Nannying in the digital age

Just as Tinder has revolutionised dating and AirBnB redefined hosting for vacations, Koru Kids has made matching families with potential nannies as simple as a filling out a form.

Rachel Carrell’s revolutionary tech enterprise was the perfect solution to a problem that has plagued new mothers since the dual-income household model became a common theme in the modern family unit.

Rachel recalls having experienced many logistical challenges in sourcing nannies through conventional channels, claiming that these processes were “often long and exhausting, only to ultimately end up with childcare that was expensive and of patchy quality.”

She decided to take matters into her own hands, and set out building a “much better childcare system from the ground up,” beginning with “after school care in London.”

Hence, the inception of Koru Kids. ‘Koru’, which derives its meaning from the Māori motif of a new unfurling silver fern frond, symbolises “new life, growth, strength and peace.” Its distinct shape symbolises perpetual movement while its inner coil suggests a return to one’s place of origin.

This was the most apropos name that recognised and paid homage to Rachel’s antipodean roots as a New Zealander, now resettled in London.

“Really great childcare, as affordable as possible, and as convenient as possible.”

Having worked at McKinsey and in health technology for more than a decade, Rachel’s career was experiencing a brilliant upward trajectory that was on the cusp of being halted by the prospect of having children.

In a workforce that is notorious for under-equipping new mothers with compensation or leave, Rachel found it extremely “tiresome” and “challenging” locating affordable and sustainable childcare avenues for her kids.

In discussing her take on the primitive and underdeveloped after-school care options, Rachel remarks that she “set up Koru Kids to be all about three things: really great childcare, as affordable as possible, and as convenient as possible.”

Koru Kids’ entire agenda was about redefining how after-school childcare models could operate in a frenetic and unpredictable cityscape like London, and transferring ownership and power over child-rearing back into the hands of the parents.

Koru Kids PR representative, Nichi Hodgson, told us that Koru Kids’ mission statement was simple: make finding nannies simple and affordable and introduce new ways of thinking about childcare that redistribute the responsibility of child-rearing equally onto the whole household, in lieu of solely the mother.

Nichi informs says Rachel knew exactly what she needed and had enough ammunition in the bag to help her launch Koru Kids. Rachel’s desire to help parents in a similar situation as her was what galvanised her to make her start-up a social enterprise that empowers working mothers and women across the board.

“The cost of live-in nannies is extortionate” and that the need for stay-at-home service round-the-clock is an obsolete format that modern mothers would much rather do without, Nichi said. Another “neglected” facet is flexible nannying that enables parents to seek assistance with child supervision during those “notorious 4-7pm rush hour slots.”

Koru Kids offers a simple, easy to use format that allows for parents and potential nannies to sign up via their website to create a profile and begin matching with suitable partners seamlessly once online.

The web service allows nannies and parents to stipulate their hours of availability and browse nannies in their area. Both parties are then enabled to match with prospective partners and begin discussing terms for part-time work, helped by the team at Koru Kids.

Allowing for any individual to apply to be a nanny does not come risk-free, thus nannies have extensive background checks conducted and must possess fundamental tech-literacy to meet the requirements of working closely with the team.

According to Rachel, the company accepts “just six per cent of applicants and those who get through the process are given training in first aid, educational philosophies, homework and how to assess risk and safety around the home.”

Rachel Carrell posing for a professional picture.

Koru Kids’ CEO, Rachel Carrell [Facebook: Koru Kids]

Additionally, Koru Kids supports a diverse demographic of nannies to work for the company. Nichi reports that the firm “does not actively target any specific demographics or audiences” but that it has become the prime part-time employment opportunity for teenagers, people in their late 40s to 50s, as well as retirees.

“Older” nannies, those over the age of 45, make up 32% of Koru Kids’ workforce — a segment of their demographic that the company seeks to grow. “Not only have many of these women spent years raising their own kids but, crucially, they don’t want a full-time job,” Nichi explains.

The presence of older nannies in Koru Kids’ ambit plays an instrumental role in interdependence, allowing kids to learn from members of the community that have varied skills to offer and vice versa.

Susan Mummery, who’s 60, looks after two brothers in Tooting: “I knew I had a lot of love and joy I could bring to some other little ones, but I was finding it hard to get back into work as I only wanted part-time a few days a week.”

Koru Kids has enabled her to find a heightened sense of purpose and vigour through opening up this customisable part-time employment pathway.

Nichi suggests that older nannies have already reared their own children and are now looking for alternative platforms through which they may positively enrich the lives of young people, as well as scoring financial compensation for their intrinsic skills.

Koru Kids’ framework allows for the archaic role of the homebound nanny to be redefined and altered by request of the client family and their specific needs.

Nichi believes the diverse range of nannies play many roles from homemaker to after-school tutor to an arts coach. Fundamentally, being an extra pair of helping hands to enrich the lives of young people in London when it is logistically impossible for parents to do so themselves.

Speaking critically of the employment support systems in place for working mothers, Nichi elaborates on how they are enabling mothers to “fix the notorious gender pay-gap” by “encouraging them to continue working.”

Being able to focus their attention on maintaining their upward career trajectories whilst being comforted by the knowledge that reliable support is available through this web-service.

Image of someone with a handful of U.S. bank notes.

Koru Kids’ platform enables working mothers to attempt to fix the gender pay gap. [Unsplash: Alexander Mils]

Furthermore, this opens up a politically critical conversation about the traditional role of the “father figure” in the family unit. “Most fathers serve as the primary contact point for our families” due to the fact that Koru Kids has sought to redraw the outmoded frameworks regarding caregiving for young children by fathers, Nichi says.

However, Rachel’s highly praised approach to speedily matching nannies with families has been met with some speculation and scepticism.

Primarily, it is clear that an overwhelming majority of the nannies that work under Koru Kids’ employ are female and critics draw comparisons to how this model of female-led nannying reaffirms obsolete social paradigms of women being the de facto ‘caregivers’ or ‘nurturers’.

Nichi disagrees that there is a “generational shift” amongst younger nannies, and says that “we have more young male nannies willing to join our platform.”

Despite these figures being on the rise, Jemima Read, 20, and Lauren Thompson, 21, both work as nannies; Lauren says that working with flexible schedules and balancing full-time university has “reminded [her] of how much work women are capable of, and that we are definitely not confined to the household.”

“There is a more open attitude to caring,” Nichi adds, and that it is “no longer gendered.” The company does not target one demographic over another, but “for now, it is more a reflection of society rather than imposing a gender role model.”

This shift in who the onus of care falls on is prominently altered by the fact that the crux of Koru Kids’ working hours are flexible and part-time. The short and adaptable shifts offered to nannies emboldens more young men to work in the industry, knowing that their labour is value and shapes the engendering of the next generation of London’s adults.

“Most people presume that nannies are for the wealthiest members of society,” says Nichi, where they operated on “strict and fixed schedules.”

In essence, the start-up has successfully “democratised nannies” enabling more people to be able to tap into this resource where they are sourcing accessible service and assistance, rather than attempting to subscribe to a practice that would otherwise be reserved for “the upper-class”.

An image of a nanny with her client's kids, playing gleefully

A gleeful pairing of middle-aged nanny with a client’s toddlers. [Nichi Hodgson for Koru Kids]

Financially, Koru Kids strives to make nannying an affordable model for families across London in order to find inexpensive assistance as seamlessly as possible. The company has pioneered a signature model for cost-cutting in order to assist families with childcare, by introducing a “nanny-share scheme”. This means two families may share one nanny throughout the week, capping the hourly rates at £9 an hour, whilst enabling each family access to the nanny’s services for nine hours a week.

Koru Kids does not offer incentive packages for durations longer than one-week, as their operation relies heavily on mutual communication and feedback. Typically, a nanny would run a family for £13 an hour in a nine hour week, but this figure goes up to £15.50 an hour if the family opts to receive nanny services for fewer than the minimum nine hours per week.

Conveniently, these fixed figures also eliminate any need for precarious conversation between the parent(s) and nanny, as Koru Kids’ site takes care of payroll, taxes and national insurance.

“There’s been a huge shift in the last five years with employers being more open to the idea of flexible working, but the childcare structure hasn’t evolved to complement that,” Rachel says.

Through incentives such as the nanny-share scheme and promoting her ethos for “building the childcare infrastructure that should exist: flexible childcare for flexible working parents”, Rachel gives work to a previously “overlooked” workforce in the capital.

When it comes to financing, Rachel is no stranger to accomplishing astounding feats of investment securing. With a history in consulting and a PhD from Oxford University, Rachel’s gumption and solid business model earned her the trust of reputable entrepreneurs and investors across the capital.

The Hackney-based start-up initially received an endowment of £600,000 in 2016, part of which was contributed by Gumtree’s co-founder Michael Pennington. In the last three years alone, Rachel’s conscientiousness and vigour allowed for the company to accrue £10 million in its third round of funding in September 2019.

The final round of investors was led by Atomico (one of Europe’s largest venture capital firms) with previous investors including AlbionVC, Samos, JamJar, Global Founders Capital, Forward Partners.

“We are building a business that other people can see the need for and identify with.”

Overall, this brings the total amount raised by Koru Kids to £14.1 million, making Rachel Carrell one of the most lucrative and successful female entrepreneurs in London.

When asked about how she approached investors to secure these monumental deals that would propel Koru Kids into the multi-million pound enterprise that it is today, Rachel reflects that: “The first round was mostly about my personal track record as I didn’t really have a team around me.”

With subsequent rounds of investments being “focused on metrics”, Rachel claims that she has been “very lucky in the quality of help” she has had and that she “had a great choice of investors”.

She cites that her company’s blooming success is attributed to “the fact that we are building a business that other people can see the need for and identify with.” Nichi thinks that the ripple-effects of Rachel’s start-up have gone so far as to completely transform the way women, and by extension, fellow mothers see themselves in the world of digital and technology development

Rachel plays a pivotal role in a large network of women in business, where she frequently speaks at events that cheerleads other women’s successes. For instance, Rachel is scheduled to speak at “She Started it Live” representing Koru Kids during their International Women’s Day summit in March this year.

Rachel’s platform has proven to the masses that being a mother pioneering a tech start-up is an absolutely viable career pathway for women of all backgrounds, clearly establishing that this is not just a “man’s game”.

In testimonials from Koru Kids’ clients, families have expressed nothing short of satisfaction when using the new digital platform. An anonymous newly-matched family commented on the service as being a “great concept with a focus on after school care”.

One family stated that they appreciate “that costs are reasonable” going on to mention how “traditional agencies are out of their mind considering how much they charge as not many people can afford them.”

Nanny Holly King, 23, works for a family in Balham that needs help in the evenings three times a week. She describes her experience as being a “swift and easy platform with tons of autonomy for the young person,” and that many people these days disregard the “credibility of child-rearing occupations.” She also commends the company’s format.

“It would be hard for people to find partners and families to find nannies if not for Koru Kids.” However, she does see room for improvement with regard to correspondence with nannies, as she “had to figure most of the administrative details after the first training session independently.”

Koru Kids’ say their model has been a success. Rachel’s unique start-up has engineered a solid platform for effective and inexpensive nannying and has transformed the way in which modern families approach child-rearing and technology in the domestic sphere.

As for their outlook for the near future, Nichi says the formula could easily be applied elsewhere: “There is no point helping London out but not the rest of the country.” While he could give us no more details, they are hopeful the format could be exported in due time as well.

 

 

 

 

Find out more about Koru Kids’ developments and Rachel Carrell’s philosophy on their website. You can follow them on Instagram, and on Facebook.


Featured Image courtesy of Nichi Hodgson for KoruKids.com

Edited by: Kesia Evans