Social networking sites have stormed the Internet in recent years, bringing connections to former classmates, friends and co-workers as close as a mouse click. But for all of cyberspace's vast offerings, Erica Rubach and Joani Reisen still believed something was missing.
The two women, who met while working at a Philadelphia TV station, bonded over their common challenges as working mothers.
For years, they lived near one another in the Philadelphia area without knowing it, which sparked the idea to connect other mothers and provide local resources through the Web.
Their site,Momspace.com., was born last March.
The creators see Momspace as a utility Web site with social networking components. It's a place where mothers can find information on local businesses and rate them; meet other mothers in the area; find out about area social events and give other women feedback on common motherly issues.
"Really, the idea of Momspace came through necessity," said Rubach, 32. "We wanted to create a place online where women can share space with each other."
A Site for All Moms
Reisen, 41, said that when researching the other sites available, the two women noticed a void. Most of the pages were simply social networking sites, with no added content.
Reisen said she found many sites with national content, but nothing that offered local information on spending money and making dollars for mothers. She said Momspace focuses on localized content and even allows users to share their "favorites" list, so mothers new to the area can see what is available.
"We want to provide a local resource where people could get local information," said Rubach, the mother of 9-year-old Maya and 2-year-old Ally.
The two found a lot of sites catering to moms in niche groups, such as working moms, or the mothers of children who share something in common. Momspace was designed to be a resource for all mothers.
"I think our focus to create a site for moms of all types," she said.
The site, which is free of charge, isn't all child-rearing and relationship advice. It also features automotive, finance and travel information.
"Women have a lot of different functions that they play," Rubach said.
Moms Trust Moms
Momspace also allows members to sign up to be a "focus group mom," who give online feedback to affiliated companies. Reisen said the site is really trying to put mothers in touch with businesses that offer products specifically for moms.
Women in the household make more than 80 percent of the purchasing decisions in their homes, and Rubach sees Mompace as a way to help with those decisions.
Rubach and Reisen figured there was one source all mothers would trust for information.
"Moms trust other moms," said Reisen, mother of 6-year-old Adam and 4-year-old Jared.
Momspace allows users to personalize their individual pages to display content from their local communities or cities. And unlike some networking sites that allow anyone to view profiles, Momspace users decide who and how others observe their profiles.
Initially available in only four cities, Momspace has grown to cover 56 major cities, including Philadelphia, Orlando, Fla., San Francisco and Boston. Reisen said the site's positive feedback and growth has surpassed anything they'd anticipated. The goal is to be in 100 cities by October.
The site earns money through advertisers. Though moms or businesses may post a business for free, there are options to purchase rotating ads and profile upgrades, Rubach said.
"We would like to see it be the biggest Web on the planet for moms," Rubach said. "We want to be a household plan."
Economic Opportunities for Moms
Besides information, Momspace offers economic opportunities to stay-at-home moms.
The site employs 60 moms throughout the country to represent Momspace in local markets. The moms are trained in advertising and marketing sales, and they select which businesses they want to call and manage the accounts they create. And the women are paid on commission.
Rubach said this setup differs from other jobs many stay-at-home moms take because it is a business-to-business transaction, as opposed to going door to door.
"We've given these moms an opportunity to have their own business," Reisen said. The moms can sell the site using their own talents, she added.
Rubach and Reisen are used to balancing their burgeoning careers with family. Before committing full time to the site, Rubach was a marketing and new business director.
"It's not a job to me," Rubach said. "It's more of an obsession."
Reisen still runs VIP magazine, the special events publication she started 14 years ago.
"Becoming a mom at such a late age, like I did, I'm very passionate about it," Reisen said. "I think that whenever you are passionate about something you just find the time."
Rubach said the personal and professional growth she and Reisen have experienced has been amazing. The women said they learn something new each day.
"Every day brings up a new job that needs to be done," Reisen said.
"I think it's just really neat to see an idea created in conversation and see it come to fruition," she said. "We're learning a lot. We're laughing a lot."