With school back in session, life gets a little more scheduled — and lot busier — for families. So it seems like the perfect time to introduce you to one of Bend’s newest startups, kidcareshare.
Founded by Bendite Jen Ortado, kidcareshare is an app that helps parents connect, schedule and trade childcare, carpools and play dates. It’s honestly one of those things that I found myself wishing I had six years ago. Jen, where were you when my daughter got booted out of her daycare not once, but three times, bless her heart. But we don’t have a time machine, so we’ll take it now!
Jen wants her app to not only help parents find childcare, but to also make childcare more affordable and help people build community along the way. “I had the idea several years ago when I was still living in L.A.,” Jen says. “My daughter was a baby, and I was working full-time and driving her eight miles to daycare. There was no time to connect with other moms and I really wanted a tribe.”
She recalled her own mom talking about how she and her neighbors used to trade poker chips for childcare. And her idea – that parents could more equitably trade child care – started percolating. Jen moved to Bend and tried to start a similar coop at her daughter’s Montessori school. “I had all these other parents say sign me up, but then I ended up being a working mom trying to manage 12 other families’ schedules.”
Tech to the rescue
Fortunately as her idea evolved, so did technology. Jen’s daughter headed to elementary school, and Jen created the school’s parent Facebook group to test the waters. But again, there were limitations. “It was hard to organize subgroups or target care requests to specific people, without cluttering up the feed,” she says.
She started to think that an app could handle all this communication around childcare in a much more streamlined way. A former marketing manager, she started developing a plan to create kidcareshare earlier this year.
The idea is basically this: Parents create an account within the app and bank a starting balance of points for each child in their profile. They can trade these points for care. Parents can search for trusted peers to add to their network, using their own connections or a code provided by school, or a community activity. As a parent, you can both request help with childcare as well as offer your own time for watching kids, hauling kids to soccer or meeting the neighborhood gaggle at the bus stop.
You accrue points for providing care, and you draw down your points to get care. This latter feature is critical. As Jen notes, “every parent struggles to ask for help.” But by tracking the care you give and take, the app takes the guilt out of the system – and makes it more equitable.
What’s more, app users can also convert their points to credits, and then use them to get discounts on products and services from local and national companies. So helping your neighbor out could also help you save a few bucks the next time you go out to dinner.
Prepping for launch
I know. You have questions. I had a few too. First, what if there are crazy yahoos on the app that I don’t want watching my kids? Jen gently pointed out, that just like any social network, parents control who they invite into their communities. Just as parents vet care providers in person, they get to decide who they want to connect with, and then who they ultimately reach out to for requesting or offering care.
And what about privacy? Again Jen has anticipated this. Via the app, you get to decide who sees information about your family. But what if you only take childcare and don’t offer any? Well, at some point – you’re gonna have to give. That’s what it’s all about.
Jen bootstrapped a prototype of her app, and is now raising $15,000 to help fund the development of the beta version. She’s considering a freemium revenue model, with added features available to users who subscribe.
She’s running a gofundme campaign that you can check out and contribute to, if you’re so inclined. She plans to keep the beta launch local, and you can also sign up to be one of the first kidcareshare users – and perhaps lighten your own childcare load in the process.
“We’re using technology to connect parent communities on a broader scale,” Jen says. “This app helps take away both the cost burden of childcare and the scheduling hassle.” We like that the sound of that. Good luck Jen!
You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].