Friday, May 9, 2008

Look Auntie, No Hands!

Dear Readers,

At about two weeks into starting my own business, I knew I needed to get the data right. Sure, it's good to know in your gut that you have a good idea, but being able to articulate it through data makes it even better. So I needed quantifiable data. I also needed to check the pulse of other Aunts. I did not have the funds for a major research study nor a focus group, so I looked on the internet for data and invited some of the girls over for a dessert reception I dubbed my AuntFarm.

Finding data online was not as easy as I had hoped. There were no reports on Aunts per say, nor on non-moms, my main focus. (Please note: Mommy Aunties are a very welcome and important part of the Community. Several Mommy Aunties have written in making sure they are included. They love being Aunts too, and we can't blame them!) I spent the first couple of weeks looking for as much data as I could find to support the fact that I had a market and the 2004 US Census Fertility Report was the only resource I could find. But with it, I hit the jackpot.

So here are the facts: 45% of women up to the age of 44 do not have children. 37% of women who do not have children are in their 20-40s. There is no data for women without kids over the age of 44 - but one can assume, based on the data point of 45% of childless women under the age of 45, that at least 5% of the total population of women over 44 do not have kids. In the end, I estimate the NonMom segment to be 50% of the adult female population. That's about 60 million women. That is a pretty huge segment full of Aunts by Relation (ABR), Aunts by Choice (ABC), godmothers, great aunts, and other women who adore kids. And the most interesting fact is that this segment is growing. In 2003, it was reported that 44% of women under 45 were not moms. In 2001, that number was at 43%. Add in the Mommy Aunties, and the "Aunt Market" is pretty big.

Around the time I was looking for data, my friend Bobby Zuckman was in town from Atlanta. He's an entrepreneur and very supportive. He's also a brilliant marketer and sales guy, so when he suggested that I create an acronym to define this special segment of women, I agreed. And PANK (Professional Aunts, No Kids) was born. Thanks, Bobby.

So I had the data to quantify the segment. I had a name for the segment. Now I needed to test it on some real women. On June 28th, about two weeks after I woke up an entrepreneur, I invited about 20 Aunts to my home for the AuntFarm focus group. I told them about the data I had discovered. I told them about PANKs.
I reminded them about our spending power. And throughout it all, I asked them for their thoughts.

What I learned from the AuntFarm was invaluable:

I learned that some women don't care to be called Aunt. Or Auntie. Or anything other than their first name. This is especially true of Aunts who became Aunts in their teens or early twenties. However, some Aunts who are in fact called by their first name, really prefer to be called Auntie. They yearn for the familial connection the name implies.

Aunts with over a dozen nieces and nephews don't spend as much as they used to on the kids when there were fewer of them, but they sure do spend a lot traveling to see them all.

Aunts spend a lot of money and time on their nieces and nephews, and are very happy to do so. Even the Mommy Aunties in the room still indulged their nieces and nephews at birthday time and the holidays.

All of the Aunts mentioned how much they love their nieces and nephews. Some brought pictures of them to pass around. Some told stories. There was a certain warmth and brightness to the room when the Aunts talked about their nieces and nephews. And everyone could feel it.

Some Aunts love being Aunts, but also want to be Mommies one day.
Aunthood was just the beginning for them, even though they were getting closer to the end of the age of fertility. They optimistically see Aunthood as "training wheels" for raising their own kids one day.

There was a lot of information and advice (and support!) that night. It was slightly overwhelming. Now remember, I was just a couple of weeks into this process. I was still not sure how this idea would be executed, how it would be promoted, and if anyone other than my 20 Auntie friends would listen. Especially if dessert was not included. But I was laying down a strong foundation. And that, no one could argue with.

I was now ready to take off my "training wheels." A week later, on July 9, 2007, I began the trademark process and the incorporation process. Don't worry. I was wearing a helmet; I knew that there was always a chance I would fall flat on my face. You just never know until you let go.

Weeeeeeeee...... So far, not a bruise.

Auntie Melanie


  1. You come up with the best names - PANK, AuntFarm. Love 'em!

    I'm "Auntie Janie" to my nieces and nephews. I love hearing them say my name. I love that I am special to them, because they are all so very special to me.

    With 9, soon to be 11, nieces and nephews, I certainly don't spend as much as I used to when I first became an aunt, but I try to give all of my "kids" a lot of my time, and of course, my love.

    Really loving following your journey through your blog.


  2. Melanie,

    I'm a fellow LWL'er who is reading your blog --- girlfriend, you are speaking right to me!

    I'm 44, no children and had NO IDEA I was part of such a large % of women without kids!! Oh, how these stats have made me feel SO much better about it! Yippee -- I am surrounded by strollers in Hoboken where I live -- so KUDOS on bringing the stats, and SavvyAuntie to life!

    I'm "Auntie Louise" to my niece and nephews -- and will most certainy enjoy participating in our community when you launch.

    So great to read the details of your business progression, it is inspiring as I continue my own.

    Peace, Light + Prosperity,
    Louise Lombardo

  3. Good for you. Aunts are often forgotten by our society. I'm a Mumma Aunt now, but for many years was a professional aunt to my fab nieces and nephews and thought I would be that way forever. Now my nieces and nephews have grown up, and I have kids of my own. They have a fantastic auntie who adds so much to their lives. She doesn't have kids, so is happy to spoil mine whenever she has the chance. We love her. Yay for Aunts everywhere.


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