The original team who started Mamamia.

Mamamia may have started in my lounge room but that was the boring bit. That was me sitting at home alone with a laptop, tapping into it madly, day and night fueld by excitement, anxiety and tea.

Things only ramped up once my husband and co-founder, Jason Lavigne, decided we needed to invest in hiring people to help us. More about that in a moment. But there was a period in between. The bit between me being entirely alone and us hiring people.

I’m not very good at remembering exact dates or even inexact dates. Working in digital media 24/7 blurs and warps your sense of time. What day even is it? But somewhere around the 18-month mark, before Jason was officially involved, when it was still just me, Mamamia had begun to build an audience. 
They were a passionate, smart, funny bunch of readers and commenters. Highly opinionated. Very, very loyal. And supportive. They believed in what I was trying to do – make a place for women to come and discuss things and express their opinions, in posts, in comments… to make women feel seen and heard and understood and mentally stimulated and like they belonged in a media world that made them feel like shit a lot of the time.

Watch: Mia Freedman talks about what she wishes she knew before she began Mamamia. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

These women (and a few men) had high expectations for what Mamamia should be – sometimes higher than my own. Like this one time when I posted a deeply embarrassing paparazzi photo of a celebrity. Within seconds of me posting it, the Mamamia readers told me in no uncertain terms via an avalanche of comments that it was an appalling thing to do. I listened, felt immediately ashamed and I took the post down right away because they were right.

Read: From magazine queen to unemployed pariah: the day my career imploded

Anyway, that’s the kind of mistake I didn’t want to keep making. And I was so lonely. After the initial relief of not working in an office after 15 years of office politics, a gaping hole opened up where my work happiness used to live. 
I’ve always been my happiest when surrounded by smart, funny, feisty women. The warmth and camaraderie. The chats in the kitchen while making tea. The stories you share and the investments you make in each other’s lives, getting to know each other’s mothers and children and partners and shopping habits and pets through conversations at your desk and while gathered around the microwave waiting for it to ping.

I missed that. Desperately.

I'd become familiar with some of the more regular commenters and somehow, we began to communicate in private away from the public Mamamia comments. Via email. Three of them, Lana Hirschowitz, Kerri Sackville and Amanda Whitley (known as Bugmum on the site!) were whip-smart, talented, funny women who were also very committed and loyal readers. These three women gave me feedback and offered to moderate comments and let me bounce ideas off them. Lana, Kerri and Amanda were incredibly generous with their time, their energy, their input and most importantly their support when I had nobody else I could trust. I called them The Circle and one Sunday they came to my house and we had afternoon tea and met IRL.


The fact is, I will be forever grateful to them. Lana went on to become my right hand for many years on the site as Mamamia's Editor.

Mia with Lana. Image: Supplied.

Kerri and Amanda were among my first contributors before going on to focus on their own blossoming careers. Lana, Kerri and Amanda volunteered their time and talent when I had no money to pay them and I will be forever grateful. Kerri is now a hugely popular author, national newspaper columnist and Amanda started her own media brand Hercanberra, an online magazine for Canberra women. Lana discovered so many brilliant writers and published their work on Mamamia is now working on her first novel and completing her degree in creative writing.
She writes like a dream. Always has. 
Within a few months of us deciding to be co-founders, Jason and  began hiring people. I Lana was our first paid employee. I can't remember exactly how the rest of this fabulous group of women (and man) came into my life but thank God they did.


How the original Mamamia team contributed to the Mamamia history.

Rick Morton used to write for The Australian newspaper where he won all kinds of journalism awards and is one of the most talented young writers in Australia. Nicky Champ is the former editor of Business Chicks Australia and is now a freelance writer. Natalia Hawk used to live and work in Canada as a writer and comms specialist for a few years and is now back in Australia managing her very own agency that support businesses with their content needs. She has also welcomed her newborn. And of course, Lana is a writer, consultant, and was a Mamamia columnist for years. (You can read more of her best pieces here.)

The original Mamamia team: Natalia, Bec, Nicky, Lana, and Rick. Image: Supplied.


In 2010, Bec Sparrow walked into my life like a sunbeam of wisdom and in 2011 I hired her as Mamamia’s Deputy Editor - a role she did from Brisbane.

That same year Lucy Ormonde moved from Melbourne after we met when I gave a speech there and she came up afterwards to introduce herself. Lucy also became an invaluable Editor at Mamamia and another right hand as she stayed with us for many years - now she's doing amazing things at Right Hand Woman Co. The glorious Kate Hunter was also part of the early gang adding her trademark wit and wisdom to the site. Kerri continued to contribute brilliant guest posts.

Lucy and Natalia. Image: Supplied.


They were crazy times. The Internet didn't sleep and neither did I. I expected a lot of my team and they were incredibly patient (with me) and ridiculously hard-working. We all worked around the clock; moderating comments, creating content, tweeting, hosting Prime Ministers in the office, building IKEA couches, cleaning up the dog poo of our dogs who wandered around, unblocked toilets that I'd clogged by flushing my tampons (who knew you weren't meant to!?) planning the site with post-it notes, sharing desks and making it all up as we went along. 

The original post-it note wall. Image: Supplied.


Jamila Rizvi joined us directly from politics after we'd met while she was working for then Minister For Women, Kate Ellis. I had always assumed that everyone I worked with would have a media background but Jamila had been on the other side, dealing with journalists in her roles working in Kevin Rudd's office when he was Prime Minister and then for Kate.
She understood the rigour of a 24 hour news cycle and was instrumental in our growth during that next phase of the site.

 Jamila Rizvi, Mia Freedman and Lucy Ormonde around 2012

 Today, Jamila has a big media career working in the gender equity space for Future Women and co-hosting daily news podcast The Briefing. She's also written and edited many books.
Without these women (and Rick) and the hundreds of women (and a few men) who came after them, Mamamia wouldn't exist.

Mamamia's core purpose - the reason we come to work - is to create content that makes the world a better place for women and girls. Content that makes them feel heard seen and understood. Content that makes them smile or laugh or nod or fist pump or feel smarter or better informed. And all of the people who have worked in our content team in the past 15 years - as well as other parts of our business - help make that a reality every day. 

That's why when you visit Mamamia on any day, I guarantee you’ll find something you will want to read or watch or listen to.

And to the original team, the original readers, the original commenters, thank you for your hard work and your passion that provided the springboard to get us to where we are today. I will never forget or take for granted those times.


Read: Mia Freedman answers the 20 most common questions about Strife, the show inspired by Mamamia.

Listen to Lady Startup Stories where Mia shares how she went from blogging in her lounge room to running Australia’s largest digital media company for women. Post continues after podcast.

ICYMI: There's an upcoming TV series on BINGE inspired by Mamamia, titled Strife. All 8 episodes are available to stream on December 6th on BINGE and Foxtel. Stay updated on anything about Strife below:

Feature Image: Supplied.