Written by Seamus Kelleher.
A last-minute obligation has come up and you really need to be there, but who’s going to watch the kids? You feel imposing asking your friend to watch them again when you haven’t been able to return the favor. You could call the neighbor down the street, but it’s too expensive for a babysitter on such short notice. Plus, you may have doubts about the quality of care. These are issues parents everywhere face, so two Akron, Ohio moms founded Komae to troubleshoot the process and ensure quality care for your children.
“We were both stay-at-home moms feeling the pain of identifying a quality babysitter, so we organized a local babysitting co-op with 10 moms we knew and trusted, taking turns watching each other’s kids,” said Audrey Wallace, co-founder and CEO of Komae. “A year into it, we had so many people asking, ‘How can I get in on this?’ People recognized the value of a fair, cash-free system with other parents they knew and trusted.”
The idea behind the name Komae comes from the Greek word kómé, meaning “village,” inspired by the ancient proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Komae’s babysitting app operates just like a village, a community of trusted parents who believe in helping one another in a system that benefits them all, but most importantly, helps their children. Gone are the days of spending $10/hr+ to hand your kids off to a local teenager for the evening. With Komae, parents post their need for a babysitter within their trusted community, a fellow “villager” responds with their availability, and points are exchanged instead of cash.
Wallace and Amy Husted, Komae co-founder & COO, were inspired by the droves of positive feedback surrounding their babysitting co-op and considered implementing the concept on a broader scale. With their tech-savvy husbands eager to help, the two moms decided in March 2015 to turn their idea into an app accessible to all. Komae launched its beta version in September 2016 with the support of many Ohio resources, including JumpStart, Flashstarts, The BitFactory and the Akron Global Business Accelerator, all northeast regional partners of Ohio Third Frontier.
JumpStart was instrumental in helping the pair calculate initial financial projections, as well as create their pitch deck which has since won seven pitch competitions. Komae received early stage investments from Flashstarts which helped them make their first hire, a full-time developer, and launch the beta version of their app. The co-founders were also awarded an investment and membership from The BitFactory as a result of winning yet another pitch competition. The company’s offices are located inside the Akron Global Business Accelerator, where mentorship and guidance from other entrepreneurs are easily accessible.
Komae is focusing its efforts on building a strong, successful network in northeast Ohio to prove its concept before shifting focus to other regions. Husted and Wallace firmly believe that this village-based babysitting system will catch on throughout America and beyond.
Husted and Wallace agree the support they’ve received in Ohio has been instrumental to their success. They’re very vocal about encouraging potential entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams, and ask for help along the way.
“The best advice we could give to an entrepreneur is go for it, but don’t go it alone. There are so many resources in Ohio and I feel like we tapped into every one of them at different stages along our path,” said Husted. “Find any pitch competitions you can and participate in those. It gets you exposure and is perfect for networking and potentially even funding if you win. There’s so much promotion for entrepreneurship in Ohio to find the next big idea — you just have to work for it and be tapped into the community.”