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Start Your Business Success Stories

Mobile App Helps On-the-Go Parents Find Sitters

Entrepreneur: Lynn Perkins
Business name: UrbanSitter
Years in business: 2
Website address: www.urbansitter.com

Finding a babysitter who's trustworthy, reliable and boasts good recommendations poses a challenge, especially for busy parents with a lot on their plates. No mom or dad wants to leave the kids with just anyone, so how do you find child-care services that meet your terms? That's what Lynn Perkins set out to answer when she co-founded UrbanSitter, an online and mobile service that helps connect parents with quality child-care services.

Thanks in part to the Internet and other technology, UrbanSitter is now active in a dozen cities with over 35,000 sitters available. Here's how Perkins used technology to turn her idea into a successful business.


Credit: UrbanSitter

Business News Daily: What problem were you hoping to solve when you started your business?

Lynn Perkins: I was hoping to make it more efficient for parents and sitters to find each other and connect. For parents, I wanted to make it easier to find trusted care providers, ideally people who had a reference from a friend or trusted source. For sitters, I wanted to provide them with a method to market themselves and maximize their babysitting opportunities.

BND: Could your business have existed 20 years ago?

L.P.: The technology platform that UrbanSitter is built on wasn't available 20 years ago. The best practices we've taken from the offline world of finding child care did exist 20 years ago. This includes asking a friend, family member or trusted resource for child-care recommendations.

BND: What technology (or technologies) has been the greatest help to your business?

L.P.: Social networks, such as Facebook, allow us to personalize connection information to a user, so that they can see if a friend has met a sitter on our site or if an available sitter is friends with a sitter the parents have hired before. Parents and sitters are more likely to work together if there is a connection between them. [8 Facebook Tools Your Business Should Be Using ]

BND: What technology can't you live without?

L.P.: At UrbanSitter, we couldn't live without mobile. Sitters and parents are on the go. Our sitter response times, parent payment via credit card, and messaging are all enhanced by mobile. Along those same lines, I personally couldn't live without my smartphone. Without it, I would have no photos of my children, accidentally miss meetings and take longer to get places without directions. 

BND: If you could hire one extra employee right now, what would you have that person do?

L.P.: We would benefit from more engineers. Our product wish list is always bigger than the available development resources. I'm sure I would still feel this way if our department were three times larger. We do a good job at prioritizing what we build, but I'd definitely take additional resources to churn out more product.

BND: What technology do you wish existed that doesn't?

L.P.: There isn't something that comes to mind right now, so on behalf of my sons, who love superheroes, I'd say X-ray vision goggles.

BND: What technology do you think is most overrated?

L.P.: Google Glass has a ton of cool factor, but I don't think we'll see consumer adoption take off anytime soon. In fact, a recent Google Consumer Survey found that only 8.7 percent of U.S. Internet users would be willing to buy it for [a] $750 price tag.

BND: Where do you see technology in your industry going over the next three to five years?

L.P.: I think we will see mobile use continue to increase by both parents and sitters.  Moms and sitters are busy people, so mobile makes a lot of sense for booking, communicating and payment in the child-care space.

BND: What's the most valuable non-tech skill an entrepreneur needs?

L.P.: This for me is a toss-up between resilience, which is more of a quality than a skill, and having strong sales skills. I mention resilience because being an entrepreneur can be tough. People might be critical of your idea. You may develop a product, marketing strategy or anything else related to your business, and it can be a flop. Having resilience, the capacity to recover from difficulties, will keep you going and help you overcome the tough times. Secondly, I think having strong sales skills is incredibly valuable for entrepreneurs. Whether you are pitching your idea to an investor, recruiting people to work with you or motivating customers to try your product, you are constantly 'selling.'

Originally published on Business News Daily