Welcome to , an ongoing series at Mashable that looks at how to take care of – and deal with – the kids in your life. Because Dr. Spock is nice and all, but it’s 2018 and we have the entire internet to contend with.
One pair of e-commerce veterans wondered why it was so difficult to find quality kids clothes in vibrant colors without logos or designs. A technology professional wanted to figure out a simpler way to help busy parents find a trusted babysitter, even at the last minute.
They channeled those frustrations in the manner they knew best – by launching a startup.
“Over and over again, I’d hear parents tell me they couldn’t find good childcare,” said Lynn Perkins, founder of UrbanSitter, an online childcare booking service. “The technology and innovation were in just the right spot at that time to solve two challenges related to parenting – helping families find quality childcare they could trust and doing it efficiently.”
Perkins, who worked at tech companies in the San Francisco area before taking time off to care for her infant twins, helped launch UrbanSitter in 2010 after informally matchmaking families with trusted caregivers. Many of the names behind today’s most innovative parenting startups followed a similar path, as their entry into parenthood illuminated marketplace gaps they might not have considered before having their children.
“Being parents ourselves, we wanted to provide other parents with a simple, affordable way to shop for kids’ clothing,” Primary.com co-founders Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell said by email. “Being a mom is a full-time gig, and it was important for us to create a site that never discontinued styles, allowing parents to simply replenish pieces in the next size up as their children grew.”
A desire for a cloth diaper laundry and delivery service for busy parents in New York City, where most households have two parents working outside the home and living in apartments that don’t allow for daily access to a washer and dryer, led to the birth of Diaperkind in 2009. The company meshes the founders’ desire to make cloth diapering accessible to all families and provide an environmentally sustainable option to conserve the planet’s resources.
Diaperkind co-founder Liz Turrigiano said the company has also help foster relationships between area families, as the Diaperkind team aims to learn more about their subscribers and help them connect with each other. The company offers a community “diaper house” to bring parents together to learn more about cloth diapering and develop friendships that can last long after the kids leave diapers behind. The team is also preparing to launch a new reusable diapering system, Esembly, to expand Diaperkind’s reach beyond New York.
“We saw an opportunity to bring something to our community and the environment,” Turrigiano said. “We’ve helped link families together, we visit their homes and have watched friendships develop as the customers meet each other through cloth diapering.”
Then there are apps like Peanut, where parents around the world can be matched with others with similar interests and crowdsource answers to pressing concerns about common issues like feeding, sleep and teething. Peanut founder Michelle Kennedy came from the dating app world, previously holding leadership roles with Bumble and Badoo.
The challenges of launching a parenting-focused startup weren’t raising capital or finding customers – quite the opposite
“Of course there were people who at first said ‘why don’t you do another dating app? You’re great at dating!’” Kennedy said in an email. “That felt frustrating. But the conversation surrounding motherhood has really changed and I believe in some part that Peanut has been part of that conversation shift. What went from ‘she’s making Tinder for Mom friends’ quickly developed into ‘she’s creating a platform for modern motherhood.’”
For most, the challenges of launching a parenting-focused startup weren’t related to raising capital or finding customers. Quite the opposite — demand often exceeded expectations.
After giving birth, Turrigiano returned to her full-time job at ad agency Wieden + Kennedy and expected to work on Diaperkind as a side project, but demand was so high for the cloth diapering service that after seven months of juggling two careers, she left to focus solely on the startup.
“It was a tough, but magical first year,” she said. “We were so fortunate to have so much interest but the biggest challenges were keeping up. Our systems weren’t keeping up with demand, so we had to hire more staff and get more equipment.”
Bernard and Carbonell of Primary.com said they recognized quickly that they had no experience making clothes and had to find a quality supplier. They later struggled to keep products in stock when they didn’t have someone experienced to manage their supply chain.
“We were trying to establish ourselves as a go-to for busy parents, and we just didn’t have what they needed,” they wrote. “The customer experience wasn’t great, and we couldn’t ramp up until we fixed it.”
Flexibility and balance
While Turrigiano is happy that she has the flexibility to pick up her children from school each day and take them to afterschool activities, she spends much of her free time working on the business.
“I make up for (that flexibility) at night when I don’t close my laptop until 12:30,” said Turrigiano. “If they could only they could see what’s on the other side of the screen sometimes!”
Kennedy said she’s learned to accept the fact that she has to juggle responsibilities, sometimes putting business needs first, and other times, putting family in front. Perkins said her team, which includes other parents, has learned to master the art of prioritizing, understanding that the traditional startup life of working around the clock isn’t always the most efficient method of getting things done.
Having a great team and delegating responsibilities is a must, all say, and listening to customer needs also helps their companies’ growth and development.
“Women who are mothers are worth $2 trillion a year, and the venture world recognizes there’s a huge opportunity to address that market,” Kennedy said. “One year after launch, I see how possible it is not only for us to do more but also to see how many people want to support that. It’s exciting and thrilling to be part of that narrative.”
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