When Alexandra Nestertchouk had her son, her life drastically shifted to be able to take care of him on his schedule. There were still moments, such as appointments, where she needed the flexibility of childcare and it wasn’t there.
The idea for HopKidz, an on-demand childcare service, started when Alexandra had a dentist appointment. She had a baby sitter lined up to look after her son while she had the dental procedure done, but the sitter cancelled two hours before the start of Alexandra’s appointment.
She spent the next hour and a half on the phone calling friends and childminding agencies, but there was no availability on short notice. She couldn’t even use the childminding service at her usual gym because the parents have to stay on the premises. Her only option was to pay the cancellation fee and wait four months for the next available appointment.
From there, Alexandra decided that she wanted to create a service for parents that could provide on-demand, last minute childcare.
She felt confident in starting her own company because she comes from a family of business women and leaders — her 82-year-old grandmother even own and runs her own shop.
“I’ve been raised with the attitude that if you don’t like anything about anything, instead of complaining, be the change. Do something about it,” she said.
“I looked that this may be a good opportunity so I decided to do something about it. HopKidz was born.”
Building the Team
Finding the right employees to build up her HopKidz team was a challenge for Alexandra. Her expertise helped her handle business operations, but she needed senior talent for building the technology structures.
“It’s very tough in Vancouver because there is, well Vancouver’s population is not that large, and there’s a bunch of technology companies and a number of booming startups, a very vibrate startup community,” she said.
“We have other companies, larger companies, who are coming in and this is so close to San Francisco and Silicon Valley that our techies are getting poached.”
Alexandra did manage to find strong members to join her team such Alex Dorandish, her CTO and previous consultant for a Silicon Valley company, and Anastasia Chetvertukhina. When it’s time to hire and interview a potential new team member, Alexandra will often bring her partner and Anastasia in with her to have multiple perspectives.
Alexandra first established HopKidz in September 2017 with the value that family always comes first for herself and her employees. Meetings would be scheduled around family, whether it was for a child getting sick, or attending a recital.
Keeping that value can run into challenges, however. A new company takes time to get started and as it grows, the scheduling becomes more complex.
Alexandra experienced first hand how much time a company consumes during the first summer of HopKidz. The time she was able to spend with her son was limited with the intense pressure to get a working product.
“This was the most difficult thing. I have this ideal vision that ‘oh my god I’m putting in all of this energy into my business right now so when my son is 5 or 6 years I will attend every one of his recitals, I will attend every school play, I will take him here and there and everywhere’, but over the past 10 months I’m looking at how much time I’ve actually missed out and that is scary,” she said.
Now, she dedicates the first part of her weekdays getting her son ready for daycare. Sunday is also a ‘no computer’ day for her so that she can focus on family time.
Her company approach changed to re-establish the ‘family first’ value moving forward in development. The team has slowed their pace because Alexandra believes that a startup is a marathon and not a race.
Expanding her vision
While the team has slowed the pace, the demand for HopKidz hasn’t. Transactions started being processed in the first few months after the launch and caregivers quickly applied to be a part of the service.
HopKidz has a screening process for applicants that ensures first aid and CPR certification, a criminal record check and a current child care license. Ultimately, Alexandra wanted to provide parents access to caregivers they could feel safe leaving their children with.
Alexandra’s initial vision for the company was to provide emergency drop-in care on short notice. HopKidz would be the solution to parent’s last-minute life mishaps.
“We wanted to give parents the opportunity to book last minute because the life pace is crazy,” she said.
The vision has since evolved from emergency drop-in only to flexible childcare, whether that was drop-in at a location, or a caregiver comes to the home. One major group that expressed their interest in flexible care were shift workers, such as healthcare professionals and hotel management.
“They don’t know their schedule and then the regular 9 to 5, Monday to Friday daycare doesn’t work for them because they have to overpay for the service that they may not even use and daycares would not accept them on a part time basis with a changing schedule everyday,” said Alexandra.
Shift workers can instead book childcare through HopKidz when they need it. Caregivers post their availability on the platform and parents can book what they need either short notice, or in advance.
Alexandra has also been approached by the BC Military and the University of British Columbia to explore providing childcare services for their employees. Currently, Alexandra and her team are working on producing a mobile application of their platform to make their service more accessible to their users.
“Based on their industry feedback parents are clearly demanding mobile because many did not even understand the web application because more than 90% of the traffic came through mobile to us,” she said.
Giving back to others
In her spare time, Alexandra has also started writing her own Instagram microblog under the tag @chickwhobusiness. She started the account to be able to share her experience and pass on what she’s learned in her entrepreneurial process.
One big lesson was learning to be happy with what she has in the moment.
“Get rid of all the assumptions, get rid of all the unnecessary stuff, learn to differentiate your own priorities and what makes YOU happy from what you think is expected of you by society, colleagues, boss, friends, family members,” she wrote.
“At the end, you do not owe anything to anyone. You may choose to do this and that, but the only duty you have is to yourself — that’s to be happy and healthy.”