Audrey and Amy the two stressed out stay-at-home moms, each trying to run our their side hustle while maintaining healthy marriages, friendships, and self-care. The balancing act of mommy-hood is seriously no joke. And it can quickly leave women feeling defeated and depleted, making way for the dreaded and inevitable. So the ladies decided to do something about it!
Amy Husted & Audrey Wallace started Komae in 2015. The two SAHMs (stay-at-home moms) turned co-founders, built an app that empowers parents to exchange free babysitting with their personal network of friends—a solution to a very real problem to find trusted, affordable care that they experienced in their own lives. The two young moms, invested nearly all their time and money in raising their children, while simultaneously growing small businesses, serving their community, and seeking a piece of sanity. They wanted a break so they set out to hack the $10+/hour rate of babysitters with the creation of Komae.
Developing the app cost the ladies 18 months of their life. How exactly did the two moms develop an app? Saying if they had really known the answer to that, they may not have tried. Read more about the story of the startup at: Mykomae.
Amy and Audrey, thank you for your time and for giving us the opportunity to interview you we know you are busy women. Here are questions we would like to ask you, to get to know you better and to give us a taste of your entrepreneurs’ journey.
Have you always been entrepreneurial, before starting Komae?
Honestly, we both became entrepreneurs by accident and without even knowing the potential inside of ourselves. We weren’t on a mission to start a business with Komae. We were on a mission to fix a problem that needed solving.
But in retrospect? We can both look back and identify that we were entrepreneurial minded and that a business like Komae was just waiting to come out of us. Both of us had experience working in direct sales. And at the time Komae began, Amy had been operating a bakery out of her home, and Audrey had just hosted a Holiday shopping boutique that spread throughout her entire house where she brought all of her creative friends together to sell their products at a one-stop-shop.
Did we know we were entrepreneurs? No. Did we know we were builders? Absolutely.
Where did you find your inspiration to start Komae?
We were two stressed out stay-at-home moms, each trying to run our own side hustle while maintaining healthy marriages, friendships, and self-care. The balancing act of mommy-hood is no joke. And it can quickly leave women feeling defeated and depleted, making way for the dreaded and inevitable… mommy guilt. So we decided to do something about it.
We put together a traditional babysitting co-op between us and 10 of our closest friends. After running this traditional co-op for a year, our 10 friends had exchanged babysitting 165 times (nearly every other day!) and had saved $10,000 in babysitting costs. Woah. Wait. What? Yes, friends, it was as incredible as it sounds. A year of “you sit for me, I’ll sit for you,” and a whole lot’a cash saved in the process. Friendships were strengthened between the moms and the kids. Marriages were strengthened because date night was no longer just a dream. And parents were getting the chance to do a few more of the want-to’s in life. It was glorious. As we were beginning to catch the attention of other moms in our community, along with long-distance friends who were looking to recreate something like this for themselves in their neighborhoods, the wheels began to turn. And so began our development of the Komae App!
How did you two find each other to start a business together?
We have been friends for about 10 years now. We met through mutual friends and ended up attending the same church and growing in leadership together there. We went through the beginning years of our marriages alongside each other and became mothers around the same time. Because we have the same passions and drive, but different skill sets, we found ourselves constantly working on projects and planning events together. It was only natural that our friendship grew into an opportunity to become co-founders of a company that would solve a problem we both felt the pain of in our day-to-day lives.
What are Komae’s goals currently?
At Komae, we are on a mission to create a lifestyle of shared care between parents. You have probably heard the phrase, “it takes a village.” We believe that to be true. And now we want to empower parents to “be the village” for each other. In fact, Komae means village in Greek! And for parents, it means free time. Whether it’s getting a piece of your social life back, going on a date with your spouse, or having some peace and quiet when struggling with postpartum depression, we know every parent needs a break. We also know that we want to help each other, but don’t always know how to offer and how to accept. Komae is on a mission to make that easier and most importantly… guilt free!
Today we are 100% focused on nailing the babysitting market and building Komae into a household name. We want to hear parents saying “Honey, let’s Komae the kids and go out on a date tonight.” And once we tackle that… the potential of shared care is endless. Petsitting? Carpooling? Elderly care? You name it and it’s on our list. In fact, some of our customers are ALREADY sharing those things through our app without us prompting the behavior ourselves!
Can you describe your customers?
Our current customers include any parent with children of babysitting age. Most often, these are millennial parents looking to be financially savvy and open to using technology to accomplish that goal. Parents using our app include both moms and dads, those who work full time and those who don’t, those who are married and those who are not.
There are two groups of parents that get particularly excited about what Komae has to offer. The first is a parent who is running a side hustle while they stay home with their kids. Need to get to a business meeting or host a party for your direct marketing gig, but don’t necessarily need (or want to pay for) full-time care? Post a sit on Komae.
The second set of parents that find Komae to be extraordinarily helpful are those who no longer live in their hometown. Perhaps they’ve moved for a job and don’t have grandma and grandpa down the road to provide the sitting favors. Or maybe they are a military family that moves often and is in need of building new friendships and resources every few months. Either way, Komae can help them build their village and get some free-time back.
How would you describe the safety of Komae, we all know mom’s don’t leave their kids behind with complete strangers, so how does Komae really work?
Komae means Village in Greek. You create your Village with your circle of trusted friends and family. We highly recommend inviting only those you know and trust to care for your children and see your profile. And we keep that profile secure. The only people who can see your full profile, your sit requests and playdates, and your Village is, well, exactly that – your Village. You add who you want to add and you don’t add who you don’t want to add. Totally secure and private.
With our nearby feature, you can search for new parents in your area and suggest a playdate if you think they could be the right fit for you. If you have common Villagers, that will show up, too. If you feel comfortable after building a friendship, add them to your Village.
‘’We had good days and bad days. Sometimes we ran miles. Sometimes we were walking zombies. Whatever the case, we put on our heels and kept on going because we were mompreneurs and nothing could stop us. Audrey said to me once, “People always told us it would take twice as much time and money. What I didn’t realize is that it would make us twice as strong.” And that it did.’’ Saying this what were the good days and what were the bad days?
We always suggest to young entrepreneurs that they find a co-founder if possible because not only do you need to fill out your skill set, but you need someone to pick you up when times get hard. Entrepreneurship doesn’t come easy and sometimes you need a push. A co-founder is a perfect person to keep you going.
Some of the best days are when we win a pitch competition, meet someone influential, see personal growth in ourselves, or receive a glowing testimony from a parent using our app. And we’re always sure to celebrate when we launch new features or upgrades to our product.
The hard days come when our marketing efforts go unnoticed, our download numbers go down, an investor tells us no, or we find a bug in our app that needs fixed pronto.
To what do you attribute your success in business and how do you define success?
Being that Komae was born out of a pain point in our own lives, a lot of our success has come from our determination to solve this problem and to not give up until it comes to fruition. Furthermore, the conversation to begin Komae started in our church lobby. Both of us feel called to this mission and draw our endurance from our faith.
When building a business, it is required that we be conscious of our budget, investments, analytics, engagement, and all the numbers, numbers, numbers. So we do that. And we do it well. But at the end of the day, our success is found in the customer testimonials. In the lives we’re changing and the friendships that are being built through the use of our app. Those are the stories that compel us to move forward and to be better today than we were yesterday.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Grit: courage and resolve, strength of character. Without grit, entrepreneurship will break your heart. Not everyone will love what you’re building. You will have investors tell you no. People on social media will say rude things. But you’ve got to desire success more than you care about the opinions of the crowd. Because along the way, if you hold onto that grit, you will find your supporters, your cheerleaders, and your niche.
Passion: strong and barely controllable emotion. Without passion, entrepreneurship will feel like too much work. You have to have a belief in your product that is so strong, it’s nearly irrational. Find your why and don’t forget it. Chase it hard.
Creativity: the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work. Without creativity, your business idea will stop growing and therefore wither and die. Newsflash… The business you are creating today does not look anything like the business that will succeed. No idea is perfect out of the box. You have to constantly be collecting feedback and iterate accordingly. And that takes creativity.
If you had one piece of advice to our readers to those just starting out a business, what would it be?
Our greatest piece of advice is to show up and speak up. You never know which networking event you attend or hand you shake is going to be the one that takes you to the next step. Showing up is the first step, but make sure you speak up while you’re there. Make yourself known. Ask about others. Leave an impression. It takes a village to raise a child, but we also believe it takes a village to build a business.