Did you know that when you’re pregnant, your abs and organs separate in order for the baby to have space to grow?
All sorts of weird and wonderful things happen during pregnancy, which is why it’s important for expectant mothers to ensure they’re doing all they can to keep healthy and look after their bodies.
Originally from South Africa, Nicci moved to London in 1994. After becoming pregnant with her first child, she began researching for information regarding how to exercise when pregnant.
She found the offerings lacking and decided to set up her own fitness training programme as Baby2Body, which grew its own pregnancy and wellness movement, way back before wellness became the catch-all term we know and use today.
Here’s what you need to know about Baby2Body and how Nicci grew it from personal training sessions into a global platform.
How Baby2Body began
“Back in 1994, it was not cool to have your own business,” Nicci tells the Standard. “At dinner parties, people would think it was because I couldn’t get a job. It was so different to now.”
Nicci could only reach so many people through personal training sessions, so in 2015 she took Baby2Body and made it digital, at first as an email subscription programme before launching an app in 2017.
The app features workout plans and daily exercises, tailored to what stage you are in the pregnancy cycle, as well as sections for new mums up to three years. There’s also guided meditations and hacks, food plans and blog posts on all things parenting.
A subscription service offers access to the Fitness Studio, which functions like a personal trainer giving advice and information about workouts, as well as relaxation podcasts and recipes. “It’s kind of like having a machine version of me in your pocket,” says Nicci.
“It takes all of the guesswork out of the whole process so you’re not worrying, am I doing the right thing for my baby?”
All the workouts are designed by prenatal and postnatal fitness experts, with everything upheld to rigorous standards, thanks to the platform’s partnership with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Nicci is particularly scathing about YouTubers and Instagrammers who spout information about pregnancy and workouts from their platforms. “It’s highly confusing. You can go to YouTube and get a gazillion videos of exercises but is that right for you today? We cut through all the clutter, throw it out of the window.”
Taking Baby2Body from a personal service into a global app
Since its launch, over half a million woman have used the platform globally, with around 50,000 active women on the app at the moment.
To get it to this point, Nicci took part in the Wayra accelerator programme by Telefonica in 2016, before moving to Silicon Valley for the 500 Startups programme. She says it was amazing to learn from the likes of the former head of product at Pinterest on how to create a product that people love and continue to use.
Despite spending time in Valley, Nicci says she loves having her start-up here in London. “London is fantastic, it’s really supportive. I’ve made really good friends in the ecosystem, I have fantastic angel investors all in a WhatsApp group so I can call on them anytime for advice.
“I’ve been tempted to go to America but I think I’m going to stay in the UK.”
Life as a female founder
A lot has been written about the difficulties faced by female founders and Nicci thinks it has hampered the development of her company in some ways such as in terms of the valuation put on the company, which can affect how much money it can raise during a fundraising stage. As well, she says it can often be difficult for male investors to understand the need for the business because as she puts it: “There’s nothing more female than having a baby.”
“Some of the comments I’ve had over the years are hilarious – I’ve written them all down in a little black book. I’ve walked out of meetings when it’s been like this person is not respecting me and it’s not going to work,” she explains. “But I try not to dwell on it and look at the positives. A lot of my investors are men and they’re the type of men that see the opportunity in the business.”
However, she believes things are starting to change, thanks to the gender imbalance of the tech industry being so much more on the agenda that it used to be four years ago.
“I’m hopeful that in five to 10 years, it’ll be very different. I have a daughter who wants to start a business and I hope that by the time she starts a company, it’s different.”
What’s next for Baby2Body?
The past 18 months have been a whirlwind for Nicci and the Baby2Body team. There are currently 14 staff working for the start-up from a myriad of different countries which Nicci says is important when you’re building a global product. For the second year running, the company made it onto the Startups 100 list, a list of the hottest companies in the UK, whilst Nicci was recently named the UK Business Angels Association’s high growth female founder of the year.
With sights set on a new fundraising round soon, what’s next for the company? Nicci says Baby2Body has been approached by some big corporates, with the aim to offer the platform to its employees as a health benefit. She’s also in talks with a hospital in Australia looking to prescribe the platform to patients.
The app hopes to roll out a section dedicated to women looking to conceive as well as for dealing with the menopause, so the platform is on hand for women during these major life moments.
Throughout the whole process, Nicci says the most important lesson she’s learned is to be resilient and just keep moving forward, regardless of whether an investor has knocked your confidence or the app crashes and causes a wave of bad reviews on the App Store.
“Things happen. But it’s about picking yourself up, and being focused on where you want to go,” she says. “Everyone talks about resilience and it is the most important thing to keep going.”