City Cruises

Justine Roberts takes us back to the birth of Mumsnet


When Justine Roberts founded Mumsnet, she created a forum for parents everywhere to find comfort and advice in like-minded users. Today, Justine is a female business speaker, a role in which she shares her entrepreneurial advice and empowers audiences with her story of success as the CEO of Mumsnet.

What inspired you to launch Mumsnet?

“I launched Mumsnet, because I had newborn twins, and I had an awful lot of questions. An awful lot of questions to which my immediate circle of family and friends couldn’t provide all the answers for.

“It was at the time of the dot com bubble and everyone you met in the street was discussing what their internet idea was. In some respects, it was the right time. I’d had a full-on career in the city, and I felt like I’d earned a bit of time to take a risk.

“So, with all these things, I think it’s as much about luck and timing as anything. But my inspiration was really to tap into the wisdom of other parents, with the idea that it would make all our lives easier, because we’re not trained for this parenting thing.

“It was just simply to meet that need. I thought, ‘well, if it’s useful for me, it might be useful for someone else too.’”

Why did you choose an online forum to host Mumsnet?

“Well, I think the internet is an incredible thing. It is an incredible thing that allows you to create such a broad and huge audience and what I wanted was wisdom.

“The great thing about Mumsnet is you will always find someone who’s basically gone through a similar thing to you. So, they can empathise, and most importantly tell you, you know, this too will pass. An online forum was an obvious and natural way to reach a lot of people and get the wisdom of a lot of people at, you know, a pretty low-cost way to do it.

“So, for me, I was an early adopter of the internet. I did my internet shopping when I was still on dial up and it took four hours to check out! But it was an obvious way to reach other people and reach people who were sort of experts all over the country, basically.”

You’ve been listed as one of the most ever influential CEOs in the world, what personal qualities do you credit to such success?

“Luck, mainly.

“Well, number one, I don’t necessarily accept the premise of your question because I don’t feel particularly influential when I can’t persuade my kids to get up in the morning and tidy their rooms!

“I do think what Mumsnet has done above all else is really put purpose before profit and take a long-term view. That’s partly because of our funding, but we’ve never been known as people who need short term results.

“So, I think the ability to take a long-term view and put purpose first, that means in some ways, you can perhaps have more credibility and trust amongst your audience.

“If I’ve got credibility or trust, it’s because of that. It’s because of the patience and long-term view. It’s not all about chasing short term profits.”

What is your proudest personal or professional achievement?

“I’m proud of the fact that… I was a child of the 80s and I remember Mrs. Thatcher saying, ‘there’s no such thing as society, it’s all about individuals.’

“I think Mumsnet proves that wrong, because every day, complete strangers are going out of their way to show consideration and kindness. From people staying up to counsel someone through breastfeeding in the middle of the night, to others, who will send secret Santa gifts to strangers who say they can’t afford Christmas presents.

“I mean, it’s extraordinary the level of care and attention that people go to for complete strangers. It proves to me there is such a thing as community, there is such a thing as society. For no individual or personal gain, people are happy to give their time and give their expertise.

“That’s what I’m proud of, really, it’s basically the users, the users make me proud every day.”

This exclusive interview with Justine Roberts was conducted by Mark Matthews.

The interview is part of our series of inspirational women’s stories and interviews in March, Women’s History Month, and International Women’s Day. Sarah Armstrong-Smith, a Chief Secutiry Advidor at Microsoft,  and Paola Diana, Women’s Rights Advisor to the City of London are also part of our another series.