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What brought you to Columbia Business School?
Other than working for a few startups and nonprofits early on, I had no real corporate or traditional business experience. I got to a point and realized I probably needed some more foundational support and skills that can give my business, Project Playdate, the chance it deserves. That was really what drove me to apply to business school. It was the best decision I’ve ever made. It has been totally transformative for me.
I came in with an open mind, recognizing that by taking the time to tear my business model apart, I was going to come to one of two outcomes: 1) That it was time to grow up and get a real job, or 2) We would find some value in it and rebuild the model into something that could be far more successful and scalable. I was open to either outcome, and that allowed me to check my ego at the door and speak to as many people as I possibly could who were willing to give me advice. I took every entrepreneurial course, visited every office hour, took advantage of every resource I could at the school.
What were you doing before business school?
I received my undergraduate degree in social work and social entrepreneurship from New York University in 2011. I worked for several nonprofits that served inner-city youth and families. Then, I decided to start my own nonprofit that provided professional development services to single and at-risk moms. To sustain this mission, we launched a series of small “Parent’s Night Out Pajama Party” fundraisers by re-opening play spaces at night. They were a hit! Project Playdate grew out of the realization that these fundraisers were signaling a much larger market problem. I learned that in this “off-hour” space the only real market option was to hire a babysitter. In a space with little quality control and no enrichment, parents often felt both anxious and guilty about bringing someone into their home to care for their children one-on-one. I also learned that parents were desperate for time off, but while knowing that they are giving their children a safe and meaningful childcare experience.
Since then, I have been building a business based on this insight. We are still very much committed to the social mission and continue to give back with every curated childcare experience we offer. I am very passionate about creating sustainable social impacts by serving children and families across communities.
And what is Project Playdate?
Created from a belief that all families deserve access to affordable, high quality and enriching child care, Project Playdate is an existing child care service that curates drop-off child care experiences with NYC’s most celebrated spaces, specialists and attractions for kids. We are now introducing the evolution of Project Playdate, called Playdate. Playdate is a digital platform that allows businesses, parents and caregivers to seamlessly coordinate social care, like playdates or playgroups, with an activity or theme. Through a pooled pay model, we can replace babysitters with vetted and trained professionals by getting them paid more, but at a lower price point for parents or hosts. This brings to market an affordable, quality controlled and social alternative to the $5 billion-babysitting industry.
How has the EMBA program affected your business?
My experience at Columbia was absolutely transformative for me, both personally and professionally. I was absolutely prepared for change because I knew it was the only way to move forward. Beyond finding clarity in my business strategy I had no idea that I would receive such overwhelming support from the Columbia community to keep pushing forward. What was most unexpected was how this experience helped me find a stronger sense of self as an entrepreneur because, for the first time, all this chaos was validated by people around me that I grew to respect and care for so much.
The roadmap for my business growth clicked for me in my last two semesters, thanks to my classes, professors, mentors and peers. We picked up a lot of momentum and recognition, and my classmate even offered to be my angel investor. I finished school in August 2017, moved into the Columbia Startup Lab in September, and I’m now continuing to run the business as it is while also building out this online platform so that we can level up.