March 2020 was meant to be the make or break time for our babysitting startup, SitClique. We had created the business in response to our three co-founders all having the same problem – we couldn’t access flexible childcare after returning to work after maternity leave. Finding care outside of the regulated day care system had been hard and expensive, and we knew there must be a better way. We had been riding the entrepreneurship rollercoaster for about 18 months but with increasing demands on personal and work fronts, we were finding hanging on harder by the day.
As co-founders and sisters, our business dynamics have their own special challenges. We are always sensitive to each other’s personal needs as much as we are to the needs of our business, so we decided to give ourselves four months to hit our growth targets, March to June 2020. If we couldn’t get increased traction within four months, it would be time to admit defeat, let go of the dream and our beloved business would fall into the pit of statistics that say that 90% of startups fail.
Although we were facing the prospect of failure, we still believed in the business and the mission. Having started the business when my first baby was months old, hanging on during a second pregnancy and a second newborn, I was perhaps the most committed, the least willing to see us fail. We had rallied to get one salary between the three of us, and I was planning to work on the business full time from March 2020. As ‘mumpreneurs’ in our thirties, children and mortgages had never let us commit to more than a side hustle until this point. So we were feeling so excited and positive to finally give our baby (the seventh baby between us), the love it truly deserved.
Enter March 2020, when COVID-19 really hit Australia.
I was now a full-time stay-at-home Mum again, with the opportunity to work full time in the business taken away. Our primary service offerings of flexible babysitters and in-person ‘meet and greet’ events were also completely obliterated. Our website traction was silent. We had no new users and no growth. Folding seemed inevitable.
The one thing that kept us going was knowing that more than ever women were struggling with work-home pressures. During these crazy times, our mission for all women to have the opportunity to be financially independent and not be limited by their domestic care responsibilities felt more important than ever.
We didn’t give up. We spent the time we had talking to our customers, re-imaging the customer journey and unlocking their pain points. We had our initial assumptions about what was ‘valuable’ to our customers completely challenged. What we initially thought was the need for instant bookings was replaced by the need for a worry-free experience when connecting with carers.
We were forced to completely re-scope our business model and service offerings.
While the fear around COVID-19 has started to settle and social distancing easing, parents are continuing to struggle with reduced daycare numbers and new challenges for before and after school care options. Parents are reaching out needing help to relieve the increased pressures at home and only now, as our personal COVID-19 silver lining, do we have the offering to truly meet their needs.
We were faced with the perfect storm and although, like others, we are still weathering it, we are confident we will arrive on the other side better than where we started.
Carmen Pascoe is a Business Chicks Premium member and one of the Founders of SitClique. SitClique aim to create the easiest and most trusted platform to hire in home child-care. They want all women to have the opportunity to gain financial independence without being limited by their responsibilities at home. SitClique empowers women, supporting them to continue their careers while creating careers for carers. Women supporting women, to help create an equal world.