Our reporter Peter Tjärndal met Merlind Hinz at her office to talk about The M Society – a new network for mothers and pregnant women in Gothenburg. The M Society wants to gather information, activities and events and offer their users an overview of services that they might need in their new lives as mothers.
From Berlin to Gothenburg
Merlind is the founder of The M Society, she is originally from Berlin, Germany. After finishing her MBA, she worked with marketing and product management at StudiVZ Ltd., at the time Germany’s largest social network. This was before Facebook existed in Germany. She has also worked with Erento.com, a big German marketplace for rental items. Love brought here to Gothenburg, Sweden and she really likes the city:
“I’m an ambassador for this city. I tell people how great it is. Especially if you are from a bigger city, it’s so nice to be in city with friends living only fifteen minutes from you. You can walk everywhere, how great is that? It’s amazing.”
About one and a half years ago she moved to Sweden and after a while she started The M Society in co-operation with Katerina Ingenlath. Merlind is the one with the ideas and the vision and Katerina’s role is more one of an advisor or silent partner.
“It was my idea but I have a partner, Katerina. I don’t have any children yet so I’m more the person who has the vision, but of course it’s important to have someone along who has the experience of actually being a mother. She has three children so she is kind of a “mama advisor” to me. She can sometimes say, “You know, this and that might sound good but in reality it is more like this…”
A network for mothers
The idea of The M Society is to offer mothers and mothers-to-be and overview of activities and services that they might need in their new life as parents. When you become a mother there are lots of things that change in your life, says Merlind.
“You can’t really eat the same things; you can’t exercise in the same way. There are a lot of different things that you need to consider, and there are people and businesses that offer information and activities for these exact needs. But it can be hard for them to actually get to their target group and make the mothers know about their offer. We basically provide a way for them to be seen.”
The M Society is offering a website that list activities, courses and services from advertisers and affiliates.
“The idea is not super innovative. Everything is already there but what we want to do is find a way to present it in a better, easier and more convenient way. There are of course websites where you can find activities you can do with your child, or you can just Google, use the Yellow Pages or sites like Hitta.se. What we want to do, though, is to condense everything, filter it and make it a bit easier. To do kind of like a pre-selection for our users.”
They also have a smaller section for fathers but their main target is mothers.
Merlind tells me that originally they wanted to charge a small membership fee but later on they changed direction and now it’s free to be a member. Revenues are generated through the companies that want to be displayed on the website and list their activities in the website calendar.
The life in an incubator
The M Society has their office in the Gothenburg based incubator Framtidens Företag. I asked Merlind how it is to work in such a place with lots of startups as office neighbours:
“It’s very nice to have this network of people. Because everyone goes through the same ups and downs when you try to start a business. Sometimes you feel, “Yes, this is living the dream. It’s awesome and everything will be good!” and then a week later you feel like “Oh, my god! What am I thinking?” So it’s nice to sometimes step outside your office and knock on someone’s door and say, “Can we go for a coffee? I need to just vent about my feelings”.”
What are the main differences to work in Gothenburg compared to Berlin?
“It’s different because people here don’t really say “No”. They say “Okay, sure, that’s good” and after a while you realize that still nothing is happening and then you know what they actually meant.
Also, people always say that Gothenburg is such a relaxed city; nobody stresses in Gothenburg and I feel like it’s true. It’s a work atmosphere where people don’t take things so seriously and that’s nice in comparison to Germany, where everything is so efficient and strict. I like the Gothenburg-version better.”
Expanding to other cities soon
Right now The M Society is only focused on Gothenburg but they plan to expand to other cities soon.
“What we try to do is to use Gothenburg as a test environment to adjust and fine-tune our idea and business model. We know that this is not necessarily the best market for this business. Gothenburg is so small and you actually need a certain “noise” and non-transparency in a market to make a site like ours to work. We are looking to get more people on board and start in different cities soon.”