UrbanSitter's network for "finding babysitters through friends" has arrived in DC just two years after four parents founded the start up company in San Francisco.
The online resource allows parents to log-in through a Facebook account, create a profile and search for local sitters by experience, availability and even by whether someone at your yoga study or moms group has hired the sitter previously.
Perhaps even more convenient, you can pay your sitter via credit card through the Urban Sitter app for a small processing fee. You can also continue to pay in cash if that's your preference.
Daisy Downs, a co-founder and head of marketing at Urban Sitter, said after her daughter was born she looked at the calendar one day and realized it had been almost a year since she and her husband had gone out.
It was not for lack of invitations, said Downs.
For parents with a lot of their plates already Downs said, "There is the dread of, 'I just don’t think I can handle this one last thing of finding a babysitter.'"
Downs joined together with three other parents to develop UrbanSitter to take out the dread part of that scenario. She said they have had success in "transplant cities."
When people move somewhere for a career without a strong family or friend network, it can make it difficult to find childcare because you cannot rely on grandparents who live around the corner, Downs explained. If you need help with childcare for a date night or to run errands, you have to find a sitter.
The goal of UrbanSitter is "making it much easier" for parents and sitters to connect.
Parents can still rely on the traditional way of finding a babysitter: through friends. But UrbanSitter broadens that network of friends and takes out the middleman, i.e. that awkward moment of asking your friend for her sitter's number or sidling up to a sitter on the playground to see if she might be looking for more work.
I logged into the network to see just how local you can get. Though they have only been in DC a brief time, UrbanSitter has a surprisingly thorough list of parent groups: Georgetown Moms, Jonah's Treehouse, Lil Omm Yoga, Georgetown Yoga, DC Metro Dads, and the list goes on.
When you create your profile, you can check off as many of those groups as you'd like. You can also list your child's school, both Hyde-Addison and Stoddert elementary schools are options.
By building your profile this way, you can find sitters that people in these organizations have also hired or reviewed. It's like getting a recommendation without having to ask for a recommendation.
And the network of sitters grows in the same organic way the network of parents grows.
One sitter signs up and then tells her friends.
"We’ve had really good luck in urban area where there are some great colleges," Downs explained.
Though the DC network is very new, there are already nearly 100 sitters and Downs said many are Georgetown and American University students.
Sarah Nichols, a Glover Park resident who recently graduated from a graduate degree program at American University, said she just signed up with UrbanSitter a few weeks ago.
She babysat part-time during graduate school and after recently working for a start-up technology company in DC thought that babysitting needed a better app.
She looked around and found UrbanSitter.
"It was exactly the company that I had in mind," she said.
Nichols knew plenty of graduate students who wanted to get part-time babysitting work, but they didn't always know how to connect with local families.
Using existing social networks to connect available sitters with parents in need of help just made sense.
Since joining UrbanSitter, Nichols said she urged the four families she already works for to sign up through the online resource. She said it makes it easier for them to keep track of her schedule, especially now that it's a little busier as she tries to find work to go with her new degree.
Current students can enter their class schedule and weekend availability. Sitters get a text message when someone books them.
And Nichols said getting paid directly to a bank account saves her a trip to the bank and keeps her from spending more than she should.
The network is growing, but Downs said parents and sitters are already using the service regularly in DC.
Based on where sitters are located and where parents have signed up, the most popular DC neighborhoods so far are:
- American University Park
- Spring Valley
- Cleveland Park
- Dupont Circle
- Woodley Park
- Chevy Chase DC
Downs said thus far the most in-demand time slots are weekend evenings between 6 and 11 p.m., followed by weekdays between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and then weekday evenings between 6 and 10 p.m.
Sitters set their own rates, but a recent survey in DC show that rates vary from $10 to $15 an hour for one child, with $12 hour being the average. For two or more children the range is closer to $12 to $17 per hour, with $14 being the average.
From 10 a.m. to noon Sunday Nichols has organized a Meet and Greet at the Guy Mason recreation center, 3600 Calvert St. NW. She hopes to have 10 local sitters there to chat with parents about UrbanSitter and about their own backgrounds. There will be entertainment and snacks for kids as well.
Have you used an online resource to hire a babysitter before? How do you usually find a babysitter? Tell us in the comments.