“Do you need a drink tonight? We’ve got you covered!” That’s part of the branding for Kiid, the on-demand babysitters web app (think Uber for babysitters) from president and founder Marie-Pier Hébert.
Parents sign onto the platform, enter the date, time, place and number of children and click ‘Book a Sitter.’ They’re automatically matched with a sitter available at that time and location. They enter their payment info on the platform and the sitter immediately receives an email notification that she has a booking. Parents are charged $22 to $28 per hour (more hours cost less per hour).
No more calling around when you’re desperate. No more wondering if you can have a date night or not. And no more wondering if your sitter is going to remember that your child will only wear the pajamas with puppy dogs on them and really loves Good Night Moon at bedtime – because you can write that in your profile for the sitter to read. Customers are only billed after the service, so if they come home early, they only pay for the time used.
“At first I was worried about leaving my child with a stranger,” says Daphnee Van Lierde, an early user of the Kiid platform and mother of a 20-month-old, “but I realized it’s actually better than leaving my child with a 15-year-old neighbour that I don’t really know and who has no training with kids, or a background check.”
Hébert officially launched the service February 1, 2018, but had already started beta testing. Like a lot of startups, she wasn’t in a rush to grow while she worked out kinks. She also needed time to hire more babysitters – because eight wasn’t enough to keep up with demand. She now has 15, all with a minimum 3 years experience. They all have CPR training and a professional training (Hébert provides both). And most are Cegep or university students. “They study child psychology or do a lot of volunteering for the industry,” says Hébert. “It’s not just people who do this for the money.”
If it sounds like a great idea, it is – but Hébert’s not the first on the market. The service is the only one of its kind in Quebec, but similar companies exist outside of the province. To set herself apart, she’s planning to keep up with her « cool » branding and develop corporate services in 2019, including babysitting hours paid for by the employer that employees can use when needed; in-office babysitting for spring break or other school holidays; and corporate team building activities where the kids are invited to tag along (« We do things like going to the zoo, dance classes, music classes,” says Hébert, “and we will usually do a little show at the end of the day for the parents.)
To Hébert, the biggest challenge isn’t the competition; it’s the transactional nature of the website. She has a tech advisor, but decided to outsource the development. “It’s not easy to find a web developer that will agree to work on a transactional website,” she says. “It’s hard to interface the real-time schedules, booking and payment system all together and it can result in some bugs sometimes. The fact that it’s an ‘on-demand’ service adds to the complexity.” It took four developer/programmers, one artistic director one web designer and about six months to get the site to what it is now.
The other complication was creating a fully bilingual website – a problem known both to businesses launched in Quebec and those wanting to join the market. “It almost doubles the work, but it was crucial for me to have it in both French and English,” says Hébert.
Hébert came from a hospitality background, helping to launch 11 hotels in 11 years while working on four continents, but she went from big budget to small budget with her change in careers. Fortunately, she now has a little help from Fondation Montreal Inc. Kiid was the recipient of one of the organization’s January 2018 bursaries, which is all the more impressive given that she’s a first-time founder and a solo founder.
For her, a clear vision of the finished product has helped her transition into being an entrepreneur. “The website we have today is close to what I had in mind,” she explains. “It’s not perfect and not yet up to my expectations, but what I learned through all of it is that every little function takes a lot of time and we can’t accomplish everything at once. It’s sometimes difficult to prioritize because, as an entrepreneur, it’s your baby and you want everything to be perfect, but you rarely have the funds to do everything at once.”
That last sentence could summarize her entire business model. Parents want perfect service and a fair price.
Special requests? Like if a customer has a wedding and wants the kids brought back to the hotel after dinner? Definitely. “I always try to say yes, because we always said yes to the guests when I worked in hotels,” she says.
“It’s an excellent service,” says Van Lierde. “The sitters are on time and always very professional. The website is easy to use and we can reserve whenever we want. Everything is prepaid, so we don’t worry about it when we come back. The sitter even folded my son’s laundry when he was sleeping.”
Whether small touches like folded laundry are good employee training on the part of Hébert or the initiative of one excellent babysitter, Kiid seems to have its (rubber) ducks in a row.