HOW many people ever carry exactly £37 on them?
This was the question swirling round Anna Cameron's mind in 2009 as she pondered how many parents had to swing by the cash machine after their evening out to pay the babysitter.
She soon found herself ruminating as to why no-one had yet made a simple service in which parents could select and pay their babysitters online, therefore negating the end of the night dash for cash.
A lifelong Kensington resident, Ms Cameron was already well known to parents in the area but decided that she could create a service which would take the hassle out of finding and paying a babysitter.
And so at the age of 22 she came up with Babysitters of Kensington and Chelsea.
Ms Cameron, said: "After finishing university I moved back home and started my first job in recruitment but to pick up a bit of extra cash I babysat regularly for local families. Because I grew up in the area, a lot of the families knew me so I found myself quite busy.
"I soon had more families than I could manage so I started suggesting friends, people that perhaps hadn’t grown up in London, that didn’t have that network. I went to a one-day course in ‘How to set up your own business’ and it got me thinking that perhaps an online babysitting business wouldn’t be such an impossible idea.
“I spoke to many parents and the average cost for a babysitter would be around £37 and I kept thinking that no-one would have that amount of money on them. This service takes away the cash element and provides a network of babysitters for families to choose from.”
With an auspicious business plan, Ms Cameron, who was now working for MTV as a media planner, started to put the wheels in motion, interviewing babysitters, talking to parents and getting a website set up.
After putting in £5,000 of her own savings into the company, it officially launched in April 2010.
She said: “Getting set up took longer than expected, the website was supposed to be up in eight weeks but took about four months in the end. During that time I spent a lot of time in Holland Park talking to parents about pricing, booking fees and what they looked for from a babysitter.
“They told me they wanted someone they could trust, was reliable and available at short notice. It was really nice speaking to parents face to face as you get a get a much better and more detailed response.
“The website launched in April and I was careful not to do a lot of advertising, I wanted it to be a slow grower through word of mouth. I didn’t want to bite off more than I could chew so I started small.”
To make it onto the website babysitters have to supply two references from current and former families whose children they’ve cared for. They then undergo a rigorous interview with Ms Cameron to discuss their childcare experience.
Profiles are then uploaded onto the Babysitters of Kensington and Chelsea website, so families can pick a babysitter that fits their requests and book it there and then using PayPal.
With a self-sufficient business up and running, Ms Cameron decided to take on another challenge and moved to Los Angeles for a year, working for Virgin in its film and television department.
During this time she was able to keep an eye on things and even managed to grow the business.
She said: “It was a big test for Babysitters, I knew what the business was designed to do but I wouldn’t be immediately at hand if there were any problems. Fortunately due to the time difference I was able to check everything in the morning in America which is when most of the babysitters were going out in the UK.
“Luckily, over the year, both the number of babysitters doubled, as I interviewed new sitters on my return trips to London, as did the number of parents using the service.”
Returning to Kensington in December 2012, the company now has around 17 babysitter profiles on the website, with a further contact list of 25 and is used by 60 families, 20 of which are repeat customers.
Looking to the future, Ms Cameron is hoping to turn Babysitters into a franchise by setting up branches across the capital and possibly even expanding it into a lifestyle consultancy brand.
She said: “The business lends itself to numerous opportunities. I’m quite keen on franchising Babysitters, at the moment it’s just centred around Kensington and Chelsea but there’s no reason it couldn’t work in north London or anywhere else.
“Also I’ve thought about expanding it into a lifestyle and consultancy brand, giving people who are moving to the area advice such as the best gyms, schools and playgroups. I’m going to continue pushing it forward as I absolutely love doing it.”
For more information, http://bokac.co.uk