We recently had the pleasure of interviewing MiniMonos CEO Melissa Clark-Reynolds. MiniMonos is the first startup from New Zealand that we have interviewed! Here she introduces us to her company and shares advice on starting up.
Here is a little intro to MiniMonos, but Melissa will take it into more detail through the interview. MiniMonos is a virtual world for children that encourages kids to become socially and environmentally responsible while they have fun, meaningful experiences with their friends. The primary market is boys aged 6-12. Since a July 2011 soft launch in the UK, the site has attracted over 1,000,000 registered users!
So, tell us about MiniMonos and where the idea came from?
I had exited a business and taken some time off to train with Al Gore, and present his slideshow from “the Inconvenient Truth” about Climate Change. Shortly after this, two things came together for me. Firstly, my daughter and I were swimming on a public beach in Hawaii and turtles showed up. We swam along behind them for about 40 minutes . When we crawled out and sat on the beach I had a moment’s panic as I wondered if my daughter would be able to have the same experience with her daughter – or would they be extinct by then? The second, happened while watching my daughter on the internet. I realised that most internet offerings for children saw kids as latent consumers and the internet was just another way to sell more crap to kids. Every time I hear how many plastic figures Moshi has sold, I wonder how long those turtles are going to last in this environment.
A passion for the environment is at our core. We deliver our message through fun immersive content that empowers kids through (non-boring, non-preachy) entertainment. This is authentic throughout our world, and our team. Long term, we seek to be the first mass market ethical brand for children, embodying cradle-to-cradle design features in all products we create.
Just as demand for ethical food is growing, the same is happening for clothing – we believe the time has come for an ethical children’s brand, spanning entertainment and merchandise. For example, we are launching the first “eco-card” gift product in the UK in WH Smith later this year, this replaces the current styrene gift cards sold in the UK.
Alternatively, our competitors are focused on providing children, as customers, to mass markets.
What were some of the challenges that you faced starting a company?
We started this company in New Zealand – where there is limited capital and a limited market, so we have actually not yet launched the product in NZ. We were “born global” and launched global, providing a product to customers in another time zone and culture, has been tricky but rewarding.
What major pivots have you made from the conception of MiniMonos to where you are now?
When we started out we thought 6-12 year old girls in the US would be our key target. In the end our key demographic are UK boys aged 9-12. We have had much better traction in the UK – where we fit between Moshi and Runescape.
You were part of the SpringBoard accelerator program, what difference do you feel being part of an accelerator made to your company?
The contacts we made through our mentors were amazing. We could never have generated those relationships ourselves – especially as foreigners. One of our mentors is now our Non-Executive Director. We raised capital out of Europe – which again would have been much harder in NZ.
What advice would you give to people looking to start a company and work on developing a business plan?
Take the time to plan, and when things don’t go to plan… change the plan. Keep focussed on the things that really really matter. If it doesn’t make a difference for your customer, don’t bother with it…no matter how many experts tell you to do it.
We will be reconnecting with Melissa and her team sometime early next year for a video interview to see how things have progressed from now to then, so stay tuned!