OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

CozyKin: Solving America’s Quality Infant Childcare Shortage

CozyKin makes personal, Montessori childcare accessible to every child by bringing families together to share a CozyKin nanny at home.

Photo of Jeremy Au
1 3

Written by

Updates: How has your idea changed or evolved throughout the Prize? What updates have you made to this submission? (1500 characters)

Thanks to the feedback and inspiration from this prize, we were able to grow 3X in families served as well as revenue. We are also on track to grow 10X by the end of the year. Thanks OpenIDEO! We were inspired by the community's varied approaches to better parent-teacher communication. This helped us improve our internal parent messaging tools to increase parent engagement.

Name or Organization

CozyKin, Inc.

Geography

Boston, USA

What is your stage of development?

  • Early Stage Innovator, with at least one-year experience in ECD

Type

  • For-profit

What is the stage of your proposal?

  • Full-scale roll-out: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the users I am trying to reach with my idea. I am ready to expand the pilot significantly.

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (600 characters)

For the first time, CozyKin makes high quality childcare accessible for all families. Daycares optimize their fixed space to serve preschoolers, for whom fewer teachers are required per student. Infant waitlists thus stretch up to 12 months. CozyKin serve infants with smaller ratios because families use their private homes for care. We provide higher quality childcare at lower cost, and to caregivers in the form of better wages. We serve families across urban, suburban, and rural areas, thus enabling families who are not close to quality center-based facilities to have great care.

Select an Innovation Target

  • Platform: Creating a community or market that facilitates interaction between users and resources.

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

For expecting families in need of quality infant & toddler childcare, CozyKin delivers guaranteed high quality childcare, at lower cost, at home. This is possible because CozyKin-employed nannies care for 2-3 infants at the same time in the private home of said families. These families are matched together based on location, schedule and childcare preferences. We realized that expecting parents see childcare as a black box and are unsatisfied with their options. No matter how far in advance they plan, both daycares and nannies won’t provide more than 6-8 weeks notice prior to care start date. Right now, parents spend hundreds of dollars bouncing from daycare waitlist to waitlist, with no guarantee of care. So all parents who have to return to work are highly anxious about securing quality childcare early.

What problem are you aiming to solve? (3 sentences)

The massive shortage of quality infant childcare: 10 families compete for every infant spot in urban daycares, with 6-12 month waitlists and uncertain odds. Moms delay returning to work or must place their child into low-quality care. The cause is the broken daycare industry: Setting up a daycare costs $1M and expansion is costly; regulations require 1 teacher for 3 infants, compared to 1 teacher for 12 preschoolers; daycares cover their costs by serving preschoolers and waitlisting infants.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

Expecting parents want the best care for their baby, that is easy and affordable for their family. and is guaranteed to start upon when they return to work. Yet parents are frustrated by the scramble for opaque daycare waitlists, variable quality, and long or inconvenient commutes. Only the top 10% wealthiest Americans can afford nannies. In Boston, 10 families compete for every infant opening in quality daycares, which have 6-18 month long waiting lists. All promise infant openings without specifying the probability of selection. The root cause is the broken daycare industry: Despite rising demand, supply will not increase. For top daycare chains, setting up a new daycare costs $1M and expanding a current daycare is very difficult due to licensing & construction hazards. Daycare regulations require 1 teacher for 3 infants, compared to 1 teacher for 12 preschoolers. Daycares thus choose to cover their facility’s capital and operating costs by serving preschoolers and waitlisting the infants and toddlers. The costs to society are staggering. The primary caregiver, often the mother, is pushed into dropping out of the workforce and is unable to re-enter years later, thus furthering gender inequity. Alternatively, their children are knowingly placed into low-quality care. Employers face lower productivity due to absenteeism from childcare disruptions and employees failing to return from parental leave. CozyKin creates the two-sided platform between families in need of quality infant & toddler childcare and great nannies. Families are grouped based on location, schedule and preferences. CozyKin-employed nannies care for 2-3 infants at the same time in the private home of said families. For parents, we are the alternative to expensive daycare. We deliver better quality care for a lower cost in a group-based in-home environment, thus providing engaging experiences for children. CozyKin’s platform supports streamlined payments, 24/7 customer support, after-hours care, backup support and digital scheduling. Since it’s in private homes, it’s either right at home or your neighbor’s. Parents can plan and arrange childcare during pregnancy without having to worry about waitlists, because parents can match with other expectant parents early. As a result, CozyKin is able to provide guaranteed high quality, in-home, personal childcare to nurture each child’s full potential.

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

Best for children. We provide the structure, socialization, and Montessori curriculum of top premium daycares and the personal attention, in-home environment, and nurturing care of nannies. This stacked combination has a multiplier effect, which is 10X better quality than what's most available on the market: Overcrowded, impersonal daycares with high rates of sickness, or unreliable nannies who are neither held accountable or supported during the day. Easiest for families. Since it's you or your next-door neighbor's home, it's 10X more convenient than a 30-minute commute to the daycare. Expectant parents reserve full-time infant childcare early, so they no longer have to wait months before hearing that they have been rejected by daycares. Powered by our platform of 24/7 support, seamless logistical management, and seamless care management. There’s no way for them to replicate this experience off-market. Great for nannies: They have a better work experience working within a neighborhood team that answers each other’s questions and organizes playdates. They receive better wages than the market norm and higher job security as full-time W2 employee with guaranteed hours Here are some testimonials from our beneficiaries “Our nanny Emilia is fantastic! She feels like a member of our family. Our CozyKin experience has been wonderful.” “I love CozyKin’s nanny share. Socialization is critical, and the two baby girls get to learn from each other all day.”

What kind of impact will your idea have? (1500 characters)

The first three years of life are critical to the cognitive, emotional, social, and language development of children. Better childcare in the first three years of life shows impacts even after children begin grade school, in the form of higher literacy and early math skills. According to the National Institutes of Health study on quality childcare, a consistent, nurturing caregiver with smaller teacher:child ratios is essential. With CozyKin, babies have the same caregiver for their first three years and have one CozyKin nanny to two babies. Caregivers also receive professional training in Montessori activities, enabling each child to have the engaging early experiences they need to learn and grow.

How does or how could your idea impact low-income children? (1500 characters)

Helping low-income children is dear to our team's heart. We've worked for many years in the social sector, and see how educational disparities impact low-income children. We chose Montessori for its educational outcomes. Early Montessori education has been shown to significantly decrease the gap in achievement by income group. By removing the facilities, refurbishment, and utilities costs of daycare, we are able to bring high quality, Montessori-based care to more families at 30% lower operating cost. By having the care take place in a family’s home or their neighbors, we reduce location barriers to quality care. We recruit caregivers from racially and socioeconomically diverse backgrounds and provide them health insurance and stable, higher wages, because happier caregivers means better care for all children. Our model also allows us to provide substantial subsidies and scholarships to families in need, as we have already piloted, because we have an asset-light model with fewer capital expenditures. By bringing more childcare supply to the market, we introduce more competition and thus lower prices for the entire system. With our corporate partnerships, we are able to assemble coalitions of local businesses that are invested in early education reform and access for low-income children.

Innovation: What makes your concept innovative? (5000 characters)

What’s new is that CozyKin uses the Airbnb platform on the daycare industry to bring higher quality childcare at lower cost to families, by using private homes instead of costly daycare centers and having far better utilization rates by seamlessly redistributing nannies to where childcare demand is highest. This superior value and business platform empowers CozyKin to delivers better quality of care at lower cost (why parents choose us over daycare) while paying better wages for nannies relative to daycares (why so many of our nanny applicants are daycare teachers).

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of end-users. (1500 characters)

Market Size: We currently have 2% of new, dual-income families with infants in our target neighborhoods. We’re targeting to reach 20% in the same neighborhoods by the end of the year. The total early education market size for these segments is $30B. We charge a transparent, fixed monthly rate. Our families use us for full-time care and babysitting. We take a percentage of the revenue. Families use CozyKin for 2-3 years.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (3000 characters)

January - April 2017: Started childcare operations Visited homes to conduct environment checks and childcare assessments Ran speaking events with Blue Cross Blue Shield Parent & Women’s Groups partnership May - December 2017 Delivered 20K hours of childcare with 100% safety record Launched certified Montessori curriculum with daily logs Onboarded 3 new employees Provide full-time care for 13 families ($40K of Monthly Recurring Revenue) Jan - Feb 2018 Grow 3X to 40 families ($120K of Monthly Recurring Revenue) Certified Montessori program for infants and toddlers was rolled out and has been enthusiastically received from current customers, pregnant moms, and nannies. Matches and exceeds curriculum provided by top daycares. Families love our care, with over a third of our new enrollments coming through word of mouth from parents to whom we provide care. We are now reaching weekly organic posts in Boston’s top 3 Facebook groups for new & expecting moms (>2000 moms) March - December 2018 Grow to 200 families across Boston Partner with 20 companies to expand childcare services

Business Viability: How viable is your business model? (5000 characters)

We are highly viable as a business model. We are already profitable in our operations, and have been able to scale effectively. Price: $15 per hour per family. Our customers find the price of our quality in-home childcare to be highly compelling. We are priced on-par with daycares, which signals quality. Unlike them, we do not have capacity limits and thus can serve them. We are priced below nannies, which are more expensive and highly variable in quality. Hours per week: 42 hours. Our customers enter with 40 hours of scheduled care. Within a month of start of childcare, families extend care to ~42 hours per week as they work more and also replace babysitting. We collect a service margin from the revenues. These funds are reinvested back into the business to build out more technology deployment, customer service and nanny training. As a result, our nannies are compensated much better than the market average: highly stable W2 employment, strong training and internal certification, high hourly wages, health insurance, fair contracts and backed by tech tools and good management.

HCD: How have you used human centered design to build or refine your concept? (5000 characters)

Every day, we partner with our families to improve CozyKin's service. We receive feedback from both our parents and nannies about how to better deploy our Montessori activities, train our caregivers and manage the operations. We are in daily text communications with our parents and run regular focus groups to beta test the new features that we add every week.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

While documenting the childcare journeys of 107 new moms, we were shocked to find fellow millennial moms choosing not to return to work due to the shortage of quality infant childcare. As mothers increasingly plan to return to the workforce earlier, this problem will only get worse. We were shocked by this, and took action. Jeremy selected kindergarten sites for China’s fastest growing private kindergarten chain, accompanied Harvard’s top developmental psychologist while meeting Beijing education officials, and COOed for a children’s book series that adapted Sheryl Sandberg “Lean In” for working mothers to read to their daughters (which was commended by Sheryl Sandberg herself). He was recognized by Forbes 30 Under 30 for social entrepreneurship, and has worked with over 100 nonprofits and social enterprises to improve their operations. Tatyana researched and was published for pediatric care best practices at Massachusetts General Hospital (#1 hospital in America), developed the prototype and algorithm of an NSF-funded, epidural needle for pregnant women (which increases the success rate from 50% to >95% for epidurals), contributed to winning the 2016 Stanford Medicine X Healthcare Design Award. Mary Beth Sweeney turned around a troubled KinderCare daycare within a year as the Daycare Center Director. Created and led accreditation, hiring and curriculum design for the Sea Preschool, the nation’s first preschool at an aquarium, and was former Lead Teacher at ChildrenFirst (acquired by Bright Horizons). Brooke Morrissey: Preschool teacher, Tanzanian Children’s Fund. Worked at two-sided market platform at Drizly: Built most successful neighborhood acquisition channels, inc. mail, digital & radio. Launched SF & Nashville markets, and managed Midwest region’s marketing. Fashion Project (Goodwill for Designer Clothing, Series A, acquired) Directed 200 charity account partnerships and supported business development. Georgetown University Matt Graham: Veho (Uber for Last Mile Delivery): Former cofounder (YC S17 finalist), managed operations and sales for over 7000 packages across Boston and Eastern Massachusetts. US Navy: Managed 15 officers as Division Director. Harvard Business School, Columbia University.

Do you have the people and partners you need to do what you’ve described? (600 characters)

Partners: We are very fortunate to have strong partners that have accelerated our growth. Many thanks to MassChallenge Boston, MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund Program, Harvard Innovation Lab’s Venture Incubation Program, and the Harvard Business School Rock Accelerator People: We are fortunate to have an extraordinary founding team. As we are scaling across Boston, we are hiring! We're looking for new teammates who are purpose-driven and wish to assist us across as we further build out childcare quality, marketing, sales and partnerships.

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (1800 characters)

We are looking for partners who are passionate about newborn and infant childcare, mothers returning to work and Montessori evidence-based early education.

Would you like mentoring support?

  • Yes

If so, what type of mentoring support do you think you need? (1200 characters)

We are open to any type of mentoring support. We’re interested in meeting mentors who are passionate about newborn and infant childcare, mothers returning to work and Montessori evidence-based early education.

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with Gary Community Investments?

  • Yes, share my contact information

[Optional] Biography: Upload your biography. Please include links to relevant information (portfolio, LinkedIn profile, organization website, etc).

Recognized for social entrepreneurship by Forbes 30 Under 30, BMW Foundation, and Taproot Foundation. https://www.cozykin.com https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeremyau https://www.linkedin.com/in/tatyanagubin

[Optional] Attachments: Please upload relevant attachments or graphics or show us how you prototyped.

Mentorship: How was your idea supported? (5000 characters)

Thanks to Carolyn Lyons, we were able to connect with social sector partners such as Early Education For All and New America. We learned that CozyKin could serve as an effective hub for our enterprise customers by consolidating recommended workplace policies, childcare resources and social sector partnerships. In doing so, we are able to help companies assist their new mothers and fathers in their return to work, while serving as a voice for the social sector.

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Comment
Spam
Photo of Tony Hill
Team

Echoing Barbara below, I LOVE this idea. And, it's attacking virtually all the same problems that our submission ("Carepass") is, but from a different and very clever angle. Whenever your schedule permits, I'd love to have a casual phone chat about our respective ventures, perhaps see if there's a way to work together at some point down the line. For now, good luck ramping CozyKin up! We're pulling for you.