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Tech aids growing child care business

App streamlines business nuts and bolts providing more time to focus on kids

When Vivienne McIntyre started Nifty Nanny, offering babysitting and child care camp in fall 2014, she wondered if her endeavor would ever be busy enough to truly be called a “business.”

Now, after hiring eight babysitters to help her, she’s entered babysitting’s digital–age – using the app, Sitter, to help keep track of the 200 families she provides with babysitting services.

“Previously, what I was doing, a parent would call and I would do an email blast to potential babysitters to see who could do it,” McIntyre said. “Sitters would collect the payment and turn it into me. There was a lot of shuffling around and emailing back and forth.”

Currently, McIntyre is focused on growing the babysitting service side of Nifty Nanny, which also offers Nifty Nanny camps and field trips for children out of her space in the Smiley Building.

Help from an app

McIntyre said she spent a month looking at apps that would allow clients to schedule jobs with babysitters, keep a database of special needs and preferences of families and children, provide an ability to get feedback from parents and integrate payments.

The application had some glitches during the first years, but on July 8, Nifty Nanny began using an updated version of Sitter, Sitter Pro. The latest version, McIntyre said, is more intuitive and friendly for all its users – from families all the way up to administrative functions handled by McIntyre.

[photo:2]Still, Nifty Nanny encourages face-to-face meetings with new parents and children.

One of McIntyre’s biggest concerns in using an app was losing the trust that comes with face-to-face meetings among parents, their children and babysitters.

“Putting through a child care request through an app, you can see how that could be intimidating to a parent,” McIntyre said. “You want to know who’s taking care of my baby. How well do you know them?”

McIntyre said the new version of the app takes into account the need to develop trust among families, children, babysitters and Nifty Nanny.

The new version of the app allows parents to enter notes for McIntyre, requesting a favorite babysitter or noting special needs and requests for the babysitter. It also provides a venue for almost immediate feedback to Nifty Nanny about how a babysitting session went.

“The app is a lot more efficient than the old way I was doing things, and I can still follow up to make sure everyone’s happy,” McIntyre said.

Help from a friend

McIntyre credits one of her first babysitting clients, Durangoan Sarah Shaw, who offers sales, marketing and product development consulting services for the fashion industry, with providing her strategic advice and the confidence to turn her passion for child care into a business.

[photo:3]McIntyre watched Shaw’s twins, Alix and Madeline Dubois, for two years, in 2013 and 2014, as she finished her degree in elementary education at Fort Lewis College.

During the 2015-16 school year, she worked as a full-time teacher at Park Elementary while simultaneously running Nifty Nanny. She discovered she preferred operating her own child care business and realized, with Shaw’s encouragement, that she could support herself without teaching.

Shaw helped McIntyre edit parent packets to market her business. She aided McIntyre in coming up with a pricing schedule – she charges $20 an hour for one child and an additional $2 an hour for each additional child.

Shaw, McIntyre said, reinforced the importance of marketing, accounting and personnel issues, all with the idea that Nifty Nanny could one day become the go-to option for babysitting needs in Durango.

Quitting her teaching job

“Slowly, I started doing these things, and for 2016, the first year, the business sustained itself. And since then, it’s grown. It’s grown fast,” McIntyre said.

[photo:4]When McIntyre needed a permanent location to hold her children’s camps and as a base for Nifty Nanny field trips, Shaw introduced her to her brother, Charles Shaw, owner of the Smiley Building, which has become Nifty Nanny’s home base.

“It was a little selfish,” Shaw said of the original concept for Nifty Nanny that she helped McIntyre to build. “We used Vivienne as a babysitter.”

When Shaw’s children were 7-year-olds, she looked for a summer camp for them, and found few options in Durango that weren’t outdoor-based for the entire day.

“I wanted to find something where the kids were out in the sun for part of the day,” Shaw said.

Discussions between McIntyre and Shaw created the vision of how Nifty Nanny could fill a child care niche in Durango and gave McIntyre the resolve to quit her teaching gig.

Leaving Durango School District 9-R in 2106 was scary, McIntyre said. “To walk away from a paycheck and health insurance was a big thing.”

Now, three years later, Nifty Nanny is in growth mode, and McIntyre has discovered the future of babysitting – with a computer app handling much of the business necessities such as payroll, human resources and scheduling. She can now devote more time and passion to what she really loves, taking care of kids and helping them thrive.

“I want clients to be happy and know they have a reliable team behind them,” McIntyre said.

parmijo@durangoherald.com

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