We caught up with Max Jennings, the founder of Hoop – a family listings app with all the best kids’ events taking place in London (soon extending across the UK) – to talk work life balance, seeing a gap in the market and being teleported to Hawaii with his family…
Max Jennings, 37, lives in Islington with his wife, Erin, and their two daughters: Maya, three, and Marnie, one.
What time are you up in the morning?
At the moment between 5.30am and 6.00am when my youngest daughter decides it’s time to get up.
What wakes you up?
My wife, letting me know our youngest is awake.
How do you feel?
For the first sixty seconds I feel like death, every atom in my body resists starting the day, then I’m good to go.
What do you do first thing?
Play with my daughters, prep breakfast for the family and listen to the Today programme.
How might the rest of your day pan out?
Weekdays, I head to the office between 8am and 9am and am there until just before 6pm. I’m lucky that I live close to where I work and where my eldest goes to nursery, so I can walk to work and get home fast for bathtime/bedtime stories with my daughters, or do the school run.
Weekdays will be a mix of catch-ups with the team at Hoop and working on preparing Hoop for our nationwide launch later this year.
Weekends, we usually see friends for long lunches, catch an art show on an afternoon and take the kids to some of London’s lovely parks. Our eldest loves arts and crafts stuff, so we usually end up at art workshop somewhere in London that we’ll find on Hoop.
How do you and your partner divide childcare/housework?
I work Monday to Friday, so my wife has the exhausting job of looking after the kids during the week and we share responsibility on the weekend. I definitely have the easier gig, and do anything to compensate when I’m at home and over the weekend. I’ll will pick up whatever housework needs doing and take the kids out over the weekend.
When did you launch family listings app Hoop and how has it been received, so far?
We launched across London in February and have been overwhelmed by the positive feedback we’ve received so far. It’s lovely to hear from parents who thank us for making their day or weekend a little easier. Word of Hoop is spreading fast amongst parents, and it’s reassuring to hear that families love using the app.
What’s your role in the day-to-day running?
My main focus is spreading the word about Hoop, getting it out to as many families as possible.
Prior to launching Hoop, you founded Voucher Codes. The two businesses are fairly disparate – as an entrepreneur is it less about your own interests and more about filling a gap in the market?
With VoucherCodes.co.uk we certainly saw an opportunity to build a voucher website that shoppers could trust and that would offer bigger and better savings. By focussing on delivering the best offers, we were able to help millions of families shop and save at their favourite stores.
At Hoop, again, we see a gap in the market, but it’s fair to say our mission is more personal. We want to make it easier for families to find fun things to do together. It’s time consuming and difficult to find out what’s going on for families, and there’s incredible stuff going on that many families simply miss out on.
As a parent I want to find interesting, fun and affordable things they’ll love to do, and used to regularly miss great things happening locally because there was no easy way to uncover new events and activities. Hoop solves this problem.
How do you find it, dividing your time between work and family?
Fine-ish. Having kids has forced me to become more efficient with how I spend my time at work. You have no option but to adapt to a reduced working week, and trying to do otherwise becomes futile. When I’m at home with the kids I make an effort not to let work things get in the way. I think if you don’t adopt this approach you end up in a lose-lose scenario where you set unrealistic expectations at work and you’re always distracted at home.
As a dad and an entrepreneur, do you find any part of your life is sacrificed/compromised (for instance: going to the gym, seeing friends, holidays) – or do you manage to fit it all in?
A smart guy once told me, at a certain point in your life you have to make a decision – Work, Family and Friends, Hobbies – you get to pick two. There’s some truth to this.
We still find time to travel as a family and fit trips in whenever possible. Evening social events/ generally going out is inevitably the most compromised at the moment. I go to sleep a lot earlier than before my daughters were born to get ahead of the early wake-up calls, so I’d say right now – I’ve picked work, and family and friends.
Are you already thinking about the next business?
Nope, Hoop keeps me busy enough right now.
Does your partner work too?
She looks after our daughters right now, which is more than a full-time job. In time, she plans to go back to the charity sector where she’s spent most of her career.
What do you enjoy most about fatherhood, and what is the greatest challenge?
It’s a cliché, but watching my daughters explore the world and being part of their lives as they experience and learn about new things. Otherwise, I enjoy simply messing around with them and taking them new places.
Most challenging – at the moment, it’s the lack of sleep. There’s a reason the UN considers sleep deprivation a form of torture.
What are your dreams, career-wise?
To work with smart, fun people who care about what they do; and to keep trying new things. Life’s too short to spend your time surrounded by people who are indifferent.
And for your family?
To be happy, to explore the world, be open to new ideas and be surrounded by people they care about.
If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
Maui, Hawaii – if you could teleport me and my family there, so we could skip the 18-hour flight, that would be awesome!
Check out family listings app Hoop
Main image credit: Alejandro Tamagno, 2015