We talked to Xander Koenen, co-founder of Charly Cares, about the provision of childcare services and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing during these COVID-19 times?
Xander Koenen: I’m doing fine. Trying to take my rest and face all the challenges. I also try to exercise often, usually by walking a lot. It’s important to take care of your body, not only physically but also mentally. When I go for a walk, it’s good for my body and it also helps clear my head.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Charly Cares.
Xander Koenen: Charly van der Straten and I started Charly Cares over 5 years ago already. When Charly was studying, she babysat a lot in her neighborhood. After a while, so many families asked her to take care of their children that she started asking her friends to help her support all these families. After her studies, she started working for a recruitment office, but the idea of starting a babysitting service remained in the back of her mind. I thought it was a great idea with a big potential market. So, Charly and I took the plunge as business partners: we quit our jobs and started our own company, Charly Cares!
How does Charly Cares innovate?
Xander Koenen: We offer a completely new form of childcare, an online platform where you can always find a reliable babysitter. It’s a combination of high-quality babysitters, good service, and an innovative app where supply and demand meet. And truly everything is arranged in our app: from finding and booking a babysitter to the online payout. We try to make everything as easy as possible. A high tech app, with a service that’s all about trust.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Xander Koenen: Now that the hospitality sector is closed, we are missing out on ours, as I call it, fun-bookings. Before COVID, the business was especially booming on both Friday and Saturday nights. But the need for a fixed babysitter has grown, someone who takes care of the kids during the day for multiple consecutive weeks. That need was especially enormous when the schools were closed. That is why we started a new business line a few months ago: Charly Cares Business. Employers can use it to support their employees with a babysitter at home. Even now when schools are open again, it’s something companies still want to offer as a secondary employment condition.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Xander Koenen: The biggest thing I’ve learned is how to upscale and downscale very quickly. When demand was low, we downscaled a lot, putting fewer hours into development, for example. When the schools closed again, the demand for a babysitter skyrocketed, so we upscaled by expanding to new cities.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Xander Koenen: We use a lot of elements from Verne Harnish’s “Rockefeller Habits”, to provide us with guidance and direction. Besides, you have to dare to make big decisions quickly to get through these turbulent times.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Xander Koenen: Our biggest competitor is the girl next door or a close relative. Company-wise, other babysitting platforms are our biggest competitors, offering the same model or another version of what we do. By continuing to innovate and launch in new markets, we think we will be able to stay ahead of the competition.