partners across the US.