By Theresa Cottom The Akron Beacon Journal
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Two Ohio women are taking an issue they know very well (childcare) and coming up with a creative tech savvy solution (a baby-sitting app). "Komae" is an app that creates a baby-sitting ecosystem among families. The app is empowering women and MEN! to exchange points with one another to trade baby-sitting duties instead of hiring a sitter.
The Akron Beacon Journal
When Akron-area women Amy Husted and Audrey Wallace arrived at the Female Entrepreneurship Summit in Cleveland last October, the only thing they knew about elevator pitches is what they learned binge-watching ABC's Shark Tank the week before.
"We walked in with no pitch," Husted said. "We didn't even know what would be in a pitch."
The morning of the summit, representatives from Kent State gave a crash course on how to pitch an idea. That afternoon, the two stood in front of a panel of female entrepreneurs to pitch Komae, their baby-sitting app.
They walked out of the summit knowing how to pitch their company -- so well, in fact, that they won a $10,000 check to help fund their startup.
Since then, Husted and Wallace have had a number of successes in their journey to launch their startup, which will begin its beta testing -- testing carried out by real users in a real environment -- in May.
Komae is an app that creates a baby-sitting ecosystem among families. Parents exchange points with one another to trade baby-sitting duties instead of hiring a baby sitter. Komae is a version of the Greek word kómé, meaning "village," as in "it takes a village to raise a child."
Husted and Wallace met in 2009. They attended Grace Church in Bath Township, where they both led groups.
"We always found ourselves planning events together. We just naturally, because we had different skill sets, would always land on teams working together," Husted said.
An idea is born Two years ago, the two found themselves needing baby sitters, but found it difficult to pay the price that came along with it. "To solve our own problem, we started a traditional baby-sitting co-op where you share sitting with friends and you keep track of things," Wallace said.
Their idea quickly expanded to involve 10 groups of parents at the church. Soon, people were asking them to sell their system, and in March of 2015, they began talking about turning it into a business.
"It's been just a huge help for me," said Jess Wehner, one of the parents at the church who used Komae. "Once you start using it, it's like, 'wow, I'm going to use this all the time.'"
Husted and Wallace got their husbands on board as app developers, and together, they launched Komae on social media in May. The families used the app as they developed it.
"It's really fun when your business you're building helps you build your business," Wallace said. "It's feeding itself." Rapid success
They launched their Kickstarter campaign in September with a goal of $20,000 and raised that amount in just under a month, one day shy of their goal date.
The two left for the Female Entrepreneurship Summit the next day, where they not only won, but also met Jennifer Fleiss, the co-founder of Rent the Runway, an online service that provides designer dress and accessory rentals.
"The biggest thing that happened that day was Jenny Fleiss heard our business concept," Wallace said. "She was just full of ideas, she talked a mile a minute and she really wanted to help."
After leaving an impression on Fleiss, Husted and Wallace applied for Project Entrepreneur, a pitch competition and accelerator program for women that is funded by the Rent the Runway Foundation.
There, Komae was selected as one of three winners, scooping up another $10,000. Along with that, Husted and Wallace will go to New York City for a five-week accelerator program in June, where they will learn more about building their business from professionals.
Husted and Wallace have added funding, including $1,000 from a pitch competition in Cleveland, $500 from one in Akron, and a $25,000 loan from the Northeast Ohio Student Venture Fund.
They've also formed a partnership with Fleiss, who will join the Komae team to help build the company.
"I am thrilled to be working closely with the Komae team," Fleiss said. "We were impressed by Audrey and Amy's presentation at the Project Entrepreneur weekend and believe in the ability for [it] ... to add convenience to people's lives."
Komae will do a full-market launch, making the app available to the public, sometime this fall. Until then, they will release it in waves around the country depending on who signs up for it. Those interested can visit mykomae.com.
"It's our ultimate goal is for Komae to be a verb," Husted said. "We want people to say, 'Honey let's Komae the kids and go on a date.' "