Priya Rajendran is the CEO and Co-Founder of S’moresUp, an innovative family management app to make parenting easier. She’s an engineer with over 20 years of experience in Software Engineering. Currently leading product Innovation at Ford, ex-Target, ex-PayPal, Single mother of a teenage girl, Classical Dancer, Runner, Volunteer for Literacy, Mentor
Very excited to have you here, Ms. Rajendran. Let’s begin! Can you tell us a bit about your career path and what led you to the role you’re in today?
I started my career as a computer science engineer, a developer. I ended up being a project manager for one of the projects I was in, and I found that I was doing a much better job as a project manager than as a coder. So I started doing more of that. I got chosen for a selective leadership program when I was at PayPal, and I moved into leadership roles. Specifically regarding S’moresUp…three years ago, I went through some rough times in my personal life. I got divorced and became a single mom. I was trying to get a grip on life and I was struggling quite a bit. I was overwhelmed. I started looking for tools that could help me, but I couldn’t find one; I was using four or five. Things were a bit all over the place…So being a tech sort of person, I thought, why not create one? I figured there are more people like me who are struggling, and I wanted to put something out there that they could use too.
I was overwhelmed…I figured there are more people like me who are struggling, and I wanted to put something out there that they could use too.Priya Rajendran (Co-founder of S’moresUp)
What do you wish you had known when you were starting out in this career?
Be more open to changes, and do not expect it to be a straight path. I had a goal in mind, but I wish I was more accepting that it’s not going to be a straight line to that goal. I wish I had known that I’m gonna take several diversions and that I should be okay with that.
Was there any strategy that worked well early in the business that isn’t so useful now?
When we were still figuring out whether there was a good market fit for our product, we had a lot of trial and error. We developed some features without knowing if people will want them. We didn’t have enough users taking on that particular feature after release, so we ended up wasting some resources. Nevertheless, that was more crucial to learn in the beginning, as we didn’t have a huge user base so we were able to try out such things. But now, we have more than 300,000 users. We don’t have that same kind of liberty to mess up that we had initially. Therefore, we talk about the change with our users first and see their response, before we go and execute it.
What are some business challenges you’re facing now? Challenges you’ve overcome?
The biggest challenge right now is the pandemic. It was so unexpected. We all have challenges, but some stand out particularly because of the pandemic. S’moresUp is working to focus on those areas and try to help our users and partners out.
As for a previous challenge overcome, I would say transitioning to a paid version. We didn’t have a paid subscription until recently. There were several challenges involved when introducing a paid version of our app. However, we finally overcame that; the paid subscription is out there and lots of people have subscribed to our services. I think that was a huge challenge S’moresUp overcame.
Can you elaborate on how is S’moresUp adapting to the current pandemic?
S’moresUp always had remote teams, so that was not a big change for us. Regarding the product itself, I believe that in a way, COVID-19 helped us to put our app at the forefront. Families are spending lots of time at home more than ever. People understand the need for good family management now.
Also, instead of talking directly to the customers about the use of our app, S’moresUp is now addressing the corporates for providing us as a service to their employees. Corporates are seeking and are already providing lots of health-oriented benefits for their employees. Still, nobody is focusing on family wellbeing, and that is equally important. A good family environment leads to a happy home and in turn, a happy you. S’moresUp is adapting by talking to corporates about offering family wellbeing apps (such as S’moresUp) to employees
What are some big projects you are working on right now or in the past few months?
The biggest one we did in the last few months was bringing in activities into our app. Parents are seeking ways to keep their young kids engaged during the day. So S’moresUp introduced a feature called Activities, where kids can follow instructions to create something – from science experiments to origami. This feature is being well-received.
A project we are currently working on is having multiple admins of the family. Nowadays, grandparents and nannies are getting involved in managing the house – families are wanting to have more than two admins. So we are breaking that two-admin structure and bringing in as many as possible. S’moreUp is also integrating with google classroom, another big project underway.
Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years? What is your end goal with the business?
In five years, I want to help at least a million families. We are at 100,000 families right now, but our goal is to help as many parents as possible, moms especially. Women end up being the ones taking on the majority of household work – physical and mental – most of the time. It should be everybody’s responsibility to equally participate in the kids’ growth. My biggest goal is to make sure that the responsibilities are shared, and that the burden doesn’t fall on an individual’s shoulders. Moms getting frustrated at kids, sometimes it’s because they are stressed with too many things: cooking, taking care of children, managing the house, making sure all appointments are taken care of. All of that. I want to make the world a place where my daughter would never be in that state, ever.
Moms get frustrated…stressed with too many things. I want to make the world a place where my daughter would never be in that state, ever.Priya Rajendran
What motivates you to keep running this project?
Honestly, it’s Reeves, my co-founder. Startups and running a business is very stressful, and you have so many ups and downs. There have been countless times when I’ve said, “I’ve had enough, let’s go do a day job and be done with this.” It’s Reeves and his perseverance that is keeping us going.
Any tips you might give to people who are trying to start a company?
You need to find somebody with who you are on the same page – in terms of basic principles. You must have the same values and principles. If you both believe in the same thing, despite whatever differences that come along the way, you will be able to see eye to eye at the end of the day. Find somebody who also is a complement to you rather than like you. You don’t need two of the same; you need opposing views, different perspectives, you need people thinking out of the box. Find someone with who you can, at the end of the day, share a laugh or cry. Your business values and mission should also aline. My core belief is integrity. I will trust somebody who will always have that integrity as a person. If that goes away, I cannot respect that person. So you need to find somebody who will value your core belief, who believes in it, and who will always fall in line with it.
What do you enjoy most about the work you do?
The most exciting thing about the work is hearing from the customers we’ve helped. Hearing things like we’ve made a difference in their family, we have helped them through tough times, or the kids are excited to help around the house – those are probably the biggest rewards for the company.
It makes me forget about all hardships, all the fights, and all the lows. Have one good review on the app store carries me for a week or 10 days easily. So it’s all worth it at the end of the day!
Describe your relationship with your customers
They are like an extended family. At the end of the day, I want the customers to feel that we are very open with them and that we are listening to them. That’s it. If we are doing all of that and making changes based on what is needed for the families, if we are honest with them, I think the rest is all easy.
How would you describe your company culture?
We are a very small company. We are still in the scrappy small-team phase. So everybody wears everything. We all in this together. We all have this mission to help the families, and equal in that sense. We all do our part and keep each other accountable.
What would you like to say to single or working parents out there? How do you balance your S’moresUp work with a normal job? Words of advice to moms out there who want to pursue their passion?
It’s a myth if somebody says you can have it all. You can’t have it all. You have to prioritize your duties. We prioritize our time for what we want the most. If somebody tells you that they don’t have the time to meet you, just means that they don’t prioritize meeting you. Everybody has time to do things, so you do the things that are important to you or what you want to do. So, for the moms, or anyone who is working, my biggest advice would be to prioritize what is important to you. Be very clear and vocal about it, and then go on to do it. Don’t clutter your day with things that are not your priority and things that won’t get you to your goals. That’s the most important thing. The second most important thing would be to be your own advocate. Nobody else is going to look out for you. If you need something you need to ask for it and you are the only one who can define your destiny. So, just prioritize and focus and be your own advocate.
Prioritize what is important to you. Don’t clutter your day with things that won’t get you to your goals.Priya Rajendran, CEO of S’moresUp
Are there any questions that I am not asking that I should be?
What would I want from the kids? We have talked about the parents, but for the kids: there are things that you learn when you are young that serve you through your life. When you hear your parents nagging at you to clean up after yourself, it may sound trivia and boring, but you will realize how it serves you well in your life twenty years down the way. How when someone else leaves something out, you get irritated. Give the benefit of doubt to the parents. Have honest discussions with them and talk to them. Keep that conversation open. There is nobody else with your best interests than your parents.
And parents, don’t expect them to be perfect from Day One. It takes time to build habits. It takes time for them to understand what’s important and what’s not. Consistency is very important but at the same time, you have to give them the time to grow up. Don’t try to expedite that process. Be patient, be consistent, and be kind to the kids.
That was very inspiring, thank you so much.
That’s it, thank you so much.