Tandem aims to match parents with sitters for free
A trio of young entrepreneurs is taking on a very old, very hands-on business—babysitting—high tech with an intriguing new business model.
Olivia Weinstock has been in the child care business since she was a tween. She and friends ran summer camps for kids out of her back yard, built the business into a network of 100 kids, and she never stopped nannying and babysitting from there.
In her junior year at the University of Michigan, Weinstock said she began making referrals and connections between families and caregivers, and she saw the need in the marketplace for someone who could make those reliable connections.
Client families who happened to have venture capital connections agreed with her, and Weinstock began to concoct a very interesting business model to satisfy that demand with Tandem.
The secret sauce, explains Weinstock, is that both families and sitters want to know that they’re walking into a reliable, vetted, appropriate partnership.
“A lot of platforms out there, you can log on and search for each other. My goal is not to send families a list of sitters and vice versa but match them appropriately,” she says. And with her co-founders, Natalie Amling and McKenzie Kennelly, the trio began to automate that matchmaking and that reputation-building into a web-based platform which launched in January 2020 for both caregivers and families.
The second stroke of genius behind Tandem is in the business model itself. Tandem is free for both sitters and families to join and search for each other.
Currently other platforms match up families with caregivers on a paid basis, and those paying members often then pair off on their own once those connections are made.
But when a parent books a sitter through Tandem, they actually pay the sitter through Tandem, which sets up an account for the sitter and creates a checking account for that caregiver who can then save, spend money from the Tandem account (they’re issued a debit card) or transfer money to their own regular bank accounts.
Tandem makes a small fee on those financial transactions. Tandem can also capture those long-term relationships because both sides have incentive to stay connected as Tandem is free to them and makes payment and record-keeping easy and hassle-free.
Families use Tandem to find everything from homework helpers for a few hours after school and occasional evening sitters to full-time nannies.
While volume is the ultimate goal to achieve significant revenue, Weinstock says the current challenge is to attract a critical mass of reliable caregivers, so Tandem is taking the time to refine the platform and ensure quality over quantity.
Weinstock says the pandemic initially was a challenge as jobs for nannies and date nights dried up, but since this summer the demand for daytime caregiving has surged; as of the beginning of April Tandem has around 2,000 providers and about 1,000 families on board, with about half looking for longer term care and half for occasional sitting.
Tandem also has informally partnered with Beam Dental, Pelotonia and Ohio Health to offer their service to employees as a resource to help them find child care, though those employers don’t subsidize the service.
Possibilities for expansion seem boundless. Weinstock says the team has their eye on expanding geographically in a very controlled fashion, and also into other industries – pet sitting, home health care, even other hourly paid service work.
Cynthia Bent Findlay is a freelance writer.
Business: Child care connection platform
CEO and co-founder: Olivia Weinstock
Address: 629 N. High St., Floor 6 Columbus 43215
Revenue: Would not disclose