An interview with Serena Errico
We caught up with the Italian entrepreneur to discuss her business, motherhood and views on Italian society.
Read the short profile below.
“I left work in 2014 and spent a year following my husband abroad with our then two-year-old. At the time, I kept hearing about the green economy and I thought it must be possible to follow the logic of Rent-a-Car and build a business that rents children’s equipment to parents working or traveling overseas. This is so that they don’t have to buy all this equipment only to leave it behind when they return home. I thought it was a waste. It led to me building the platform that became BabyGuest, which has now become a successful e-commerce business in Europe. Ultimately, it was a simple idea born from a personal need.”
Serena grew up in Puglia. Her father was an accountant, and her mother was a stay-at-home mom. She is happily married with two boys aged three and eight. As a child, she dreamed of becoming a truck driver – traveling and exploring the world – but ended up instead forging a successful career working at large multinationals such as Vodafone. In 2014, Serena moved abroad due to her husband’s work, and it was during this period that she got the idea for BabyGuest. BabyGuest is a digital platform that rents children’s strollers and car seats to families who travel and work abroad, as well as to international hotels that don’t have enough storage space to keep children’s equipment year-round. The company delivers anywhere within the EU within 24-48 hours. BabyGuest also has a number of other exciting plans in the works, including a soon-to-be-launched all-purpose parent bag. In other words, the company is going from strength to strength, but it hasn’t all been plain sailing.
“I suffered heavy bullying at work, and at the time, I wasn’t able to cope. It was a really bad time. Friendships were also difficult – in fact, I don’t think friendships existed. I think there were acquaintances – good acquaintances – but in the past, I’ve been let down by the very people that were supposed to be closest to me. Today I don't let many people into my personal sphere. I don’t really like to talk too much about my personal life, but these experiences have shaped who I am and have made me more determined. At first, it was difficult. When I founded the company, BabyGuest had a lot of word-of-mouth support and media coverage, but not that many actual customers. At the time, we were pioneers. Now similar businesses are emerging, and we have people contacting us from all over the world – a request just arrived from Australia. But it’s been tough, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone doing business in Italy. Most start-ups here don’t succeed, as it’s an ecosystem that castrates rather than incentivizes entrepreneurial initiatives. In Italy, we talk a lot about families, for example, but there’s really no policy development on this issue. The government offers no support for women entrepreneurs, and in Italy, motherhood is seen as an illness, not as an opportunity. Women still have to look after the children, so if you want to work full-time, you need to hire people. Even when women are talking to investors, they’ll be asked how they’re going to deal with their current or future children.
“I have a supportive husband who is proud of my work and who, as a fellow entrepreneur, understands the dynamics and difficulties associated with doing business. Today, I just try to live with extreme intensity, looking to the future while remaining open to new professional opportunities. I feel in balance with myself, strong enough and satisfied with who I am, whereas before I was quite insecure and fragile. I don’t want to have any regrets, and I really want to have a good balance between my personal and professional life without either of them overriding the other. I’ve had to make professional choices. I don’t think it’s always possible to have it all. I’ve chosen to dedicate time to my family and to interesting projects, but I’ve given up having time for myself. I would say that women should be themselves without fear of being judged – as professionals, as women, as mothers. Without performance anxiety, women could improve their quality of life.”