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Women Of Influence - Zenobia Mocchala, Co-founder Care.com

Nirmala Garimella

Zenobia Moochhala is the co-founder and vice president of consumer marketing at Care.com. Care.com, founded in 2006, is an Internet-based service that helps families find all of their care needs, from babysitters and nannies,housekeepers, senior care and pet care. At Care.com, Moochhala is responsible for all consumer marketing activities, including conversion testing (simultaneously running multiple versions of ads and print and online marketing materials) a strategy that Mocchala says has helped the company to grow at a rapid pace.Over the last year, Care.com has expanded its services into the U.K. Canada, and Germany and now six and half years later has over 8 million members in 17 countries with 430 employees

I spoke to Zenobia at her office,Care.com in Waltham that displays numerous awards in its front lobby which the company has bagged in various capacities.

Give us a background on your journey from India to the US?

I was born in Mumbai, the youngest of three sisters. My dad was a mechanical engineer and an entrepreneur in the manufacturing industry of  hydraulic fitting and bulbs with offices in Mumbai, Pune and Goa. My mother is a psychologist and she specializes in working with special needs children especially those with dyslexia. I came to the U.S. in 1996 to complete a master’s degree in international economics and finance at Brandeis University. Interestingly in my family I am the only one of my siblings who has an undergraduate degree from India. My dad went to Northwestern for his PhD and my mother to Purdue for her masters in Psychology.

Have you always been interested in start-ups?

Soon after I graduated, I was hired by a  start-up software company in 1998 and it was exciting. I think it was also the start of my love and passion for entrepreneurship. As a product manager  my job morphed into interacting with both business and technology folks.After it was bought over, I was at another start up,Upromise, a company helping families save for college.Here I met  Sheila Marcelo, who would later become founder of Care.com.It was a natural transition for us for our next venture to start  a mission related business. On researching, we found the need for families looking for care was immense. In 2006 we  incorporated Care.com in a modest way but were fortunate to have good VC backing. Now six and half years later we are officially at 8 million members, in 17 countries, with 430 employees. At Care.com families pay a subscription fee to get access to the database. We offer safety tools like  levels of background checks, reviews on site etc. Our focus has been to balance growth organically. People share the website with friends. We now advertise on national television like Bravo, Lifetime, E etc and combine it with print advertising and social media.

What are the challenges that have come along the way?

I chose this path so knew that there would be challenges.I was attracted to the job that didn't have a lot of structure, was entrepreneurial  in nature and it was exciting to start something from zero. It also helps that you have role models. I saw how my dad  worked really hard  to make it in business but there is a flip side and satisfaction of knowing that it is your own. 

Recently I was teaching a class at Brandeis and someone asked a question ‘Are entrepreneur born or made' and many in the room felt they were born, and I said that they are made. I say this because if you don’t have all the qualities of an entrepreneur you can still learn from others. When Care.com started it was a small company, my husband and me had a specific conversation on my time and investment into the company. “I loved the idea, I was passionate about the mission, loved the team and that we were finding a solution to a problem. It was like a calling. If you asked me six years ago how it would be now, we didn't think it would grow so much, we were so focused on executing the idea.Even with all the excitement, entrepreneurship is 1% vision and 99% perspiration, you can have as much vision but it is sheer discipline and the execution excellence which is hard. Six and half years later, I look back and say 'wow -It was exhausting'.

What is your advice for women who want to start companies and striking a work-life balance?

All through, I have one consistent theme – a strong support network  tied into great care options for the people you love and care for and for you.  I cannot emphasize the role of Chris, my husband and my family in what I am today. They are very much a part of the conversation.Even when my son Zain was born we decided and if he went to day care, Chris would be the one picking him up. We constantly debate whether it would be better to have a nanny instead of day care for more quality time with our son. If you are seeking a career you don’t sign up for guilt, We can’t do it all. We cannot get upset about it. When I am with my son time matters, but when I am not with him, the time matters too and I have learnt  to balance both.

What is the most positive impact that you have had with your work? Do you plan to open Care in India?

The best part of the job is when you go to a conference or event and meet people who are Care.com members and have found a caregiver or a job through the site. It's a great feeling to know that service is working for families and caregivers!

Finding good care is a universal need for families – so as we grow internationally we're certainly looking at expanding to more countries and India is one of them.

What are the other charities or activities you are involved in?

I would like to get involved. We have been so focused on the company growth working long hours that it has been difficult to do anything else. Now we are in a position to relax a bit and focus on other activities. We have a strong culture at Care.com on giving– We supported the City year, and another program called outdoor recreation on  special needs children.

What do you do for fun?

I feel like my weekend always passes by too quickly. My husband Chris and I exercise by riding our bikes in Sudbury and rest of our time is focused on Zain our son, managing his play dates, visiting our favorite place at Drumhill farms and sending time with him.

People you are inspired by/ emulate/ look up to?

My Dad was an entrepreneur all his life and remains to me an inspiration. While growing up I got to see how he worked his way up thorough sheer hard work. My mom has been wonderful as she was a working mother and it was great to see how she balanced work and home. My co-founders, Sheila and Dana have been my mentors – Dana is my mum mentor as she is also a working mother and it is nice to share and understand what it is to have a career  and have a family.Sheila, my co-founder had offered mentor-ship, guidance and leadership for the last years. We can relate to each other as we has similar backgrounds - how do you balance work and family, parents not living in the same country etc. It has really been great to watch someone else doing it.

What kind of support have you received from your husband Chris?

I think we both came from families where both parents had careers. Given that, it was not a new concept. It never occurred to him that I would not work, although at every step we both talked about it. As I had to invest so much time in my own career, we often think whether it would make sense him for him to work part time so one parent can spend more time at home. What I value most is that he shares a lot of the chores, he is the good listener, and absorbs all the conversation when I talk which I do a lot compared to him.

What kind of support does your husband value the most?

I have learnt that he values space and being alone sometimes and I have understood that. He is more of an introvert. So we may be both at home and he is winding down in the study and listening to music and I am doing something else and it is perfectly Ok.

What have been your happiest moments?

I think it has been after you have a child. I have this life I call BZ and AZ - before Zain and After Zain. So much has changed. Being a mother made me structure my hours and time to be with him.

Do you like to cook? What are your favorites?

I do like to cook but I don’t do it as much anymore – I like baking banana bread, so much so that my husband overbuy bananas till they ripen and then I end up making banana bread quite frequently.

What are some of your favorite reads?

Right now we read Dr Seuss with our son. I am also reading a mix of business books. One of them is ‘The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business’ by Patrick Lencio. It is a good read and we are now discussing it as a team in the office. On the lighter side. I read the Hunger Games and saw the film recently.

Please share one fun fact about you

I love to sing but I'm absolutely tone deaf. So Chris and Zain are the only 'lucky' ones who get to listen to me sing anything and everything :). If there's one thing I want for Zain it's that he has my desire but Chris' ability to sing.

What is your personal philosophy?

It is living a life with equal parts of passion and reason. You have to do things you love. You cannot do it without being thoughtful and meaningful.

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