Finding The Perfect Sitter Online

Linda Dela Cruz
Wednesday - January 14, 2009
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Baby sitter Tasia Makaike with owner Kathryn Custer at Child and Youth Day at the state Capitol

Kathryn Custer posted her baby-sitting availability on Craig’s List, resulting in nine families vying for her services within two days. That’s when she realized there was a great need for baby sitters in Hawaii and launched an online service that helps parents and baby sitters find each other:

She remembered how her own mom had the hardest time finding baby sitters.

“She would go to boutiques and look at the employees and ask if they liked children,” the entrepreneur recalls.

Here’s how the online service works. Parents pay for a membership and then post the job, pay, location, skills and certifications they are looking for. That listing goes to all of the baby sitters registered. The sitters look at the jobs, view the parents’ profile and contact them directly. Parents can view a sitter’s photo, profile, resume, references, availability calendar, background-check results and education. Once a sitter is chosen, the parents can delete their posting.


In order to be a qualified, baby sitter, applicants must be 18 years old and pass the background check, which costs $10.

“We partnered with Lexis Nexis, the nation’s leading background-check company,” adds Custer. “Every sitter must pass the national criminal search that checks all states for felonies and misdemeanors. The search is so thorough, we can even see minor traffic violations. We strongly recommend parents interview sitters and contact their references to ensure a good match.”

There are more than 600 people online who baby-sit, pet-sit and house-sit as well as elder companions and tutors.

Before Custer moved to Hawaii in 2007, she had started a similar service in California, where she personally interviewed the sitters and the families, and matched them up over the phone.

“To accommodate more families, I thought it would be best to do it online,” she says. “There are unlimited amounts of families that can find sitters without my schedule stopping them.”

One of the challenges of the business, she admits, is that she must face her fear of public speaking to promote the business.

“I have to put myself out there,” she says. “I tell myself I can do this. It takes a lot of courage.”

With the help of a staff of eight, including three website designers, she launched the site in March of last year. She also appreciates support from her family and friends.

Keiki Sitters also offers group childcare that includes fun toys, face painting and lots of baby sitters for events such as seminars and parties. She says so far, the most keiki they’ve watched were 150 children in four rooms during a military deployment brief.

Plans for the future include upgrading the website and franchising to three locations: Australia, San Diego and San Luis Obispo, Calif.

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