The idea of having parents serve as customer service associates came to Little Spoon co-founder Michelle Muller in 2017. The organic baby food company, based in New York City, was in its infancy and as such, Muller was still handling all the customer service calls. One day, when a parent asked her for a job, Muller had an aha! moment: Parents would be great at relating to other parents. And being able to relate is, of course, one mark of a great customer service associate.

So Muller and her three co-founders built a distributed customer service network composed mostly of part-time parents. The associates are encouraged to engage with customers about more than just product selection, and to offer support when, say, a customer with a 2-year-old asks, "Does this get any easier?"

"What we found is that people just wanted to talk. People just wanted to know that they were not alone," says Little Spoon co-founder Lisa Barnett, noting that over time the same question kept popping up: "Is this normal?" 

The question inspired the Little Spoon team to take the notion of customer support a step further. They built an online community around the question, starting with an advice column and website, where people could ask questions about everything from connecting with their spouse after having kids to tips for fussy sleepers. 

Is This Normal grew to include a weekly newsletter, (pre-pandemic) real-life hangouts, a Facebook group, and a card game that launched in April 2021--all connected by the idea of parents educating themselves and providing support and validation to each other. 

The concept has also been pretty good for business. Since launching the Is This Normal website in April 2019, Little Spoon's subscriber base for its product has increased by 250 percent. "We saw a growth in our organic customers--those who are not coming from a paid channel,'' Barnett says. The community turns customers into ambassadors for the brand--a pretty vital pipeline in a time when traditional cookie-based web advertising is slated to take a hit.

"Any brand that is building a business on top of Facebook, Instagram, and Google ads is going to quickly struggle," she says. "So many people miss the fact that your customer is a channel for acquisition--so what can we do to help them be our mouthpiece and become ambassadors for Little Spoon?"