Audrey Wallace and Amy Husted met eight years ago and formed a friendship that only grew stronger when they both became moms. As the two women worked hard to raise their children, the idea for a business that would address one of the biggest needs in their lives began to take shape.
“We were stressed out, busy moms that were constantly trying to find an affordable way to have care for our children with someone that we trust,” Wallace says.
“We found ourselves constantly working on projects and events together. Our next gig was to create a babysitting co-op with our circle of friends through our church. It was so successful in the first year that people were begging to join the group as they heard about the effect it was having on the families involved in it.”
The challenge with a babysitting co-op, however, is the logistics that are required to maintain it, let alone allow it to grow.
“We hosted play dates and groups and tried to get people more connected, but it’s a lot of work,” Wallace says. “That’s why traditional co-ops tend to fizzle because of the administrative work that has to happen.”
Wallace and Husted had a captive audience — the Akron-area residents just needed a better way to package it.
“We realized more people wanted in on this experience and wanted to get the benefits of it,” Wallace says. “So how could we unlock this babysitting parenting hack that we had discovered for everyone? That’s where we got the idea for Komae.”
Don’t go for it alone
The path from Komae the idea to Komae the exciting business concept they co-founded that would get Wallace and Husted invited to New York City last month to participate in the five-week Project Entrepreneur Business Accelerator Program was a wild ride, Husted says.
“One of our biggest challenges was learning,” Husted says. “We operate by the idea of go for it, but don’t go for it alone. So we really leaned into local accelerator programs like Launch League and JumpStart.
“Those have been super helpful because we had a passion and we felt like we had all the knowledge we needed to bring this idea to the country, but we needed that business background. So we spent a lot of time learning from people around us. It can be really overwhelming to see your end goal and wonder how you’re going to get there.”
Komae, based on the ancient Greek word komé, which means “a village,” is a babysitting exchange app that functions much like Facebook.
“You create your own group, or village, based on your own personal connections,” Wallace says. “This is not an app where you meet people. It’s a tool that you can use to communicate with people who are already in your life who you would trust with your children.”
Both Wallace and Husted felt they had exhausted the babysitting services of those closest to them. They had other friends who they knew they could trust with their children, but felt guilty making the ask.
“This eliminates that guilt,” Wallace says. “It’s a one-time ask and it will go to all the people you trust. They can choose whether or not they are available to help you out.”
Know your audience
One of the challenges to getting their idea off the ground was finding a way to reach their target audience.
“We decided to do a Kickstarter campaign last fall, but the typical audience on Kickstarter is tech-savvy men,” Husted says. “Our target customer is a stay-at-home mom. That’s the group that is probably going to see the greatest value. So we realized our customer wasn’t there and we had iterate and try different things.”
They successfully completed their Kickstarter campaign and were among nearly 200 female founders to participate in the first phase of the Project Entrepreneur program.
Wallace and Husted made it into the group of 12 finalists and then were selected as one of three winners to take part in the five-week program in New York City. They also won $10,000 last fall for best pitch at the Female Entrepreneur Summit in Cleveland.
“You have to have a 60-second pitch, a 2-minute pitch, a 5-minute pitch and a 10-minute pitch,” Husted says, speaking to the art of selling your idea. “They all need to be varied based on your audience. Are you pitching the customer? Are you pitching investors? It’s narrowing it down to what you don’t want them to leave without knowing.”
Komae has had some big victories, but Wallace says she and Husted understand that the journey is just beginning. With the help of their husbands, who manage Komae’s technology systems, they are confident the future is bright.
“So many people see our passion and see our great idea and want to help us succeed,” Wallace says.
“That has been a powerful thing for us to have those people and their belief in what we’re doing and their willingness to share their wisdom with us. We want other women to have faith in their idea and turn that into a business and continue to change the world.” ●