Young entrepreneur’s ‘dreaming big’ as online venture takes off

She’s recently launched New Zealand’s first babysitting app, has hundreds of clients in her niche business – and she’s only 23.

But Raglan born-and-bred Georgia Meek insists her venture, The Babysitters Club, is still in its infancy.

“I’m dreaming big,” she told the Chronicle from Mt Maunganui, where she’s lived a few years now. “I want to make The Babysitters Club like an Airbnb or Uber.”

Already her premium babysitting service operates throughout the Auckland, Wellington and Bay of Plenty regions. “That’s over 400 parents across the country,” she says of her current clientele.

To meet the needs of those parents there are 170 sitters to call on – who’ve all been police-checked, reference-checked and interviewed by Georgia herself via Skype or FaceTime.

Unsurprisingly Georgia is “constantly busy” matching parents to babysitters, babysitters to children and checking back with families that her systems and strategies are working.

It’s the kind of service that today’s busy working parents can rely on at the push of a button, she says – the aim always to find an interactive, trustworthy and experienced sitter who will have fun with the kids as well.   

“I want to change the stereotype,” says this ambitious teacher-turned-director of her own business.

Georgia’s success story goes back to 2013 when she was in the second year of her primary school teaching degree at Waikato University, although she’d transferred by then to the Windermere campus at Tauranga.

Looking for a connection with the east coast community and wanting more experience with children, Georgia enlisted the help of a friend or two and started up a babysitters club.

“But the way we operated was completely different to how it is now,” she explains. “We didn’t get paid, we just got first priority on all jobs.”

After a year off on her big OE – based in London, au pairing courtesy of an early babysitting contact – Georgia returned to complete her degree, determined  to create a paying babysitters club too.

“I wanted to make it work,” she says. “It was what I loved doing.”

Then she got what she describes as an “amazing” opportunity through ‘Project Ignite’, a summer start-up  scholarship which allowed Georgia to grow her innovative business idea with a cash injection and some intensive mentoring.

The business that many had told her had no future was pulled to pieces and restructured, she says, and is now well on the way to becoming sustainable.

Georgia credits her success to the mentoring programme, which put her in touch with two  “well-connected” business people in Tauranga, Jo Allum and Jodi Tong.

Of her early attempts at making a business out of babysitting, Georgia reflects: “We didn’t have our margins right, didn’t know how to make it sustainable and pretty much offered our services for free.”

Now with the first year of the revamped babysitters club well behind her – working on the business while nannying 12 hours per week to get by – Georgia is confident her systems are in place, the pricing structure works and she can assure people they get what they pay for.

Getting the babysitting app up and running in February was a “huge job”, she adds, but “quite exciting” all the same. And now there’s potential investors knocking at the door.

The advantage of the app to the service is that it’s automated, meaning parents can create a profile then do everything themselves from selecting a sitter to making payments. Website bookings however rely on Georgia organising it all herself every time.

Meantime getting the website and the app integrated is the next step in her business plan.

Word of mouth has been crucial to expanding the business, Georgia says, as have social media platforms like Facebook.

She also acknowledges the help along the way of various business mentors and another businessman who found her some premises for free just five minutes walk from her home.

It’s “incredible” what technology and a niche market allow you to do from a tiny office, she marvels.

Edith Symes

Find out more about The Babysitters Club here: