How This Nanny Started Her Own $940K/Month Childcare Business

Kristy Bickmeyer
1
Founders
Twinkle Toes Nann...
from Gainesville, FL, USA
started January 2011
1
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1.78M
alexa rank
1.4K
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hello! My name is Kristy Bickmeyer and I founded Twinkle Toes Nanny Agency in 2011. We provide quality, affordable, and hassle-free in-home childcare for families. Since starting in Gainesville, FL in 2011, we’ve grown to over 20 locations in 5 states, with more on deck to open this year!

Our franchise model offers a low buy-in, and operating costs are extremely low with almost no overhead. Because of this, franchisees can see a strong ROI and achieve financial independence, all while working mostly from home and making their schedule.

twinkle-toes-nanny-agency

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

The idea for Twinkle Toes came to me when I was a first-time mom looking for childcare for my son. I wanted a nanny, but I could not afford the $1,500-$3,000 placement fee other agencies charged. That fee only got me a nanny. I still had to pay her, come up with a contract, pay her taxes, and if she ever got sick or went out of town, I had no backup care. And the worst part is that the agencies only guaranteed the nannies for 90 days! So from a parent’s perspective, it didn’t make sense.

Having been a nanny for over 10 years myself, I worked for one of these placement agencies. I felt the pain of the contract negotiations, collecting payments, and trying to take time off for being sick or going on vacation differently. All of these problems with the business model exist for both nannies and families.

Then, from a business perspective, the old placement agency model made no sense. The agency only gets a one-time fee from the family, so there’s no regular source of revenue.

I knew there had to be a better way, so Twinkle Toes was born.

Twinkle Toes charges NO fees upfront. The nannies are contracted with the agency, which means the family pays the agency an hourly rate, and the agency then pays that nanny. We’re just like most companies in America- we get paid by our customers when our workers work. Simple!

In addition to solving the revenue issue, I created an online scheduling system that creates a network of nannies and families. If a family’s primary nanny is sick or needs to go out of town, we can post that job on our schedule site and other nannies can pick up the work to fill in for that nanny. It helps families have coverage, and it helps the nannies get more hours if they want them. And best of all, no more having to go to work when you’re sick!

After I saw how the idea took off in Gainesville, I tested the model in Jacksonville and Tampa, both with huge success. At that time the model had been proven and we were ready to franchise.

Describe the process of launching the business.

I went back to work at my property management job after my maternity leave was over and I launched Twinkle Toes as a side hustle. Twinkle Toes’ innovative business model was so attractive to nannies and families that it quickly grew into something that needed my full-time attention. So my husband and I decided to take the plunge and walk away from my guaranteed income and benefits to pursue the potential we saw in Twinkle Toes.

My first clients were recommendations from families for whom I had previously nannied. The word of mouth spread like wildfire and we took off.

I am a big believer in not acquiring debt to finance my business. That’s been great as we’ve grown, but it also meant I didn’t get paid for the first few years. When I tell you I drove a beater and ate rice and beans, I am not kidding! Every dime I made went right back into the business to make it better.

For the first 8-9 years we subscribed to an online scheduling software, used QuickBooks for billing families, and used yet another website for paying nannies. This was costly and inefficient. For the last 2.5 years, I’ve developed proprietary software that does all of the above in ONE site, and the fees are less than we were paying to QuickBooks alone. The software has made growth explode and makes the experience of the nanny, the family, and the business owner so much better.

What works today may not work tomorrow. And what works in Florida may not work in Idaho. Adaptability is key.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

I can sum this up in one word: RELATIONSHIPS.

As a company that provides childcare, there’s nothing more important than the relationships we have with our families and the relationships we have with our nannies. We do local events in each market, support other local businesses, support local charities, etc. It’s all about that bond and the loyalty it builds.

To reach families, we partner with pediatric offices to become their recommended childcare provider, we reach out to daycares that have waitlists so they can refer those families to us so that we can provide care while the family waits on a spot at daycare.

We do direct mailers, and social media ads, but mostly we show up in our community. We have a presence at the kid and family-friendly festivals so that we can meet and interact with families and build that relationship before they ever become clients.

To attract nannies, we target student housing, target their age group on social media, and offer referral bonuses for existing nannies.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Today we’re continuing to grow and open up in more states. The future looks bright and I’m now launching my software to other services industry businesses like pet care, elder care, house sitting, etc.

My first clients were recommendations from families for whom I had previously nannied. The word of mouth spread like wildfire and we took off.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Throughout this whole process, I’ve learned that we have to be able to adapt to changes as they come. We cannot be afraid to raise our rates when the market demands that we pay our nannies a higher rate, we cannot be afraid to throw extra money into advertising if things slow down, etc. What works today may not work tomorrow. And what works in Florida may not work in Idaho. Adaptability is key.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

My business uses my proprietary software called CompanionPay, a system that holds data, communicates with customers and workers, handles all of the scheduling, bills customers, and pays nannies. It’s a dream come true to have this now because there is nothing like it on the market.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Good To Great was a game changer for me. I also loved Entreleadership by Dave Ramsey.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

My advice is just to do it. Take the leap, take the plunge, whatever metaphor works for you, just DO IT.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We are always looking for great nannies!

Where can we go to learn more?

-  
Kristy Bickmeyer, Founder of Twinkle Toes Nanny Agency
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story
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