Finding good child care is a hard thing to do. Leaving your child in the care of another person can be stressful; but when they’re in the care of a stranger, it’s even more stressful. Parents have to put in a lot of research into potential child care providers and ask the right questions; and even then it’s not a sure thing. How do you know you’re leaving your child with the right person? How can you be sure they are who they say they are? How do you know your children will be safe?
Jen Usmanova was in the same place a lot of parents found themselves in. After spending hours researching child care and visiting sixteen different day-cares, she realized that there was a complete lack of web based resources for parents looking for child care.
As Jen puts it: “When I was looking for child care I thought there would be an easy way to find the right center or day care. Right now we have apps and web sites for everything. You have Kayak.com for hotels, tons of apps to find the best restaurants, and even sites and apps for finding the best college; but there wasn’t a good resource for finding child care.”
When Jen shared her difficult experience with other parents, they expressed the same troubles that Jen had. It was at that point she realized that not only was there a problem, but also that she had the solution it. That’s when Jen Usmanova teamed up with co-founders Patrick Matos and Gabriel Marques to create CareLuLu; a website that aids parents in finding the licensed child care providers.
Turning the Idea into a Business
Before writing even the first line of code to their website; Jen, Patrick, and Gabriel set out to do research first. They went around asking countless parents about their experience looking for child care, what they liked, what they disliked, and what they want. They also went to local child care centers, introduced themselves, and showed the providers mock-ups of the website and how they had planned on it to function. By focusing on the needs of the parents they were able to provide the right services; and getting familiar with local day cares they were able to have an extensive data base from day one of the site launching. While co-found Patrick Matos has had previous experience in start-ups, he still describes his at CareLuLu as a “constant learning experience.”
Launching in August 2013, CareLuLu was a local success. Ever growing, CareLuLu hopes one day to provide their complete services not just for the DC/Maryland/Virginia area; but for the whole country. Nearly one year after launch, they are getting much closer to their goal than they had anticipated. While currently still unable to provide an extensive nation-wide database, CareLuLu does offer a nation-wide directory of child care providers. It may not be as in-depth, but it sure beats browsing the yellow pages.
How CareLuLu Works
CareLuLu takes their name from the English word Lulu, which means remarkable thing or place. Their motto is appropriately, “We help you find remarkable care.” CareLuLu offers an unparalleled experience to its users; and it has something to offer for both parents and child care providers. On the parent side of the equation, you are given a unique and incredibly personalized search engine. You start with your child’s basic information (age, gender, postal code, etc…) and begin your search. From there, you can start paring down the choices by tagging specific needs; for example, if your child has a peanut allergy, you can search child care providers based on whether or not they provide a peanut safe environment. You can tailor your search to just about anything a child could need, from pre-school to after school learning.
On the side of child care providers, CareLuLu is your best asset for exposure. They offer a bevy of free services for child care providers. You can create a profile, add pictures, and place contact info. For a small fee, you can be given priority search results, have unlimited photo uploads, and much more. To be able to create a profile on CareLuLu, you must be a licensed child care provider. This provides parents with some peace of mind, and it adds credibility to your service.
Jen, Patrick, and Gabriel are thrilled to have started their business in the DC/Maryland/Virginia area. They cite the emerging tech market in D.C. as providing a great talent pool from which they can utilize. “Another advantage,” Matos points out, “is the fact that there are a lot of people coming in and out of the area; whether they are working for the government or for the private sector. It’s a big advantage to us because many of the parents that are coming in don’t know the area and need the kinds of service we provide.”
CareLuLu is a website for parents looking child care, ranging from pre-school to after school care. If you have any questions about CareLuLu or are interest in their team (customer service, web development, or marketing) you can get in contact with them by clicking here. CareLuLu is currently in North Carolina as one of the 4 companies selected for the Startup Factory accelerator incoming class. They are the only company from outside of Durham in this program.