By Sarah Kuper
A Mom With a Mission
For nearly nine years, Angie Cleland has been the woman behind birminghammommy.com.
A glance at the site shows lists of local events, DIY projects and recipes, along with general parenting tips from moms and experts.
The internet is full of “mommy blogs,” but Cleland said her site is different from other parenting resources in that it is specific to Birmingham moms.
“Moms have limited time to get things done. I thought it would be beneficial to put as much information in one place – what’s happening at the library or McWane. This saves hours of research.”
In fact, Cleland started the website because she and a few friends were constantly seeking things to do with kids in Birmingham.
She said she knew great events and programs were out there but it was hard to keep track.
Now, she is helping area moms do just that by keeping a calendar and running lists of what’s happening for children and parents in the area.
She uses her sales and marketing background to sell ads for the site plus do most of the writing and list-making.
“It is a labor of love. There have been times I’ve thought, ‘Can I do this?’ but it has given me the flexibility to take kids to school, go on field trips but still sell ads that pay for soccer,” Cleland said.
A few years ago, Cleland decided to post more original content on the site than just event listings. She now has a family counselor who writes a monthly column and she occasionally has her elementary schooler write book reviews and articles from a kid’s point of view.
After nine years, her annual lists of things such as consignment sales, Easter egg hunts and summer camps have gotten so much traffic that children-oriented businesses and organizations have begun to reach out to her to make sure their event gets on one of those lists.
The site now has a feature that lets certain organizations post and add events to her calendar themselves.
According to Cleland, the site has roughly 6,500 unique visits each month with a demographic of women ages 24 to 45 with at least one young child.
Her audience is constantly growing, but she said she is aware of one big struggle.
“Nine years ago versus today, it is a direct reflection of where I am with my kids. We started with articles about potty training and baby food but the content has matured as my kids have grown,” she said. “My biggest challenge is to be sure I go back around to where other people are now.”
Cleland said she notices how rapidly products, programs and even parenting philosophies change.
“I may have to add on people who can help me relate to those with children at every stage,” she said.
Cleland said she knows she can rely on other moms to help her stay current.
A Site for Moms by Moms
Over the Mountain native Julie Sasse recently launched another parenting site specific to Birmingham moms, although it works differently than Cleland’s.
Sasse’s site birminghammomsblog.com is part of a larger network called City Moms Blog, in which local women create content and sell ads specific to where they live and raise children.
Launched in March, Sasse’s website has almost 30 contributing writers from all areas of Birmingham.
“They are moms, stepmoms, grandmothers and working moms. What they have in common is that they know being a mom is really hard. You don’t want to be alone. That’s the worst feeling to think you don’t know what you are doing. Here, moms trust other moms,” Sasse said.
Giving readers outside perspective and support is one of the website’s goals. Another is to bring together area moms, both virtually and in person.
Sasse, who graduated from Briarwood Christian School and the University of Alabama, said she knows Birmingham can feel segmented.
“I would love for Birmingham to feel smaller and for the site to help people connect. Moms can support their area but also reach out to get to know people from all over Birmingham,” she said.
Sasse has a 3-year-old and an infant, and while she refers to herself as a stay-at-home-mom, she finds herself in a place familiar to many women who have made the choice to stay home.
“There are so many talented women out there and people have their own side business along with raising kids. There are amazing writers but maybe they don’t have time to keep up a blog on their own so we are able to teach them WordPress,” she said.
Though she is able to track number of clicks and visits to her site, Sasse said that right now she is just concerned with using the platform to help others.
“One of my gifts is encouragement,” she said. “I don’t think I am a great writer but if we can just encourage one mom, we have served our purpose. My heart is that I want moms to feel like they are not alone.”
Where Trust Meets Technology
While Cleland and Sasse’s mom-oriented websites are specific to Birmingham, one mobile app start-up is hoping to establish in Birmingham and then expand nationwide.
The mobile app Wyndy was started by Over the Mountain couple Tommy and Ginger Mayfield. The name alludes to the character Wendy from the J.M. Barrie story on Peter Pan.
Though they try to shy away from the comparison, in a nutshell, they describe the app as the Uber of babysitting, with important distinctions.
Once a parent downloads the Wyndy app onto their smartphone, she’s able to browse through Birmingham-area babysitters, all of whom are college students who have gone through a rigorous application process and background check.
After creating a profile and entering payment information, a mom or dad can hire a babysitter in several ways. They can either post a job and any babysitter can respond, or they can choose a specific “Wyndy” and contact them through the site.
Parents can apply numerous filters to search for a sitter they think will best suit the job.
In the job description, parents advertise their rate and information about their children and what the job entails, whether it is handling bedtime or driving to activities.
The app has many other features, like a rating system and lists of preferred sitters – all things the Mayfields wish they had had when they were busy with infants and toddlers.
“I was getting my master’s degree at UAB at night and Tommy was working long hours. We needed a lot of babysitters. Finding ones we liked and the process of booking them required so many texts. It was inefficient and time consuming. Plus, paying was no different than when our parents were writing checks to our babysitters,” Ginger Mayfield said.
The Mayfields knew the hassles of engaging with reliable babysitters wasn’t unique to them, so a few months ago, Tommy Mayfield made developing Wyndy his full-time job.
“Most parents are pretty excited to bring the type of convenience they get with Uber or Shipt to babysitting. Of course it is so much more important than getting a ride or grocery delivered – it is taking care of your children,” he said.
Mayfield said it is a non-traditional career choice for him. He comes from working as an attorney at Maynard Cooper & Gale and said he is excited to now be a part of the Birmingham start-up community.
“Everyone is very welcoming here in town. I’m meeting creative people who are helping develop the app and with videos. There is so much talent here,” he said.
Ginger Mayfield, who has worked as a college counselor, said the app isn’t just great for parents, it is an important opportunity for college students.
“I always wanted to babysit in college but it was hard to make connections in a new community. This would help that and, as a guidance counselor, I’m aware of college costs. This is great for students who can’t work a part-time job. Wyndy makes it possible to offset costs and still be a good student.”
But her favorite feature is the parent connection aspect.
She believes the app will apply technology to something moms were already doing – comparing experiences.
Just like Cleland and Sasse, the Mayfields said they know moms and parents are each other’s greatest resource.
Each website or app holds their own unique place in the internet world of parenting, but they are united in trying to harness the power of the World Wide Web.
Birmingham Mommy, Birmingham Moms Blog and Wyndy are active on social media. While Cleland and Sasse intend to keep a local focus, the Mayfields are hoping that by this fall they will be able to expand to other cities.