Mamaprenista and AI Expert, Monica Banks, on Launching Gugu Guru
Hi Monica! Please share a brief introduction about yourself and your business:
Launched in 2015, my company is Gugu Guru. Gugu Guru started out as an AI-driven baby product recommendation site. Over the years, it became clear that moms don’t want recommendations from AI, they want recommendations from other moms. In 2020, I started to pivot the business in that direction and in January 2022, I dropped the AI and launched Mom Creators by Gugu Guru. Mom Creators is the largest community of moms creating and sharing content about the products they love. We connect mom creators with brands and help them monetize their influence.
So Monica, what excites you about being an Entreprenista League member?
Networking. Meeting other inspirational women. I love meeting other women business owners & entrepreneurs and collaborating.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
The birth of my son. At the time, I was working as a VP for a large branding & marketing agency in New York City but as soon as I laid eyes on my son, I knew I wanted to create a career path where I could stay with him.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
My background is a mixed bag of market research, tech & software marketing and then toward the latter part of my career, extensive experience in brand & packaging design.
Did you always have a feeling that one day you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I wouldn’t say that – in fact, as a kid I wanted to be an actress and that was my minor in college. With that in mind, it doesn’t surprise me that I love being a content creator so much.
An initial marketing strategy is so important when first spreading the word about your biz. Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
When I launched in 2015, it was still a world of bloggers and giveaways, so I would say that was the bulk of my marketing strategy. I am still bootstrapped to this day, so I didn’t have any real budget for paid collabs or ads. Working with bloggers / influencers has always been key to our organic growth, especially our celebrity connections. I would say that giveaways are dead now and were hit or miss back then. We got a lot of “sweepers” signing up for our giveaways, which often made the lists less quality. Those people only wanted to win things.
Entreprenistas have to be resilient. What is the biggest challenge you have encountered along the way and what did you learn from it?
The writing was on the wall from the beginning. Moms were telling me that they enjoyed the recommendations as “thought starters” but they were really coming to Gugu Guru for the content. My biggest challenge was walking away from the AI model. I spent years building it, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on that model and even tried (fruitlessly) to patent it. In the years before I pivoted, I was always trying so hard to hold on to a piece of it but it was confusing to my team and to our customers. What I learned is that when I finally cut that piece loose and made the decision to pivot entirely, it was such a relief. I didn’t realize how much stress trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole was causing me. As soon as I let go, things started falling into place. It is one thing to provide baby registry recommendations to a mom, but it is next level rewarding to do what I am doing now – which is help moms to create a career for themselves.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Our community of Mom Creators – since launching we’ve grown to over 10,000 influential moms, experts, mom UGC creators and influencers.
We all want to believe in work life balance…but sometime it seems like a distant fantasy. Do you actually believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
Balance is in the eye of the beholder. What I view as balance may be off-kilter to another mom. Here are my best tips:
1.Set app limits on my phone (60 min total for social media)
2. Go for a walk every day without your phone and let your mind wander
3. Set downtime on my phone from 9pm-5am
4. Don’t request or accept Zoom calls unless 100% certain can’t be done by phone
5. Keep phone & charger out of the bedroom
6. Say “no” to any activity that doesn’t get you closer to your goals
7.Schedule fun family activities frequently
What’s a piece of advice you can share that you wish you’d known when you first started your Entreprenista journey?
Clarity is everything. Clarity is kindness. Anyone you hire, work with, collaborate with, etc. make sure that everyone is clear on expectations and goals. Communicate frequently. The more you’re open, honest and clear, the better the partnership will be. The conversations will be easier – especially if someone isn’t a fit.
Monica, you have lots to celebrate! What have you achieved recently that you’d like to celebrate with our community?
I partnered with another mom founder, and we’re building the first-ever performance based / affiliate platform for brands that want to market to moms.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
Our goal is to help 1,000,000 moms become paid creators so we will be laser focused on that for the next few years.