Adventures in babysitting
Locally based SeekingSitters, which helps parents find professional, reliable babysitters, expands nationwide.
For the last year, there has been a buzzword floating around Tulsa: SeekingSitters.
From winning the city’s first-ever Mayor’s Entrepreneurial Spirit Award in 2007 to being interviewed on CNBC’s “The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch” in May 2008 to appearing in the May issue of Entrepreneur magazine, the local company has experienced major growth. As it enters its fifth year of business, 2009 will be yet another feather in SeekingSitters’ cap, with plans to expand to 10 more locations before the close of the summer.
But where did the idea for such a cleverly simple business come from? Necessity, of course.
Owners Adrienne and David Kallweit had a son in day care and Adrienne, a licensed private investigator working for her family’s firm at the time, decided to do a quick background check of her son’s caretaker.
“I was shocked at what I found,” she says. “There were numerous convictions against her, and that weighed against her character.”
Motivated to keep her child safe, Adrienne pulled her son out of the day care and began screening her own sitters. She also began screening sitters for other families, and it soon became clear that this sort of service was needed. In 2004, the Kallweits founded SeekingSitters.
“The business just took off,” she says. “The idea spread pretty rapidly in Tulsa.”
SeekingSitters does exactly what the name implies: It finds sitters for local families. Every sitter hired by the company goes through a rigorous interview process and extensive background check done by in-house investigators at the Tulsa office.
As members of SeekingSitters, parents can submit requests online or via phone, and the company finds the sitter for the date and time requested. SeekingSitters also provides parents with professional sitters, each equipped with a backpack of age-appropriate activities and ready to engage with children rather than plop them in front of the television.
“The sitters really bond with the kids,” Tulsa parent Courtney O’Brien says. “I’ve used them for two years with my twins because SeekingSitters is a safe, reliable service.”
Within its first year, Seeking Sitters expanded to include Oklahoma City, and in 2006 the company expanded nationally. It now includes 26 franchise locations in nine states, including the three newest locations, which opened in March: Austin, Texas; Kansas City, Mo.; and northwest Arkansas. Kallweit says she decided to franchise the concept because a local connection is important for the service, and parents appreciate that the owners personally interview the sitters and use them in their own homes.
“We’re offering a service that’s needed, that’s reliable and trustworthy and that families feel is safe,” she says.
It is these characteristics that have led to the company’s success. SeekingSitters’ ability to expand easily and quickly stems from the company’s relatively simple premise: supplying families with reliable, well-trained babysitters.
“It’s this age-old need that we’ve put a twist on and put it on the Internet,” Kallweit says. “Nowadays, you hardly know the girl down the street or you’re new in town and don’t know who to trust. With the convenience of the Internet and using the background checks as the primary focus of our business, I think that’s what makes SeekingSitters such a success in every area. We’re filling a need.
For more information, visit www.seekingsitters.com.