Any parent knows how difficult it can be to find a good sitter, but Sitting Made Simple is making it, well, simple. The service has been matching families and sitters in Columbus since 2008, and with a client list of 1,300 families and a finely-tuned process, is ready to take its sitter solution to other cities.
Founder Amanda Knapp took her years of experience being a nanny and turned it into a business at the age 27 in 2008.
“My background is walking into homes and learning how to run them successfully,” she says.
The demand for her services would outgrow her schedule. After a few too many ‘are you available this night, if not, do you know anyone else?’ requests, “I thought there must be a need,” Knapp says.
She began researching different sitting models and found largely international sites or local services that didn’t offer a lot of convenience or cater to the needs of both sitters and families. SMS bridges that gap with a system that’s convenient and transparent for all involved.
A built-from-scratch website keeps the process streamlined. Parents register with SMS and when they need a sitter, log on, list the date and time needed, and receive a list of available sitters. Once they select a sitter, SMS takes care of the rest.
“I have over 300 sitters on staff,” Knapp says, all of whom live locally.
She recommends each family build a list of three to five favorite sitters. Kids get to know the sitters better, and parents get to know who is coming into their home.
“Everybody wins on that kind of situation,” Knapp says.
Families can rest assured that each sitter, most of whom are college students, has gone through a rigorous hiring process. Knapp still hires all of the sitters herself, relying on background checks, interviews, and now that it’s down to a finely tuned process, her gut instincts.
SMS also serves more than just the parents-need-a-night-out crowd. Before and after school programs offered on a semester basis bridge the gap between school and parents’ schedules. Sitters can help with shuttling kiddos around, homework, meal prep, baths, etc.
“By the time mom and dad get home from work they have some quality time they can spend,” Knapp says.
Soon, families in other cities will be able to experience the convenience of SMS. Knapp didn’t originally plan on franchising, but now that the pieces have fallen into place, has big plans for 2016.
About a year ago Knapp’s first intern expressed interest in replicating the concept in St. Louis. She decided on a flat fee for the basic SMS model that the woman could turn into her business. The idea for franchising came from another client.
He approached Knapp interested in franchising the model. While that particular avenue didn’t pan out, the seed was planted. But then Knapp had more and more people approach her saying it was something they would be interested in, and in March of this year, she decided it was time to pursue franchising.
Knapp and SMS were in the unique position that they already had potential buyers knocking down their door. And, the perfect ones at that.
“I think the coolest thing about our brand and about our growth right now…everyone that we are in negotiations with right now is previous staff or interns of the company,” Knapp says. They’ve even had some interest from former clients. “It’s the most perfect franchisee I can imagine.”
A franchisee will pay a purchase fee to open their own branch of SMS and subsequent annual fees to the creator, SMS Columbus. The huge benefit for buyers is that they already have a successful brand laid out for them.
“They are getting a lot of help from us,” Knapp says. “Managing all that is very new to me.”
It’s all actually very new to her. Franchising is quite the process with a whole lot of paperwork and legal stipulations, and Knapp knew it wasn’t something she should approach alone.
“There’s one thing I’ve learned from day one and it’s not to pretend you can do everything or know everything,” she says.
Knapp has sought advice from others who have franchised their business, relied on mentors and hired a great legal team. She also credits the decision to take on interns in 2011 for propelling the business to where it is today.
In its first year of franchising, SMS hopes to expand to five cities in 2016. A deal with Nashville is already in the works, and Knapp is hoping for some in-state cities to join the SMS family. She’s excited for the opportunity to help other young women (or men!) be their own boss and build a future.
“I want to be a part of that,” Knapp says.
For more information, visit sittingmadesimple.com.