Birdie Break Co-Founders on Creating Accessible, On-Demand Childcare
Introducing a mobile app created by parents, for parents.
Having initially sought a career in artistic pursuits that span photography, design, and restaurant development, Melanie Swerdan can recall witnessing her sister’s frustration in finding reliable nannies for her kids.
After a serendipitous brainstorming session with her close friend Cressida Raffin, who would eventually become a busy mom to two boys and struggle with her own childcare needs, the two entrepreneurial-minded problem solvers developed a concept to connect families to superior babysitters beyond traditional avenues; to “give parents a break,” says Raffin.
“It’s so hard to balance and manage everything. There are so many moms and parents who feel like they have to be these martyrs, that they have to be at home,” Raffin continues. “People don’t go to their neighbours anymore. There are no babysitters down the street. There’s no community. We wanted to build a virtual support network for parents again.”
So, the dedicated creative paired up with Raffin, who had spent the last decade-plus in the marketing and event coordination world, to purvey an option for parents that was easy to access, sign up for, and actually use. She had always found it quite remarkable how mobile apps wielded the ability to bring people together and create a shared culture, as well as efficiently fulfill a wide range of needs.
Further discussion with peer groups and market research followed. What quickly became clear was that the current marketplace was lacking a solution that was neither impersonal and risky, nor expensive and time-consuming.
Enter Birdie Break: their on-demand, affordable pay-per-use service that identifies babysitters and childcare to parents, then allows those parents to book sitters anywhere from two hours to two months in advance.
You simply enter the date, time, and type of request you are looking for, and if it’s one-time or recurring. Properly assessed providers will submit their profiles if they’re available. All that’s left for you to do is review your options and pick your preference. No need to stop on the way home or bother with cash, either. In-app payments are made a breeze.
Of course, establishing an enterprise such as Birdie Break didn’t come without its share of obstacles, especially at the outset.
“A marketplace is one of the hardest businesses to start, because you’re now dealing with two sides of a platform. You basically have two users,” Raffin explains. “There is that supply-demand dance that we’re always doing. But I think that once we started seeing there was so much demand for this, we realized that the only limitation on our growth was going to be how quickly we could onboard our sitters.”
Accordingly, the vetting process was (and remains) pivotal. Beyond offering a convenient, dependable and peerless pathway to childcare, one of the most critical factors in originating Birdie Break was that it had to be something that Swerdan and Raffin themselves would feel comfortable with for their own loved ones.
“We really had to implement scalable recruitment strategies. We partnered with a local Canadian company. They do background checks, they do virtual interviews,” Raffin tells us. “That was a big challenge, because we aren’t willing to compromise on quality. But we also need to be able to scale and get this to as many as possible.”
“We feel the fact that we prescreen our sitters, and that parents know that all sitters are five-star sitters, it’s super paramount to building the trust required to grow our platform and grow our business,” Raffin adds.
Currently operating in Hamilton, Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer, Banff, and Canmore — with its sights soon set on Vancouver — the coveted growth that she indicates has already begun to take root. Understanding that the current environment has changed, with parents confronting even more uncertainty these days over their children’s education, the Birdie Break co-founders have recently debuted another level of support by endorsing experienced tutors.
Whether parents are concerned about their children falling behind from missing months of school, or having a difficult time with online schooling, Birdie Break strives to be their best and safest option.
“We really would like to be seen as purpose-driven. It is so much more than just a babysitting service,” Raffin stresses, emphasizing how authentically the app aspires to help parents benefit from the kind of support network that has largely disappeared.
“That’s something at the core of what Birdie Break is and why we started it.”
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