October 30th 2014
By Richard Lee
Finding someone with the proper skills to care for pets or children in their homes can be a frustrating process, but a start-up business in Stamford believes it can help.
CareBooker.com, based at the Stamford Innovation Center on Atlantic Street, has developed a service that offers individuals and families an easy way to find, book and pay for child care, pet care and tutoring.
Developed by Norwalk resident Jenna Fernandes and launched last month, CareBooker has accumulated a user base of providers who can be booked around their real-time schedules and profiles that include services, prices, background checks, qualifications and certified reviews.
“As a busy professional in New York, always on the go, I noticed how a lot of my friends and colleagues wanted to have pets, but felt challenged to find the proper pet care that fit their budgets and schedules,” Fernandes said. “I thought, if booking restaurants and flights can be done online, why not pet care and other family care services?”
The process of developing the site has taken about a year, said Fernandes, who hopes to expand her offerings.
“We have 4,000 care providers on the site — mainly in urban areas. We used job posting sites (to find them). They aren’t our employees,” said Fernandes, adding that her business is compensated through fees evenly split between the client and service provider. “We already have 250 families signed up.”
CareBooker allows each user to find the type of care he or she is looking for, including babysitters, pet care providers and tutors, she said, and instead of forcing users to buy a subscription to search and view profiles of service providers, CareBooker allows them to do it for free.
Its platform allows users to directly book interviews and appointments around a service provider’s availability, and users can pay online through the website, with a tipping option.
CareBooker is available on smartphones and other mobile devices, and through a partnership with TalentWise, the new business offers background checks of service providers.
Fernandes credited her two dogs, Scooby and Casper, for inspiring her to develop CareBooker.
“They were definitely my inspiration. They are a great reminder why I’m doing this,” said Fernandes, commenting that the timing is right for the service. “There are more than 80 million moms in the U.S., and family care, including child care, pet care, tutoring and lessons, senior care, housekeeping and fitness, is a $450 billion industry. It’s a huge potential market for this type of service.”
Fernandes, who has six employees, including marketing, technology and customer services workers, said she plans to eventually add companion care for seniors, emphasizing that it will not involve nursing care.
The prospects for success impressed staff at the Connecticut Innovations Center, a source of financing and support for Connecticut’s innovative, growing companies. The organization, which has helped bring $4 billion in financing to Connecticut companies, has provided $183,000 in funding to CareBooker.
“It’s a unique approach to the industry. It fits with southwest Connecticut’s industry of booking and aggregation businesses,” said Kevin Crowley, managing director for investments, citing the area’s travel businesses as an example.
Investors have shown interest in CareBooker, he said, commenting that it has shown the ability to raise funding.