Thursday, 1 May 2008

Mamas mean business profile: Delia Timms from Find A Babysitter

Many Baysidemama readers have expressed an interest in more articles on women who have set up businesses and advice on how they did it. With that in mind, I plan to run some regular profiles on women who have done just that - the series is called Mamas mean business.

To kick things off, we are profiling
Delia Timms, who, with two very small children at her feet, set up Findababysitter. Based on a simple premise - that parents would appreciate a one stop online site to research nannies and babysitters, the site quickly took off across Australia.

I'll let Delia tell you the rest of her story......

Delia and her two children (above)

Name: Delia Timms

Business: Find A

How did you set up your business, when and where did you get the idea:
The idea was sparked by personal need after the birth of my two children (18 mths apart!). I spent many months on childcare waiting lists and turned to nannies and babysitters for help. I was surprised and disappointed by the cost, time and inefficiency involved in finding a nanny using traditional ways: agencies, classified ads or word-of-mouth. Then in late 2004 I stumbled across an American web-site that introduced parents to babysitters. I realized that this was a great concept and just what I personally needed. I also had a lot of friends with similar childcare needs and knew it would be valuable to a range of parents. My husband took time off from his IT job and together we created the site. We launched Find A Babysitter (FAB) in mid 2005 and it took off around the nation.

I have read you set it up on maternity leave - how did that juggle go?
I began writing my business plan with a 9mth old and 27mth old. I didn’t have any formal maternity leave (I had been working as a locum speech pathologist part-time after my first child was born). So in some ways this was liberating, since I didn’t have a job waiting for me on a set date. But in other ways it was stressful. I was very aware of financial constraints and was careful to research all the business establishment costs. As far as juggling the children with my business start-up – I used some organizational skills, outsourcing and multitasking. I employed a nanny part-time to allow me to work uninterrupted. I have a very supportive husband and his input was crucial (on both the business and the domestic fronts). I also multi-tasked like any experienced mum does. I crammed work into any other spare minutes and hours, I emailed during naptimes, conducted phone calls during PlaySchool, and worked late into the night if needed. (Editor's note: I wonder how many businesses and careers have been built on the strength of the PlaySchool window of opportunity? I'd say a fair few!)

What is it like to run a business and be a mother:
It has been a very rewarding and exciting journey. But at the same time I have had to learn how to balance work and family. Running a business affords you great freedom and flexibility. It gives you the opportunity to work around the children, for which I am very grateful. However the responsibility of working for yourself can also take over if unchecked. The first year or so of the business I was very absorbed in work and would think about it and talk about it endlessly! Over time I have gradually regained a healthy balance and put boundaries on my work hours. This has happened as the business has matured and there are less unexpected events. It has also happened as I have developed my skills and confidence.

How do you balance that (for example what sort of childcare do you use):
Over the years I have been fortunate to have the services of a nanny for two days per week. I really like the 1:1 model of care, the flexibility this gives me (with hours etc) and the affordability (with two kids). This year my daughter has started school and my son has started kinder. This gives me some small chunks of time! I still have a nanny one day per week and I have just started my son one day per week at a community childcare centre.

How did you grow the business:
We launched the site in Melbourne and thought we’d ‘pilot’ it for three months before rolling out to other cities. However the site rapidly took itself off around Australia and within six months we were in every capital city! The growth of the business was driven by demand. Parents were (and still are) desperate for an efficient and affordable way to find nannies and babysitters.

What is a typical working day like:
I love lists and ticking boxes, so I always have an updated list of things to do by my computer. My basic daily work revolves around customer service emails and phone calls, doing marketing & PR, quality control (skimming over babysitter profiles and job postings), business monitoring and planning. With some motivation supplied by the odd cup of tea and tim tam!

How do people use your site - and what does it offer them:
Find A is a web-site that helps parents find babysitters and nannies. It gives parents an affordable efficient way to meet carers. There are three powerful ways to find a FAB carer on our site – parents can email/text carers from the extensive database, parents can post jobs online to attract applicants and the site can send email notifications to parents when new carers join in their area. The site also has lots of additional features that are helpful with the process: My Shortlist (to list your favourites), My Comments (to keep notes conveniently online), Sitter Ratings (like eBay, so parents can share valuable feedback with each other). The site just provides an introduction, then the parents interview and select their own carer. Parents simply pay a one-off fee to join the site. Then parents pay the carers directly. There is no ‘agency’ and no other surcharges or overheads. This keeps the costs down and gives parents the freedom to choose.

What have been the big lessons learned from setting up your own business:
1. Get some professional advice and assistance. You can’t be an expert at everything, so make sure you get professional input with areas of need.

2. Market research is vital. I engaged a business coach with a marketing background to guide me with this. I think this step is the most crucial indicator for a start-up. It doesn’t matter how wonderful your idea is, if you don’t have a definable and significant market then your business will struggle.

3. Sales & Marketing. You really need to invest time &/or money to tell your target market about your product or service. A fantastic product won’t walk out the door or rush off the shelf without any marketing. You don’t need to spend lots of money on marketing. You just need to plan your approach professionally. Finally I discovered that a great business can be built on a shoestring budget if it is pursued with persistence, passion and the right people.

Your advice for other mothers thinking of balancing babies with a business - large or small:
Go for it! There is nothing to lose. To maintain a balance make sure that you schedule time in the week or month for the kids (of course!), yourself (for example exercise, reading, self), your significant others (partner, parents, girlfriends). Don’t let some things get swallowed up by all the other competing priorities. By giving each of these areas fair attention then you’ll be a happier, healthier and wiser person in business.

Thanks Delia for your time. Delia's site again is:

And if you know of someone you think would make a great profile, please let us know at:

1 comment:

familyvalue said...

I love inspiring stories! You have done a wonderful job Delia and I wish you all the best for the future. Well done on a great idea and executing your idea in style!