Joe Gebbia, co-founder of Airbnb, defined the sharing economy as “commerce with the promise of human connection”. Within these transactions “people share a part of themselves” and in doing so transform a previously cold consumer-provider relationship into something deeply personal.
For me, this is a beautiful symbiosis; the idea that through a community both social and financial benefits can be attained. For Airbnb it’s about connecting holidaymakers to hosts; for Deliveroo it’s about connecting hungry people to tasty takeaway; and for my company, Oscar & Owl, it’s about connecting local parents to local babysitters.
Companies like Airbnb and Deliveroo are fueled by trust. Hosts trust that their guests will respect their most intimate spaces. Couples on a Saturday night will trust that the ‘Indian Express’ will be as authentic as its 4 ½ star rating suggests.
However, child care requires a whole other level of assurance. For Gebbia “the only thing more personal than your phone is your home”, but at Oscar & Owl we know that the only thing more personal than your home, are your children.
For some, this makes it a very scary market to enter. But this fact does not make childcare void of problems or inefficiencies, something I discovered during my +10 years of babysitting. And like any good entrepreneur, when you see a problem you really care about, you have to try and fix it.
MY STORY: FROM BABYSITTER TO ENTREPRENEUR
I started babysitting when I was 13yrs old for family friends and local neighbours. As mum’s chatted in the school courtyards and passed on the word, I built up relationships with over 20 lovely local families. At school, on particularly busy nights I would have 5+ requests. I would connect families to my sisters and my friends from school to help fill in. This was my first mini business, though I never took a cut. I simply enjoyed helping my friends earn some extra cash and my parents with their Friday night freedom.
In 2012 I went to Nottingham University. After building such a budding community in London, I had to start from scratch. I signed up my profile to a couple of babysitting sites, and… not a single hit. I found this incredibly frustrating, given my years of experience. It also got me thinking, what if there was one centralised place where babysitters could store all their recommendations?
It was at University that I became an avid member of the Entrepreneurs Society, where I was Vice President, and had my first introduction to my new love – tech. I went to hackathons, pitches, and spent hours creating and pulling apart ideas.
Fast forward through two years of the tech start-up life, and the babysitting issue was still on my mind. At the start of 2016 I gave up my freelance work to set up a childcare agency. I wanted to see what it was all about. I hired babysitters with DBS checked & First Aid Trained. I did reference checks, conducted interviews – the works. But I still kept having the questions – “Do you know them personally?” If I did, the comfort in the parent’s voice and the likelihood of them booking shot through the roof.
For parents, their little ones are the most precious in the whole world. The parents I spoke to found it particularly hard to leave their child with carers, even from official agencies. But without it, they put their social life in jeopardy. One dad told me “you have to just trust whoever’s behind the door and leave your children with a total stranger. It was a nerve wracking necessity on the path back to having an evening off!”
All of a sudden, everything seemed to click into place for that light-bulb moment; parents need a word-of-mouth babysitter search.
And from this epiphany, Oscar & Owl was born.
About Philippa Main
Philippa Main is a young and ambitious entrepreneur, whose passion for childcare and her local community inspired her to found Oscar & Owl. During her 10 years of experience in the sector, Philippa witnessed many parents struggling to find reliable local babysitters; although many sitters were available to assist. She designed Oscar & Owl to connect this community, build local relationships and provide quality childcare for busy families.
Philippa has a wide range of entrepreneurial experience. Whilst studying for her BA in Economics and Philosophy from the University of Nottingham, she was the Vice President of the Nottingham Entrepreneurs society. She was also an Ambassador for The European Innovation Academy, the 2014 winner of the European Youth Awards and more recently managed the development of a health tec app “Digital Clipboard”.