How we raised $350k in seed funding to build our Australian babysitting business

Huddle childcare profile header image
Huddle childcare co founders image
Alice Pritchard Davies and Millie Zinner (co-founders)
Founded: October 2019
No of employees: 5
Location: Australia

Alice and Millie are the founders of Huddle Childcare, which connects Australian families to trusted nannies whenever they need one. After witnessing first-hand the impact that having children had on their friends, Alice and Millie wanted to provide families in a similar position the support they need. 

Alice and Millie built Huddle Childcare from the ground up. Their successes have so far included Millie winning Start-Up Founder of the Year and raising over $350k in seed funding. Despite Covid-19 disrupting operations, Huddle Childcare is bouncing back to pre-coronavirus levels. They’re also planning to expand to other parts of Australia. We chat to them to find out more about their future plans. 

Who are you and what brand did you start?

We’re Alice and Millie, founders of Huddle childcare. Huddle connects Australian families with trusted, recommended babysitters whenever and wherever they need.

We’ve had an incredible time building Huddle from the ground up, some highlights include; Millie being Start-Up Founder of the year at the Australasian Start-Up Awards, raising over $350k in seed funding, and building our community to over 20,000.

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BRAND IDEA - how did you come up with the idea for Huddle?

We were living together in Sydney, and when our friends started to have kids, we could see how the change impacted them in every way – financially, socially, and emotionally. While it is a joyous time, they were experiencing significant challenges. These stemmed from leading busier lives while having less community support and connection. Becoming a mumma herself the same week we launched Huddle, Millie soon came to understand the problems first-hand.

We wanted to ensure families have the support they need. Both having been nannies for many years, we also understood that nannies and babysitters want an easy way to connect with families for flexible work. Our tech platform matches families with trusted, recommended carers who suit their family’s needs.

The name for Huddle came from the collective noun for penguins, who ‘huddle’ together for warmth. We humans ‘huddle’ too both physically and mentally to support one another. And that’s what our community is all about. Our logo shows the letters huddling together and leaning on each other a little, for support.

BRAND LAUNCH - take us through how you launched Huddle.

When we had the idea, we put up a landing page, and put $50 behind a Facebook post to families in Bondi, asking if they were interested in the idea. We were blown away with more registrations than clicks, we could see it was being shared within the community. So we started the process of interviewing our audience for insights, and designing and building the app.

When we released the app on the Apple app store initially, we first had families we nannied for book us. It worked well (enough) so we emailed our list of a few hundred people who had expressed interest. From there, people we didn’t know started signing up and booking sitters which was a huge milestone and a great sign.

Following that, we pitched for our first launch media and appeared on a live national breakfast TV program – which was incredible nerve wracking! This catapulted our growth, and we gained many high profile customers overnight.

We did all this with less than AUD $20k!

CUSTOMER RETENTION - what has worked best to attract and retain customers?

We have found that a really easy to use intuitive product, and incredible customer support are the two biggest driving factors for growth. This encourages positive word-of-mouth, and high customer retention rates.

Our community happiness team goes above and beyond for our sitters and families. To name a few community initiatives, we hold community events and Q&A sessions to help provide support parents’ needs on certain subjects, run fun competitions, and support businesses run by people in our community wherever we can.

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SOCIAL - what are your top 2 tips for successful use of social media to engage with customers.

  1. Authenticity - Give authentic insight to your community. Social media is a wonderful way to build a connection with your audience and to do this we need to be authentic. Our highest engagement rates are posts with updates from us as Founders about what we’re up to at Huddle and what it is like running a start-up. When customers feel connected they are more loyal, and are also more likely to become advocates.
  2. Effective communication - Communicate effectively what exactly it is you’re offering to your market. Being authentic also means selling your business! Direct clear “sales” messages are totally great too. Make it easy for your audience to understand what you do and how to get hold of your product or service.

BUSINESS GROWTH INSIGHTS - how has Huddle changed and evolved?

Huddle launched late 2019 and saw a steep incline in activity from launch up until February 2020, when COVID impacted Australia. While Australia managed to maintain very low rates of the virus compared to other parts of the world, lockdowns have been enforced on and off throughout 2020 and into early 2021 which greatly affected our activity. We’ve seen a fairly quick turnaround in early 2021 and have just recently reached pre-COVID activity levels again. We are really excited to launch some awesome new features soon to our fast-growing community of over 20,000!

MANAGING CHANGE - what are the top 2 tips you’d suggest others adopt to safeguard their business.

  1. Plan for the most likely scenario, but prepare for the worst. Parallel planning is essential in an uncertain future.
  2. Focus on what you can control. We couldn’t control having zero active customers for months on end, but we could use our extra time and resources to focus on product, customer research, and strategy.

COVID has proven that with significant change comes great opportunities. For example COVID has accelerated society’s adoption of and enthusiasm for the power of video for connection – for us that is a clear opportunity to upweight the importance and accessibility of video profiles and interview features.

We also analyzed how the likely long-term permanent changes in society might be relevant to our business. For example, more flexible working increases the need for a flexible support network, which is also a significant opportunity for us.

We worked towards these scenarios that we felt were the most likely in the long-term, while also having contingencies for less favorable (and we felt less likely) possibilities.

FUTURE BUSINESS PLANS - how is Huddle doing today and what does the future look like?

2021 will see us release some exciting new features, after working closely with families and babysitters in our community to design the future of our product. We will then expand to more parts of Australia working to build a sustainable, profitable, growing business.

ENTREPRENEUR INSIGHTS - what has been your biggest learning experience since starting Huddle Childcare?

  • Test and measure everything - never assume (or guess)! Data is everything.
  • Lean into problems - because of our positive, entrepreneurial natures – start-up founders can tend to focus on the potential and less so on the problems. Acknowledging when things aren’t working and changing the way it is done is essential for growth.

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ONLINE BUSINESS TOOLS - what are the business software tools you couldn't live without?

  • Plann – Helping us plan our insta so it is structured and visually appealing, and we don’t spend excess time on it.
  • Slack – How did we ever work without this! With our global team, slack must have saved us a million emails, absolute lifesaver.
  • Trello – Enabling efficient teamwork, organization, planning and goal setting, and product management.
  • Canva – Enables small businesses to look uber professional.
  • And Zoom! - Keeping our team connected to each other and the wider business world, when we can’t be together physically.

See what ecommerce tools other founders are using.

SELF DEVELOPMENT - what are the educational resources you’d recommend?

For strength, calm, and clarity: The Resilience Project audio book. We’ve both recently listened to this fantastic audio book. Resilience is an important trait for anyone, and an absolute must for any business owner. This book helps people find resilience, gratitude, and mindfulness to build happier lives.

For inspiration: Outliers by Malcom Gladwell. A different perspective on what drives and creates remarkable people and “success”.

For insight: Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Khaneman. Learn about decision making processes and how they are often irrational, to better understand ourselves and the world around us.

For inspiration: Songs of a Warboy – memoir about Deng Adut, who overcame unthinkable adversity in childhood before becoming a lawyer, and Australian of the Year.

INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE ‘shout-out’ - who have been the most influential people for you during your brand journey?

  • Tim Fung – CEO and Founder of Airtasker, advisor at Huddle, and all-round legend.
  • Levi Aron – ex Deliveroo Australia MD, Huddle advisor and incredible supporter.
  • Joel Kalmanowicz – superstar Atlassian (ex Google) product guru.

FINAL WORDS OF INSPO - for other aspiring entrepreneurs.

Don’t forget – data beats emotions!

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