Birdie Break brings parents together with vetted child-care providers
By Steven Sandor | February 25, 2022
When you’re a parent, and you’ve got a new sitter for your kids, this is how date night goes. You and your partner eat a couple of bites of your meal, then check the phone for messages. And, if there aren’t any, you wonder, “what does that mean?” No news is bad news, right?
You end up rushing through dinner, just so you can get back home to figure out why no one texted you updates every five minutes.
Why are parents like this? Because the second your child announces itself to the world with its first cry, you develop severe trust issues. Playgrounds become bastions of death. Anyone who wants to go near your child is viewed with suspicion.
Entrepreneurs Melanie Swerdan and Cressida Raffin have targeted one of the areas that makes parents feel the most unease; finding the right babysitter. The two are behind the app, Birdie Break which links families with qualified child-care workers in Edmonton, Calgary, Banff, Canmore and Toronto. Plans are in place to expand to Red Deer, and approximately 175 sitters can be contacted via the app.
Swerdan got the idea when she saw that her sister, who has three kids, was having issues trying to find someone to babysit.
“Why is there no Uber for babysitting?” Swerdan said.
It was an idea that she shared with Raffin, a close friend. Raffin had two children of her own. In 2017, they launched Birdie Break, which has grown into an app that quickly links parents with sitters.
“It’s a massive societal issue, the lack of available child care,” says Raffin. “So, we’re not just a babysitting company. We’re bettering parents’ lives. We’re bettering sitters’ lives.”
How does it work? Sitters are vetted before they can list themselves through the app. They each need one year of experience and have to clear a security check.
Parents looking for sitters download the app, then offer a little about themselves. How many kids they have, how old they are, where they are located — and what are the house rules. You can head your kids off at the pass before they tell the sitter that “yes, my parents let me stay up till 11 and drink all the Coke I want. Now let’s watch some slasher movies!”
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Once the info is submitted, parents are linked to the profiles of sitters close to them. They see their rates. And they can book via the app.
Obviously, the business has taken a hit during the pandemic, with so many people being at home.
“In July, August, September, October, it was really making progress month to month, but then it came crashing down, and we have to climb again,” says Swerdan.
But the business didn’t go completely down. They noticed that, of the bookings they were getting, 60 per cent came from parents looking for child care during the day. Many were working at home and needed to focus on their work days — which is something that isn’t easy to do from a home office in a crowded house.
Swerdan and Raffin have recently enrolled in the University of Alberta’s Venture Mentoring Service, where they can get guidance from industry professionals on how to best scale their business.