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Michelle Kelsey’s Entrepreneurial Journey in the World of Childcare

Written by:

Esther is a business strategist with over 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, executive, educator, and management advisor.

Michelle Kelsey’s Entrepreneurial Journey in the World of Childcare

In this interview, we delve into the entrepreneurial journey of Michelle Kelsey, the founder of Nannies on Call, a childcare service that has revolutionized the industry since its inception in 2001. Balancing her roles as a working mother and a business owner, Michelle’s story is one of resilience, innovation, and dedication. With a Bachelor’s in History and initial aspirations to become a teacher, Michelle’s path took a dramatic turn as she grappled with the challenges of finding reliable childcare for her two young daughters. This personal struggle led to a profound business opportunity, culminating in the establishment of Nannies on Call.

Nannies on Call

Over two decades, the company has expanded to include The Nanny Solution, becoming a beacon of quality and trust in childcare. In our conversation, Michelle shares her experiences, from the foundational steps of starting her business to managing its growth and adapting to the ever-evolving childcare industry. Her insights not only shed light on the complexities of running a successful enterprise but also offer invaluable advice to aspiring entrepreneurs in the childcare sector.

Join us as we explore Michelle Kelsey’s remarkable journey, the lessons she’s learned, and her vision for the future of Nannies on Call.

From History Major to Childcare Innovator

Can you describe your journey from aspiring to be a teacher with a Bachelor’s in History to founding Nannies on Call?

I received a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Oregon. I stopped my education to reassess my career path and realized that traditional teaching methods didn’t align with my view of how children should be taught. The birth of my child shifted my focus towards the significance of early childhood education. This led me to start Nannies on Call, a mix of my educational passion and the ability to innovate, allowing me to adopt and implement unique educational philosophies.

The Childcare Challenges

What specific childcare challenges did you face that led you to see a business opportunity in this field?

The struggle to find reliable, professional childcare for an event one evening was a turning point. Missing that event due to the lack of professional childcare options gave me the idea for Nannies on Call.

Key Steps in Launching Nannies on Call

What were the most crucial steps you took in the initial stages of starting Nannies on Call?

I followed all the usual steps to starting a business like writing a business plan, incorporating my business, picking a name, logo, insurance and getting a bank account. But the most important part of starting Nannies on Call was finding quality nannies. My focus was on ensuring that every nanny we hired was exceptionally qualified, dependable, and professional.

Establishing Credibility

How did you go about building trust with parents and establishing a reliable reputation for your business?

The key is having highly qualified, professional nannies. I only hired nannies I would trust to care for my own two children. I would rather tell a client that we did not have anyone available than send someone sub par. We quickly became trusted by families with this strict hiring policy.

Safety and Quality

What measures and protocols do you have in place to ensure high standards of quality and safety in your childcare services?

Our hiring process is detailed and non-negotiable. It includes personal interviews, verifying work experience and childcare references, checking educational credentials and certifications, ensuring current First Aid/CPR training, and conducting thorough criminal record and driving record checks. This screening ensures we work with only the best nannies.

Growth and Expansion

Can you share insights on how you managed the growth of Nannies on Call, including the incorporation of The Nanny Solution?

The Nanny Solution was developed as an extension of Nannies on Call, not as a separate incorporated company.

The COVID-19 pandemic presented unprecedented challenges, particularly as families became hesitant to invite nannies into their homes, leading to a temporary decline in our clientele. We viewed this period as an opportunity for innovation and growth. Our team dedicated this time to brainstorm and develop new ideas.

One outcome was the development of The Nanny Solution, accompanied by the launch of its own website. Originally, Nannies on Call focused primarily on backup care services. Recognizing the growing demand for long-term placements and the high regard parents had for our nannies, we decided to expand into this area. We observed that the Nannies on Call brand didn’t fully describe the long-term placement services, and some clients were unaware of this offering. Therefore, rebranding this segment of our business under The Nanny Solution seemed a logical step.

We didn’t need to overhaul our internal operations. Our existing staff was fully capable of managing this new direction, allowing us to transition smoothly under the new branding without disrupting our core business values or operations.

The Nanny Solution

Adapting to Industry Changes

How has Nannies on Call adapted to changes in the childcare industry over the last two decades?

The childcare industry has become much more tech savvy. With people using Uber, Instacart and Netflix, families expect to be able to find a nanny just as easily.

  • Technological Integration: We have implemented an online booking system, allowing clients to easily pick the nanny they feel best fits their family. This digital approach has streamlined the process, making it more efficient for both parents and nannies. The platform supports texting and calling, enhancing communication and flexibility.
  • Payment Systems: We introduced credit card payments for nannies making it easier since clients no longer need to have cash at the end of the appointment. This feature provides convenience and security for both clients and nannies.
  • Membership Models: The adoption of monthly memberships reflects a shift in how childcare services are structured and offered to clients, providing a more consistent and predictable service model.
  • Adapting to Pandemic Challenges: During the COVID-19 pandemic, Nannies on Call experienced a surge in demand as parents sought reliable childcare amidst the closure of schools and daycares. This led to an increase in nanny wages and the incorporation of medical benefits and COVID-19 clauses in contracts, indicating a response to the changing needs and expectations of both families and nannies.
  • Quality and Training of Nannies: We emphasize recruiting educated, high-caliber nannies with a passion for childcare. The screening process and ongoing training ensure that the nannies are well-equipped to provide quality care. This focus on quality and professional development is important in a competitive market.

Resources and Support for Starting a Childcare Business

What support and resources would you recommend for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to start a similar business?

I really benefited from joining business groups. Whether it was a local women’s business meet up, an online mastermind group or an industry specific association, each one helped provide me with valuable insight and support when I needed it most.

The Balancing Act of a Working Mother and Entrepreneur

How do you balance your responsibilities as a working mother and a business owner?

Now that my children are adults, the balance is less challenging. The lesson I have learned and shared with other mothers is the importance of dedicated focus: when working, concentrate on work with the necessary support for your children, and when at home, fully engage with your family.

Lessons Learned

Reflecting on your experience, what are some key lessons you have learned in running Nannies on Call?

Something I learned early on but took me years to put into practice is…Hire slow, fire fast. I have never liked firing people. Who does? But in the beginning I let people stay much longer than I should have. They did damage to the culture and energy of the company.

Overcoming Obstacles

Can you share an example of a significant challenge you faced in your business and how you overcame it?

One of the most significant challenges we’ve encountered is the underappreciation of a nanny’s worth. Even with its immense value, childcare often isn’t adequately valued by families, which poses a constant challenge in advocating for the rights and recognition of nannies. To deal with this, we focus heavily on education. By informing and enlightening families about the critical role and extensive benefits of professional childcare, we strive to shift perceptions and appreciation for the nannies we work with.

Advice for Aspiring Childcare Business Owners

What advice would you give to individuals looking to start their own childcare or nanny service business?

Prioritize finding insurance.  It is getting more and more challenging to get insured as a childcare company. After 22 years in business, last year, I almost was not able to get insurance for my business. I have never made an insurance claim but was told the insurance company was starting to limit their risk. And unfortunately, childcare is a high risk business.

Many agencies who are starting out call for advice about where to get insurance because this is what they are struggling with the most.

Future Goals and Aspirations

What are your future aspirations for Nannies on Call, and how do you plan to continue growing and evolving the business?

I aim to expand Nannies on Call to more cities nationwide, continually growing and evolving the business to meet the changing needs of the industry and our clients.


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Michelle Kelsey’s Entrepreneurial Journey in the World of Childcare