Twenty-three year old Lauren Shapiro had a full-time babysitting job, so when families would call and ask her to babysit she would refer her friends. “I noticed there was a huge need for not only sitters looking for jobs, but families searching for a reliable sitter in their area.” stated Shapiro. Her response was J-Sitter, a new website which allows families to search for the perfect babysitter and vice versa. Although, the “J” in J-sitter does stand for Jewish, it’s not necessarily intended for Jewish families and sitters. Anyone is welcome to use the website. I recently sat down with Lauren to ask her all about J-sitter.
YOUNG MONEY: What gave you the idea to start this business?
LAUREN SHAPIRO: With the technology we have today, more businesses are utilizing the internet. It makes it easy to be able to search for a list of sitters in their area with the click of a button. With several websites catered toward finding babysitters, I realized that none of them had a true niche, and having a niche creates a comfort level with the people utilizing the service. Therefore, J-Sitter was created.
YM: Where did you get the funding for your business?
LS: I have saved my money from my babysitting jobs over the years.
YM: What was the hardest thing you encountered while starting your business?
LS: The website itself. I wanted to ensure the safety of the sitters and the users, and I wanted to make it user friendly. The developer and I constantly exchanged ideas to make this a safe, easy, and accessible website. Although this is the case, like most great things, it’s worth the wait!
YM: What surprised you the most?
LS: I was overwhelmed by the positive feedback and the willingness of people wanting to help me market and spread the word. I have received emails from CEO’s around the world; I even heard from people in Israel asking if they will be able to use my site. It’s always exciting when people you don’t even know are enthused about your business as much as you are. I am very grateful for the support.
YM: How do you get your name out there and get customers? What has been your most effective marketing technique or tactic?
LS: I have used websites like Linkedin, Facebook, and twitter to spread the word about the website. I have also sent flyers to synagogues and businesses nationwide. My most effective marketing technique has seemed to be word of mouth. I have been very lucky to have friends and family who are as excited about the website as I am and have helped spread the word.
YM: How much will it cost for perspective clients?
LS: The site is free for sitters. For parents it is a small fee of $18 a month, or they can save money and sign up for $36 for 3 months or $90 for a year. We will help them find sitters for holidays, last minute outings, etc. It’ll be a convenient service to refer to 24/7 to find the help families need.
YM: Are you insured or bonded? How do you insure that the families will be protected?
LS: We are insured. In order to protect sitters and families (all users) we suggest both parties conduct multiple phone interviews, as well as in person interviews in a public place prior to hiring or agreeing to work for someone. We also have a background check agency offering their services to all users. Both parties are able to order background checks through this service to help ensure they are dealing with safe individuals.
YM: What is your screening process for sitters?
LS: There is no screening process for sitters. Unlike an agency, JSitter helps families and sitters find each other, but after that it is up to both parties to conduct their own interviews and background checks before hiring. JSitter is not the employer, the families choose their own sitters and employ on an individual basis.
YM: Is Jsitter just for the Baltimore area? Is it national? Or international?
LS: JSitter is a nationwide website!! JSitter is available to any and all families all over the United States.
YM: If you could offer one piece of concrete advice to other people, what would it be?
LS: Never give up on something you’re passionate about.
Please visit http://www.j-sitter.com for more information.