Inspired by her own experiences of returning to work after starting a family, Rachel Carrell was determined to find a solution to Britain’s “immensely complex” childcare regulation procedures. After founding her own childcare startup, Koru Kids, she is now tackling the plight of parents head-on.
Since Spring 2016, Koru Kids has supported working families in London by removing the extensive administrative burden of childcare alongside a range of practical services, such as nanny-sharing and after-school pickups.
The tech company is now backed by two venture capital funds and remains on an impressive path to success. Business Advice caught up with Carrell to find out more about early growth and her plans for the future.
Who are you and what’s your business?
I’m Rachel Carrell, and I founded Koru Kids in March 2016. We’re a childcare tech company based in London. We have two services – for babies and toddlers, we arrange daytime nanny shares, while for older kids, we have an after school pickup and nanny service.
Nanny share means that children from two families are looked after at the same time, with the nanny working between the houses. Parents save, the nanny gets paid more, and the children get a friend to play with. It’s gorgeous seeing the babies playing together and the nannies find it really rewarding to work with multiple kids.
For the after school service, we recruit and train our own after school nannies, and give them ongoing support and advice. Our nannies are energetic and responsible university students who love looking after kids as a part time job. They’re really fantastic.
For both of our services we also do all the paperwork for the families – the contract, payroll, payments, taxes, and so on – as we know how busy working parents don’t have spare time for all that stuff.
We’re backed by two venture capital funds and the co-founder of Gumtree, Michael Pennington, and have grown really fast over the past 12 months. We now have over 2,500 families in our network.
I am a serial tech CEO who founded the company after having a baby and seeing how hard it was to arrange great childcare. I thought, ‘There must be a better way’.
How long has your childcare startup been around for?
We’ve been around for just over a year. For the first few months it was just me, then I was joined by Rebecca who I’d worked with in a previous job.
Now, the team is growing fast – we’ve had three new people join in the past two weeks.
How do you make money?
We provide an all-inclusive service, and for it we take a commission.
Our service includes finding a nanny, finding a share family, doing the contracts, taxes, payroll, payments, and dozens of other boring but essential little bits of paperwork. We don’t charge any upfront fees for registration or membership.
What makes you different and why should people take notice?
It’s so difficult for parents to sort out childcare at the moment, it’s a complete headache.
You have to spend hours going through websites, interviewing, checking references, writing a contract, choosing a payroll company, setting up your nanny’s pension, then each month remembering to pay HMRC, and so on.
Plus it’s so hard to find a great nanny in the first place, especially for after school or holiday care.
Existing childcare options are very “piecemeal”, and the burden falls on the parent – usually, the mum – to fit it all together.
All of this while they’re sleep deprived, working hard at their job (and their marriage), and wanting to spend any spare time with their kids rather than on their laptop doing childcare admin!
Our service is different because it’s comprehensive. We take the burden of arranging childcare, which gives families more time for their everyday adventures.
What was key in getting your childcare startup off the ground?
I wasn’t sure the nanny share concept was going to work initially. I put up a web site and talked about it a little on social media. No one signed up for a few days and I thought, “OK, that was a bad idea”.
Then, on about day five, suddenly the phone started ringing. By the end of the week, 37 families had signed up and I thought, “there’s something in this!”.
What’s your biggest achievement to date?
I’m really proud of the quality of after-school nannies that we’re managing to find and the training that we’ve put together for them. They’re so positive, enthusiastic and so keen to start looking after kids.
We’re getting incredible feedback on the after school service and that makes me so happy. Helping working families is the whole reason I started the business.
What setbacks have you had along the way?
Starting this business is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Childcare is very highly regulated, and the way we’ve chosen to do it is immensely complex.
Every day there are knotty problems to be solved. We’ve just been served notice that our office building is going to be imminently knocked down, so that’s also a bit of a setback…
In five years’ time, I will be…
The CEO of Koru Kids, the best childcare service in the world.
What one tip would you give to others starting out?
Be nice to people.
Who are your business heroes and why?
Elon Musk. In 100 years’ time, he’ll be the most celebrated person of our era.
He’s not just creating successful businesses – he’s creating successful businesses that will profoundly shape the future of the whole of humanity, several of them simultaneously. There is no one else on the planet like him. It’s inspirational how he thinks so big, and long term, and audaciously, and clearly.
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