A former nanny uses her expertise with child care to help families select and schedule sitters through an online service.
Amanda Knapp is molding young lives in more ways than one.
She has spent all her adult life trying to make it a little simpler for parents to find reliable childcare. Now she is CEO of the successful, and growing, Sitting Made Simple, an online childcare service currently working with more than 1,200 families in central Ohio.
Knapp started out as a nanny herself as an 18-year-old in Wichita, Kan.
"My first nanny position was a single father with five children," she says. "I was born in a small town to a single mother. I'm the oldest of, like, 33 grandchildren, so I grew up raising the family."
She also grew up knowing she had to work hard for what she wanted, just like her mother had. Her mother married her stepfather when Knapp was one year old.
When she and her husband, Chris, decided to move to Columbus for a job opportunity for him, she decided to continue as a nanny until 2008, when she started Sitting Made Simple.
"I met other nannies and all these other moms and realized there was a need," she says.
She started the business using a telephone and linking other local sitters she knew with families who needed their services.
In 2010, that part-time business became a full-time job and moved online.
Now she runs the local babysitting and nanny service for busy parents with demanding job responsibilities, taking everything she learned from her youth and own experiences and applying it to Sitting Made Simple.
"We started with five sitters and eight clients," she says. "In almost five years we've grown to 260 sitters and 1,200 clients."
With the click of a button parents can find a nanny for their family or a sitter for a night, a day, a weekend or an entire school year.
Knapp has built up both her network of babysitters, and the families they take care of, through word-of-mouth only. There is a one-time membership fee and a sitting fee for each appointment, which varies depending on the needs of the client.
Most of the young women, and a few young men, who work for Sitting Made Simple are college students. Most of the sitters Knapp works with, who are all independent contractors, are enrolled at Ohio State University.
Her sitters become part of her clients' families. They are thoroughly background checked and are vetted by Knapp personally. "I will know in five minutes whether or not someone is a fit for us," Knapp says. "It's extremely a gut feeling. They have to keep the client and me happy."
The system works for sitter Alecia Frankart.
"The original reason I came to work for Amanda was as a babysitter," says Frankart, a senior at OSU. "I liked the flexible hours and the pay is good."
It didn't take long for the communications major to find another niche inside the organization. She is also an intern with the company, in charge of public relations and social media.
"Our interns are actually learning how to run a business," Knapp says.
Hard work and a knack for establishing relationships and filling a need in the childcare community have been the keys to Knapp's success. She and her husband have no children of their own, and they don't plan to.
"I think helping raise the city is enough," she says, with a laugh. She also keeps in close contact with the three families for whom she was a long-term nanny before she committed to Sitting Made Simple full time.
"My mom always says my ideas are bigger than my britches," she says. "(Sitting Made Simple) is really everything for me."
Knapp's idea helped mom Maresa Campbell when it came to the care of her own children, both boys, 10 and 7. Campbell and her husband, Casey, have used Sitting Made Simple for two-and-a-half years, and she says the service has been consistent every time.
"The level of engagement with the kids is phenomenal," Campbell says. "The standard of sitters they send to us is top tier. They are integral as a member of the family. They know if someone is having an 'off' day or if it's spelling day. They are consistent with everything and do extra things (such as the dishes) to be thoughtful."
She distinctly remembers a moment when she was going to school for her master's and working full time. She'd gotten caught up at school and one of the boys was sick. She contacted Knapp "at the last minute," desperate for some help. Knapp got the situation covered right away.
In addition to Sitting Made Simple, Knapp is philanthropically active in the community and established a support network for nannies called the Columbus Nanny Network in 2012.
Kelli Milligan Stammen is a freelance writer.