Poppy was never supposed to be a business.
It was never supposed to be a venture backed, technology startup.
It was the thing I was curious about while I figured out what my next career move was after my first failed startup.
Poppy was my personal attempt to figure out an issue that had plagued me and my friends for years. Nothing more or less.
Although, I guess if I had to be honest, I’ve always had this curiosity around “village”. What creates it, what sustains it, what feeds it.
I suppose I’ve always been so curious about it because I’ve never had it. My parents left their literal villages in India for better opportunity in Canada. But that meant severing any functional ties to a supportive network as we grew up. Sure we found it in other ways and places, but never fully in the way I saw my cousins had it. Even back then, I would constantly examine the outward displays of each relationship, searching for clues to help me discover exactly what it was that they had that I was so envious of.
And then J and I started our careers and found the whole world opened up to us. Leaving Canada more than 10 years ago, we’ve lived in the Midwest, New England and now the Pacific Northwest of the US. There was even China for a while. And in each place we recreated our networks, our villages.
Only it became so much harder after having first our older daughter and then our younger daughter. Village was not just there, even with effort. And yet, with both of us working and not living close to family, we had no way to survive without trusting others to care for our babies.
It was agonizing leaving them, but even more so when we would run into the panic of not having anyone to turn to. Each time a new caregiver that same grip of anxiety would take hold over my heart. I would be distracted in meetings, neurotically checking my phone for updates. Praying that this marry would be the right one – that she would love my kids and care for them as they deserved to be.
The sad reality was that some of the caregivers I came across were incredibly deserving and absolutely meant to be doing this job. And the others? Not so much. I thought I was just unique bad at figuring out who was a good fit with our family.
Not so. As I would learn, this space is hard for everyone – parents, caregivers – the whole deal. But last year? I was just dealing with my own problems.
Poppy was borne out of the very real frustrations of my life. First my nanny was poached by another family (at the playground of all places!!), one month before my youngest was born. Then I struggled with the search for a replacement (though somehow lucked into the exact person our lives needed). And the final straw, I ended up being stuck without a sitter for an important event with an infant and a toddler I couldn’t just leave with a high school kid.
Over the course of 6 months, I went through every frustration and emotion related to nannies and sitters. During my most vulnerable time of having a baby.
And it occurred to me, I didn’t know why someone else hadn’t fixed it yet, but I was tired of feeling this way. I knew my family and my friends’ families deserved better.
So I tested out this simple idea: What would happen if someone found and vetted the very best sitters in every neighborhood and then parents accessed them when they needed?
I had grand plans of a fancy app, but being that I wasn’t a developer, I had to make do with simple SMS text.
And so Poppy was born, one Tuesday morning. What started with 15 families in Madison Park and 3 great UW sitters is now approaching 1000 families across Seattle and the Eastside. With my iPhone and a dayplanner and $180. The least tech-y beginnings for an eventual tech company.
But that’s the thing – Poppy was never supposed to be a business. I never started thinking of it as one. And that’s why I’d say we do things differently.
Sure we have to be sustainable – and having a solid, sensible business model is a part of that.
But first and foremost, we exist to solve problems. Whatever it takes.
Raising a family is hard enough these days. Parents need someone that understands our challenges and frustrations and tries to actually solve the problem the whole way.
We certainly don’t get it right everyday. In fact, I am painfully aware of each failing and failure. Because I have been failed so many times. I know exactly how horrible it is.
But we try harder than most I would say. And we don’t rest until we’ve solved the problem or done everything we possibly can.
I am so incredibly proud of the team that we’ve put together – both at Poppy HQ but also our caregivers.
Each one shares this view of the world – that more is possible. And things like reliability and delight and ease and peace of mind are possible.
With a whole lot of effort and care. But possible nonetheless.
It’s been the most incredible journey so far – as we’ve seen exactly how we can and should serve the families of this country. While we also serve the most talented and worthy caregivers.
We’re just at the beginning of the journey.
It’s not a journey I ever imagined I would be on, let alone lead. But I can’t think of a more worthy one to take on now.
Because Poppy was never supposed to be a business. But in solving this problem, we sure are building an incredible one.
And I can’t wait to see where it takes us next.