Amanda Ong found herself in a predicament last February — her confinement nanny had cancelled on her last minute due to emergency family plans.
Unable to find a replacement as it was too close to the Chinese New Year season, the mother of two found herself out of luck. To make matters worse, she had to let go of her domestic helper due to a breach in her employment contract.
“My husband and I were both mentally and physically exhausted from looking after a toddler and an infant, both which demanded our constant attention,” said the 30-year-old.
“We have tried looking for help on various platforms, but felt uncomfortable posting private information in public forums. I also did not know who I could trust as there were no reviews of these sitters on the online portals.”
It was at this moment that Amanda noticed a gap in the market for parents who needed reliable babysitters urgently, so she ended up quitting her full-time job at a human resource consultancy firm to start up Aunty.
Connecting parents to verified babysitters
Aunty is a mobile application launched in October 2021 that helps connect local parents to babysitters on-demand.
Parents simply need to download the app, key in their preferred dates and address, and they’ll then be able to scroll through the profiles of various available sitters listed on the app.
At a glance, they can view how much the sitter charges per hour, their profiles, reviews and preferences. Sitters also list which age groups they have worked with in the past, ranging from infants to teenagers.
Some profiles also list the duties they are willing to take on in their bios, such as providing supervision for homework.
While sitters can set their own fees, a quick check by Vulcan Post reveals that most sitters charge between S$18 and S$30 per hour.
The app also has a messaging function that allows parents to communicate their expectations and requirements.
After deciding on a sitter, parents can request their service through the app. Bookings can be made within the same day or up to three months in advance, with no applicable platform fee.
Building trust so parents can rest assured
However, a primary concern among parents when it comes to finding a babysitter is whether they are reliable — can they trust a complete stranger to help take care of their child (or children)?
This concern is very valid, especially with the recent spate of baby abuse cases in Singapore.
On Tuesday (January 25), the Singapore Police Force said that it was investigating a 63-year-old confinement nanny for allegedly abusing a one-month-old baby.
Amanda acknowledges these concerns of baby abuse, and assured that the health and safety of their sitters and users remain their “top priority”.
“To prevent extreme cases like abuse, we adopt a very focused and stringent verification process to screen our sitters and make sure that they are qualified before onboarding them,” she said.
“Parents are also encouraged to install CCTV in their homes or to supervise during the first sit to make sure that babysitting session is progressing fine. After the session is completed, users may leave a rating and review – whether good or bad. These reviews and ratings are helpful in guiding the app users to make an informed decision before booking a sitter.”
She further shared that what makes the Aunty app stand out from other competitors is its rigorous screening process.
“Our sitters are verified, responsible young adults or fellow mums looking for an opportunity to support their community while earning a side income,” said Amanda.
Aside from accepting only Singaporean or Permanent Resident applicants, the startup also conducts reference checks with previous parent hirers when possible.
“When parents are selecting a sitter, we (also) encourage them to interview to get to know the sitter better and read their reviews before making an informed decision,” she added.
However, despite all the stringent checks in place, what if such extreme cases of abuse actually do take place?
According to the Terms and Conditions listed on the Aunty app, both parents and sitters should be “solely responsible” for their actions.
On the company’s end, Amanda stressed they have taken all the necessary steps and checks to vet the babysitters on their platform.
“Aunty endeavours to connect trusted and reliable sitters to our clients and provide appropriate support when conflict resolution (is) required.”
Turning hiring a babysitter into a routine
Although Aunty is still in its infancy stage, it has already received a positive demand from its pool of users.
Since its launch in the last quarter of 2021, it has onboarded more than 100 sitters on the app and has accumulated just shy of 1,600 parent users.
Most of these parents have learnt of the app by word-of-mouth advertising thanks to other parents sharing about the app in private group chats.
This didn’t come as a surprise for Amanda as she knew that “babysitting services are largely based on user trust and confidence”.
For now, she hopes to further expand Aunty’s reach among parents in Singapore while constantly improving the services they provide, despite having a lean team. Currently, the team is only made up of Amanda and an app developer.
“As Aunty is relatively new, we are always seeking to improve our processes to enhance our user experience,” said Amanda.
Whether it is to allow parents and caretakers to catch a break, have a date night or attend an event, she hopes families in Singapore adopt hiring a sitter as part of their routine.
“I truly believe that when parents are well-rested, they would be able to raise happy and thriving children,” she said.
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Featured Image Credit: Amanda Ong / Aunty