"I just had a f*cking baby and I’m here"

with Rachel Carrell, founder of Koru Kids

Show notes:

Rachel Carrell is an impressive woman: 3 kids, raised £14 million in funding rounds, and on a world changing mission to change the face of childcare.

Something that Rachel has found, which I’ve heard a lot on the podcast, is the advantage of being a ‘newbie’ in an industry. I think we can often dismiss ideas because we don’t have enough experience in the field, but that could be our strength.

Rachel was also kind enough to share her ‘ups and downs’ in her career, from her time at McKinsey to starting Koru ‘in the wrong place’ and her subsequent ‘embarrassment’ at pivoting.

If you’re going into fundraising rounds, Rachel has some excellent mindset tips which could be invaluable. As well as proof of concept – how much we need good and flexible childcare! Taking your baby (and partner!) to fundraising meetings isn’t for everyone, but that was her reality at the time. And now, in a post Covid WFH world, Rachel is no longer willing to make compromises on her family time. Listen in for Rachel’s tips on how she manages a demanding business with 3 kids, and some really refreshing pictures of personal and business success.

Rachel shares:

  • Her strong mission for Koru Kids and the motivation that gives her; the attraction of tackling a problem no one else is working on
  • The advantage of being naive as a founder, and how common it is in the founder journey
  • Why it’s so important to find your peer community
  • How dysfunctional the childcare system is, the challenges that presents for
  • Rachel’s business as well as mums in general!
  • Mistakes and career ups and downs
  • The all important founder pivot, don’t be embarrassed to change tack
  • Rachel’s experience of mat leave (zero!) and taking her partner and newborn to investor meetings
  • The systemic problems and inequity in fundraising, and mindset tips for success
  • Childcare as an industry is always underestimated, people (men!) don’t realise how much potential there is in it
  • The tiny details that matter as a business owner
  • How Covid changed the way we all work and why you need to create a ‘good’ day to day for you, so your business is sustainable
    What success looks like for Rachel personally and for Koru Kids

Links:

Website
Instagram
LinkedIn

About Rachel Carrell:

Rachel Carrell is the Founder and CEO of KoruKids, building the world’s best childcare service.

She has been named ‘Best Business Woman in Technology’ at the 2017 Best Business Women awards, and also won the ‘Inspirational Mother’ award at the 2017 Inspiration awards.

Previously the CEO of DrThom, a healthcare company which she grew to 1.3 million paying users in 3 countries. But like MANY of us who I am sure listening today who had a similar experience, it was only when Rachel had a baby – and her friends had babies – that she realised how difficult child care was.

She also saw lots of female friends unable to go back to work, or making career choices they didn’t really want to make, just because they couldn’t find the right childcare. Rachel felt deeply that this was unfair, and bad for society – so Rachel made the change happen

Quitting her job to found a business to help families find the right childcare so they can flourish. Childcare that creates awesome mini-humans, puts emotional wellbeing first, that’s easy to arrange and doesn’t cost the earth.
Koru kids has raised an incredible £14.1 million and stands at a team of 60 people.

Rachel Carrell’s Links:

Website
Instagram
LinkedIn (Koru Kids)
LinkedIn (Rachel)

Transcript:

Intro

Hello. I’m Caroline Marshall, and welcome to Bump to Business Owner the podcast speaking to mums in business. You. I’ll be in conversation with some of the most inspiring women and mothers in enterprise about their journey, how they created their successful businesses alongside raising their children and what that looks like in work and family life.

Caroline (00:28):
Hello and welcome to today’s episode of Bump to Business Owner. I’m your host, Caroline Marshall, and today I’m welcoming Rachel Carrell. Rachel is the founder and CEO of Koru Kids building the world’s best childcare service. She has been named Best Business Women in Technology at the 2017 Best Business Women Awards and also won the Inspirational Mother Award at the 2017 Inspiration Awards. Previously, the CEO of DrThom, a healthcare company, which she grew to 1.3 million paying users in three countries. But like many of us who I’m sure are listening today who had a similar experience, it was only when Rachel had a baby and her friends had babies that she realised how difficult childcare was. She also saw lots of female friends unable to go back to work or making career choices they didn’t really want to make just because they couldn’t find the right childcare.

(01:18):
Rachel felt deeply that this was unfair and bad for society. So Rachel made the change happen, quitting her job to found a business to help families find the right childcare so they can flourish. Childcare that creates awesome mini humans puts emotional wellbeing first. That’s easy to arrange and doesn’t cost the earth. Koru Kids has raised an incredible 14.1 million and stands at a team of 60 people. So I am really excited to chat to you today because I’ve been following your career journey for a while and obviously a keen fan of Koru Kids. I am a local to your area, so it’s been around a while and I’ve just can’t wait to hear more about you, Rachel. So thank you so much for joining today.

Rachel (01:55):
Thank you. It’s good to be here. Thank you.

Caroline (01:57):
So tell us a little bit about your path. You are not from the uk. What led you here? Did you always think you’d be an entrepreneur and have a business this size with such a purpose?

Rachel (02:09):
I actually did always think I’d be an entrepreneur. I don’t know if I was ever specific as a kid about how big it was going to be or what it was exactly going to do, but I was always, as a kid doing little moneymaking schemes. I was picking flowers and selling them door to door. I think I did that once. I was definitely my neighbourhood babysitter. I leaf litted the area with babysitting leaflets. I remember I at one point said I had this what I thought was genius idea, and I set up a lottery where I was the lottery system and I sold tickets to my friends and my mom, who was this kind of Scottish Presbyterian heritage where gambling is not okay, was so scandalised that her daughter had become a casino that she made me give back all the money. So that one didn’t work.

(03:01):
So some of ’em worked, some of ’em didn’t. But I always thought that I would go into business then I had. But I was also always really, really interested in, I guess you’d say society sort of like society and economics and politics and those things and why structures are as they are socially. So I had what I think is probably a massive detour where I went and I did my undergrad in politics and then I was very lucky to win a scholarship to come over here, which is why I came over here from New Zealand and I went to Oxford and I did my master’s and then my DPhil in political economy again, really looking at economic structures and social structures. And then from there I started working in healthcare and thought about healthcare systems. And then when I had a baby, I kind of brought all those strands together. I knew about healthcare and there’s a lot of similarities in the way that I think about childcare and healthcare. And I kind of had this strong, strong mission to change economic and political structures. But then I also always wanted to set up my own thing. So all those pieces kind of came together and I was like, I am going to found this business and it’s going to change the face of childcare and I want to fix this social problem.

Caroline (04:18):
I mean, I’m fascinated by you’ve always had this interest in societal structures. I think that is just, yeah. Where do you think that came from?

Rachel (04:27):
I’m just very curious. I’m very curious about people and relationships and how things fit together and I find bad behaviour very interesting. Why has that happened? What is it about the structure? I tend to think about systems and structures a lot rather than individuals. So when I see something going wrong, I tend to think, okay, well why, assuming that person was rational, what was it that was the incentive for that person to do that at that moment and how might the incentive be set up differently? And I think I’ve always been interested in that

Caroline (05:04):
And arguably I think bringing it together with childcare aren’t the first founder on this podcast who’s gone down a solution for the childcare, but you are the first that’s been able to find a successful path with it and keep the business running. The others were doing crashes, much needed businesses, crashes with coworking, and it’s just hugely challenging industry.

Rachel (05:25):
It really is. It’s so hard. And I remember one of our product managers who was at co kids for a few years and when he left, he actually left to go and found his own thing. And as he left in his exit interview, he said to me, this team, if you guys were working in any other industry, you would be utterly crushing it. COR has done well. I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved, but I think the quality of team that we have is so outstandingly high. And I do think we try really hard. We work really hard and I do think we do good work, but childcare is so hard that even with all those ingredients, we’ve managed to make far smaller dent than if we were in another industry. I really think if we were doing anything else, it would be easier. Perhaps the grass is greener, the grass is always greener.

Caroline (06:25):
I just think the mission. Yeah, I guess that’s what you keep going back to.

Rachel (06:29):
No, totally, totally. But then I always come back to, but I did work in different industries and I don’t want to get out of bed to do anything else genuinely. And part of the reason this is just perverse stupid pigheaded mentality is like I do want to do it because it’s hard. I do feel like if we weren’t doing this, I don’t know who else would do it. And there is a huge attraction in that I’m not really interested in doing the same thing as six other teams and just competing. And it doesn’t really matter who wins, someone will solve it. That is cool for other people. I don’t judge anyone for doing that, but it’s not what I personally want to get out of bed for.

Caroline (07:15):
I love that. And did you kind of realise, you obviously identified the issue. Did you kind of really understand, so when did you start Koru Kids again? Was it 2016? Yeah. Did you know quite the level of the issues in 2016?

Rachel (07:29):
I mean, I think there is always an advantage in being a naive newbie coming to an industry. There’s a huge advantage in knowing what you’re doing as well. That’s also good. Don’t want to do that.

Caroline (07:43):
It’s balance, I guess. Yeah,

Rachel (07:45):
There is a strength in not knowing what you’re in for because I think that is very common in the founder journey. I think I have heard it from a lot of people. If I had known what I know now, would you have done this? It’s very hard being a founder. I am eight years in and that is so long. If you said to me eight years ago, you’ll still be doing this in eight years time and you’ll still be doing it in one country. I thought we would be global and doing all this stuff. I’d be like, Woohoo. Really? That’s a long time. Eight years.

Caroline (08:22):
Am I sure? Yeah,

Rachel (08:23):
Yeah, yeah, yeah, sure am I really sure. But none of us have to be doing what we’re doing. And I do wake up every morning and choose Koru Kids and new, so I don’t want to say I’m a victim, but it is hard. It’s like many founder journeys. But the thing that it does seem to be that there are, the childcare industry is particularly dysfunctional. And one way of thinking about it is if you were in the late 1990s and you were trying to set up an internet business, you had to get your own physical servers and put them in a room and you had to hand code a website. You just had to do all these things that are very difficult that now 25 years later, you can do it from one day to the next. You can plug in Shopify and AWS, all the building blocks are there, and you can be up and running with an e-commerce business literally in a day, right? Yeah,

Caroline (09:24):
No, you literally can in a day. That’s the beauty of this world. You can set up a business right now.

Rachel (09:29):
It’s amazing. So imagine the difference between those two worlds, right? Childcare doesn’t have the building blocks. So what we have had to do is we are in the 1999 version, and so we have had to build painstakingly, that’s why it’s taken 10 years. I’m building a whole childcare system and we’ve had to build everything from scratch ourselves. And even just to get to the level that everyone expects, everyone who’s used to just buying stuff on acado or boots.com or anything like that, you just as a certain standard you expect just to get to that standard we’ve had to work so hard.

Caroline (10:11):
That’s quite incredible. And you put it that way. So when you think about that, how did you decide? What did you start with as a service? How did you decide let’s start here, or did you not know the breadth? So you thought, oh, was it really easy? Let’s start here. Yeah,

Rachel (10:24):
So I definitely started in the wrong place. So the thing that I started with was something that sounds really cool, and that was my naivety. So the thing I started off with was nanny share. And I had this idea, which I can sum up in 15 seconds, and everyone who hears it goes, yes, of course. Which is that rather than paying for your own nanny, you should share a nanny with a family that lives near to you. Nanny gets paid more, you pay much less and your kids have a friend to play with. Right? Great.

Caroline (11:01):
I mean that makes perfect sense.

Rachel (11:03):
Doesn’t it sound great? And you can also, when I was raising money for this idea, it’s very easy to see how tech would help because it’s like a matching problem and you can just kind of easily imagine a sort of Airbnb booking.com kind of process. And so this was my pitch, and I would say actually pretty easily raised my first round of capital off the back of that idea. So that was when it was literally just me and a PowerPoint deck and a smile, and I raised her, have you

Caroline (11:38):
Called it a PowerPoint? We’re not allowed to call it now. Oh yeah, anymore
Rachel (11:41):
Like a deck. It was 2016. I don’t even know what it’s Google Slides. I dunno. But it was PowerPoint. Anyway, then I kind of went, okay, back to my desk and I brought two people into the team. So we were team three and we started trying to do this thing and we discovered it was just really hard. And we had three paying customers for months. And then I think the peak that we got to was seven paying customers. And so what happened was we had three and half thousand people sign up on our signup sheet, which that’s an crazy great number of people. And we paid absolutely nothing for marketing. So the headline idea worked really, really well, but we just could not, just couldn’t get them over the line in terms of actually matching them. It was something like in the cogs of the detail, just it was very hard anyway.

(12:39):
And so it got to this point where we were about six months in and I started, started noticing that a lot of people who were signing up were wanting afterschool care. And that was particularly difficult, really hard to do. It’s to do a nanny share. It’s even harder when it’s this afterschool thing. And so anyway, every time a new signup would come in after school, we’d be like, oh, another afterschool, another afterschool, another after, Ugh, can they just go away, another afterschool? And then it took literally about six months before I kind of went, oh, well maybe we should serve those customers who are signing up. And I had the idea to train up some university students. And so off the side, and I was embarrassed about it. I was not exactly hiding it from the other two, but I was keeping it slightly on the download, how much time I was spending on this because I knew or I felt that it was not what I was meant to be doing.

(13:33):
It wasn’t what I had raised money for. I’d raised money for nanny share and now that was failing and it was scary that it was failing. But at the same time, there was this other thing that I thought maybe could work, but I didn’t know how to split my time. And I remember I used to go home and I would Google court between two products, what do and pivot, how no, when this sort of thing. And I was really searching. I went to an event and I asked questions to try. I was desperately looking for someone to tell me what to do and I couldn’t find anywhere anyway. And gradually I was spending about maybe, I don’t know, 30% of my time on this secret thing, but the secret thing started yielding revenue and pretty quickly outgrew the other thing. So I went around all my investors and I said, well, I was going to go run all of them.

(14:33):
I went to two or three and I said, well, I’m really sorry I’ve taken your money to do this thing, but I think it’s really not working and I think this other thing is going to work. And they were all like, you are an idiot. Of course you should change what, that’s fine. We don’t care about it being nanny share. You should go after whatever works. It’s fine. And so as soon as they said that, I was like, okay, cool. So we ditched nanny share and just focused on obstacle. And for the next seven years we just made afterschool work.

Caroline (15:09):
It’s so interesting that feeling of failure, which I think is just normal as part of the founder journey, isn’t it? But was that the first time you’d really kind of felt that in your career in that way? There’s probably other points, obviously I’m sure you can’t have had that career you’ve had without it, but did it just feel different?

Rachel (15:28):
Yeah, everyone has ups and downs and I’ve definitely had moments. I mean, I’ve made huge mistakes at times in my very embarrassing mistakes. And I had a corporate career. I worked at McKinsey for six years and there were two or three moments where I made really embarrassing big mistakes. And I’ve had that pit of the stomach realisation that the whole presentation is based on a wrong number or one of these things when you’re like, my goodness, what do I do? I’m

Caroline (15:58):
Too far in to stop.

Rachel (16:00):
Yeah, but everyone’s flying in this sort of thing. So I’ve never really been through that before, but I think it was just very lost. And I think also there wasn’t really any, when you are a founder and CEO, you don’t have anyone to turn to. And that was my experience that was different to McKinsey because at Kinsey you might, it’s not fun going through these mistakes, but you’ve got peers and partners and other people who can come in and swoop in when you’re a CEO and founder, you have your board, but they’re kind of scrutinising. You have your investors, but same. And it was only later really that I built a very strong peer network, which is very helpful now. So yeah, that was a tough time.

Caroline (16:57):
I’ll definitely come back to your peer network seeing, cause I always think that’s so good to talk about. But on the pivot model as well, I was following, you guys did a home nursery model as well, which also sounded like an amazing idea, especially for the women who’d want careers doing that kind of thing, stay at home, look at their child after their child. And I had a friend who was thinking about it, three kids as well. So what happened with this model and did you have to pivot on this as well?

Rachel (17:24):
We did. I mean that was definitely the most painful thing of the last three, four years I would say. So we started off, we really made it on afterschool. And specifically what that service is is we recruit and we train up nannies who can pick up your kids after school and then take them home to your house and look after them. And it is a brilliant service. It’s so popular. The nannies are incredible. Last year we got over 120,000 applications to become a quarry kids nanny. We only accept 6% of them. We look for kindness and spark, and they’re such incredible individuals. I just met one last week who literally just wrote a book that’s the Times Book of the Year and the Spectator book of the year. I mean these guys, they’re so great. Anyway, so we built that service then, but all the things that are great about it.

(18:20):
But there is one major downside, which is it is not affordable childcare. And I really want to build, I think we have built incredible childcare for people who can afford our service, but I really want to build incredible childcare for everyone. And so this home nursery thing that we did was very, very attractive from the mission perspective. And on paper, as you say, it sounds really good. They build great jobs. So it was helping people become child minders. Child minding I think is an incredible profession. I think we were going to make that very, very, very high quality service as well. We’re obsessive about quality. And the problem there, the problem there was that the regulation was not set up to allow that to be commercially sustainable. And unfortunately, the amount that it cost us to meet all of the inspection standards and everything was just nowhere near the amount that we could realistically ask people to pay for the service.

(19:25):
It just did not work commercially. And it was devastating because I hired an incredible team. They were so talented, we spent loads of money trying to develop that service. And you don’t know these things. You can model it out in an Excel or a Google Sheets, but you can model it out. And we did. But then it’s only really when you actually do it that you realise, oh, we thought the conversion rate from this step to this step would be 4% and it’s only 2% and you can’t possibly know that ahead of time. But there was one step in our conversion where it was devastating that it was 2% rather than 4% and make the whole model not work. So we spent about six months trying everything to make that step feed 4%, not 2%. And it didn’t budget stayed 2%. So this is the stuff that you kind of just have to do it to learn that. But we tried so hard, the team was so good, I had to let them go very sadly, and it ended up being super expensive. But the sadder thing is just that we didn’t manage to build the cool thing that I thought we would build. So I think what needs to happen there is the new government needs to support child minders more. There needs to be fundamental changes to the regulations and the funding. And if that happens, I will delightedly go back into that industry, into that part of the industry. But just we can’t.

Caroline (20:55):
You can’t until the government changes something essentially with that one. Yeah. And are you still focusing on afterschool care then as well as that’s still the core focus for Koru Kids?

Rachel (21:04):
Yeah. Well, it’s the core part of the business, but the main focus now is actually broadening out into nannies for younger kids as well, which is really fun because it means that I can do babies and toddlers. I myself have a 1-year-old, so I’ve got a 9-year-old, a one year, yeah, so I’ve got just was having lunch with her and playing with her. She’s napping right now. So I have a 9-year-old and a 6-year-old and a 1-year-old. So we are kind of currently spanning all of the ages of that Koru Kids does. And I’m excited to start welcoming loads and loads of absolutely incredible career professional nannies into Koru Kids. Historically, we haven’t had those people as part of our network because they don’t want to do the afterschool three hours. They need full-time jobs, but now at last we can offer them full-time jobs.

Caroline (21:58):
There’s so much benefits from learning from them and their skillset sets that they can bring to the wider team, I imagine. Definitely. So you’ve got a one-year-old. So how did it look? I’m trying to work out the dates here. So you started your business, your 6-year-old was around. How did you feel about taking maternity leave? Did you take any maternity leave from this business?

Rachel (22:23):
For myself personally, I am atrocious at maternity leave. I need to say everyone else in my team takes proper maternity leave. So I’ve got some of my top team have taken a whole year twice. I am not very much supporting maternity leave. However, for myself personally, I’ve taken honestly diddly squat, maternity leave. So the timeline was I had a baby before and then I founded Koru Kids, and then I had my second, my son when I was right in the middle of a fundraise, couldn’t have been more right in the middle. And this was pre covid and pre covid you had to go to meetings in person. And so I had him on Sunday. I was doing phone calls on Monday and I was doing in-person meetings on the Wednesday. I was going into London to meet with people three days later. And the funny thing about that experience was anyone who knew that I was pregnant, it was in person.

(23:31):
So everyone knew that I was pregnant. Everyone was kind of saying, oh, we don’t need to take the meeting now. You can wait. Everyone was very nice. Definitely no one ever said, you must speak to me. Now. It’s quite the opposite. But that fundraising works is in order to have a good outcome, you have to create light and heat at the same time you want an explosion. And if you have it in series rather than in parallel, you are not going to get a very good, you’re not going to get good terms, you’re not going to get a very good valuation. It’s just the way it works. Again, this is the system. It’s like it’s no one’s fault. This is just the physics of the system. And anyway, so I wanted to have that kind of light and heat. I wanted to have, you want to have several term sheets.

(24:26):
It’s like a sales funnel. You want to have several term sheets landing at once. In order to do that, you have to have certain number of people going to ic. In order to do that, you have to be answering all their questions and doing all the analysis that they want. You have to be presenting to their partner meetings. You have to be doing those all at once. You have to. If you don’t, you’re going to get one term sheet and only let’s say, and then you’re going to have absolutely no negotiating leverage. So for those reasons, I made the extremely conscious choice just and I was fine. And my husband, this is a very important ingredient. My husband took time off, so he took a month off work and he came with me to all of my meetings. So actually that Wednesday meeting I did do by myself, but for all the pitches, what would happen is he and I would travel together, we’d take a cab and then he would hold the baby and I would go into the room and it would be all these men and I would be pitching and sometimes he would come into the room and just sit at the back or sometimes he would just sit up, sit in reception with the baby, and I would breastfeed before I went into the meeting.

(25:40):
And then I would come out and I would straight away breastfeed and then we would go to the next meeting. And that’s how we did it.

Caroline (25:45):
Amazing. I mean, there’s so much I want to say about that. I think partly where do you get that kind of confidence from? Because for me, that would appear terrifying. And the fact that it is a room full of men would make it even worse for me. And I have to work on that. I know they just see everything different from the perspective from you. Where do you think you get that from, that you are like, I can do this.

Rachel (26:10):
I think I would just refuse. Again, I’m quite pigheaded, so I would just refuse to find it terrifying. I would just choose not to do that. I think there’s a certain kind of thing that I had during that process, which was I was saying, I’m going to make this a world changing business. That’s my pitch. This is going to be the world’s biggest childcare brand. And in order to believe that you’re a founder who that’s audacious in your pitch, in order to believe that you are a founder who’s going to do that? You have to be slightly crazy. A normal person wouldn’t make that audacious claim and you wouldn’t believe the average person can’t do that. So you have to in some way demonstrate that you are a bit mad. I just fucking had a baby and I’m here. That’s my proof, right? I love

Caroline (27:08):
This.

Rachel (27:09):
I think it goes from being, what I’m saying is I don’t think it’s a negative. I think when I walked into that room, I was like, here’s the reason you should believe in Koru Kids because I just had a fucking baby and I’m here. Do I need to say anything else? So I think you just start from

Caroline (27:34):
Money. But I think also from another perspective, you can see that with, I mean, I said in your bio you could see the frustrations that women are leaving it and you can really see how that setup at the same time, while it didn’t stop you, is a barrier to entry for funding for a lot of women.

Rachel (27:55):
I mean, what I very often speak to women about fundraising, and one of the things that I often say is I think at a systemic level, clearly it’s unfair and we need to do something about it at an individual level. I do a lot of one-to-one mentoring of people of women. And I always advise women to put it out of their mind, just do not think about it. Because when you are in the middle of raising, if you walk into that room and there’s any part of your mind that’s thinking, I’m a victim, I am at a disadvantage in this room for whatever reason, for gender or any other reason that you might have, then that’s a part of your mind that is not in the right mind space and you need a hundred percent of your mind to be in a mind space, which is, I have a great opportunity right now. My business is going to be amazing. Now what’s going to happen is we are going to have a conversation, and if I like you, I might let you come on this journey with me. So let’s see. And I think that’s the vibe. It’s sort of like a Beyonce, Sasha Fierce thing that you’ve got to get yourself into, yes.

Caroline (29:26):
Yeah, and I think that’s really helpful, practical advice from the fact that yes, there’s the systemic issue, but on an individual level, what can you do walking in that room? And thank you for that because I think that’ll be really helpful for people. And think this kind of ties into when you’re talking about, firstly quick question, your childcare, do they have a background in childcare? Does everyone have to have that background that come into it? Or do you take people who are pivoting into it?

Rachel (29:53):
So definitely everyone has to have childcare experience, but what we do is we think very broadly about what that childcare experience is. So for example, if you are a parent and you’ve got grown kids, then we say, and we take references obviously around this, then we say, yes, you’ve got the experience, even though it’s not formal experience in an employment situation. Same thing with some of our nannies might have been sports coaches, they might have coached a football team or something like that. They might’ve done a bunch of babysitting. And then we have different tiers of nannies. So the less experience you have, if you have what we call informal experience, you’ll come in on our lowest tier. And then if you have, some of our nannies have master’s degrees and literally 25 years of experience in formal childcare situations, some of them have been nursery managers, then you’d come in on our top tier.

Caroline (30:46):
And that really leads into my role is that you’ve got this tier system, and I think I was watching something you said where something about the caregiving role is that there’s traditionally no clear path progression opportunities or ability to get paid properly and well and increase your income and PA background. I run a virtual assistant agency and that is my huge frustration with the PA role as well. And so I really wanted to see if you’d notice that and if from your perspective, because from my perspective, I see it in the PA role. It’s a traditionally female role where we supported male executives. And I think this has still got stuck there and that’s why there’s still issues with that role in internal organisations. And I wanted how you felt about that with the child minder role.

Rachel (31:28):
Yeah, that was one of the reasons I really wanted that child minding thing to work and was very sad when it didn’t because I think it has the potential to be really, really, really high earning within a childcare context. Actually. Nannies can earn so much.

Caroline (31:43):
Yeah, they can earn a lot.

Rachel (31:45):
They really can actually.

Caroline (31:47):
Private PAs can as well. I think it’s just the sacrifice. It’s a very different pay scale versus other ones I’ve seen. You can go be a private PA and earn over a 100K.

Rachel (31:59):
So can nannies. I was actually speaking to a nanny a few weeks ago and she was on over a 100K, which is, I mean, it’s mind blowing. It’s such a fun job too. It’s such a nice job. Anyway, so yeah, I think that is something that we think about a lot. And at the other end of the scale from the a 100K people, traditionally, one of the things that sadly has characterised the nanny and childcare industry is a lot of exploitation of workers, A lot of, there’s a lot of vulnerable women out there, particularly women, and they might not be working on proper contracts or have any kind of contract at all, paid under minimum wage.

(32:41):
There’s some really nasty stuff out there. And so one of the things that I was always very, very important to me is we make sure everyone’s on the right contract. We check everyone’s right to work, and we make sure that they all get the benefits that they’re entitled to. So there’s a lot of nannies who are being paid illegally, so being paid cash, and what that means is they don’t get any pension entitlements. If they get sick, they don’t have any sick pay rights. If you are paying your nanny cash and your nanny becomes pregnant, that is really a situation you do not want to be in because you as the employer, regardless of whether you have a contract, you are liable and you’re going to be in a world of trouble and it’s not going to be great for her either. So it’s not good for parents and it’s also not good for the vulnerable workers. So that is one thing that we have spent a lot of time building a really cool service around. So what happens is the parents often they want to do the right thing, but it’s just such a pain. There’s so much paperwork. And so what we have built is literally the simplest, most seamless thing you can imagine where we just do all of that for the parents. So we sort out the pensions, the sick pay, the maternity, everything you can imagine all the hassle.

Caroline (34:04):
Amazing. And do you think this tech and all this hassle was a big part of you solving the problem and you being successful in your fundraise? Do you think the tech enabled part of it really helped you get that money? I know sometimes it is a lot about tech in these rooms.

Rachel (34:21):
Yes, it definitely did. Yeah, I don’t think we would’ve been able to raise any win near the amount if it hadn’t been.

Caroline (34:29):
That’s really helpful I think by other people thinking about it and directions you can go in. And was that always in mind when you were going to go to fundraise that that was how it was going to be?

Rachel (34:39):
Yeah, I wanted to build a tech business. My business, I was a CEO of a healthcare business and that was a tech business before. I didn’t found it, but I was the CEO of it and that was a tech business. So I definitely wanted to build something in tech. I think it is possible to, you could build a really big important company and you could raise a lot of money without doing tech. I think some of the nursery chains have a lot of money and I know a couple of them that are doing really, really well and I think doing great work. So I think it is possible, but I personally wanted to build a tech platform

Caroline (35:15):
And I think what you guys do so well is you’re getting so excited when you talk about the quality of your team and how invested you are in them. I also saw on this podcast you said something like someone’s embarrassed to say they’re a childminder again, I’ve literally caught colleagues and friends at networking events and they haven’t said the job title, I’m a pa. They’ll say something else and what industry they work in. And is there a lot of work do you think, to do there with that still about a career in childcare?

Rachel (35:43):
Yeah, definitely. So one of the things that I really wanted to do was elevate the profession. And I think a lot of what we do on this is about tiny things that convey the respect that we have for our child carers. So as one example, we had an internal training course and decided we didn’t have to do this, but we decided to have a nice certificate that we were going to send out and we decided to really invest internal design time in making this certificate absolutely beautiful. And so the Koru Kids logo it. The logo is kind of like a growing, it’s got growing plant kind of thing on it. And there’s a version of it that we can do that has very beautiful leaves and a growing plant. And so this certificate had these kind of coming around and we have a wonderful designer, but she’s always got a thousand things to do.

(36:52):
And so it was an investment to say, can you spend some time actually on this ticket? And the reason we spent the time on that is because I want to evoke that feeling. I want everything we do. This is just such a tiny example, but I think these things are built on tiny details. I want everything we do to convey you are important, this is important, what you’re doing is important and that’s why we’ve put the time in to make it beautiful. Not anyone is going to see it, no one else is going to see it, but you are going to see it. And I think that creates that respect.

Caroline (37:28):
So yeah, tiny details matter to people to respect, know they’re respected in what

Rachel (37:34):
They do. Yeah, exactly.

Caroline (37:36):
I love that. So going back to Rachel just starting Koru Kids founder, how important to you, you’ve mentioned community there before, which I said I really wanted to return on, so I’d love to know this. Did it ever feel like, how did you find your tribe, your founder community? You said they’re really important to you, but did it ever feel like, are people just going to see me hate? I’m trying to phrase this in the right way because I always have this feeling for a while. When I started my business, it was like when a woman down the road starting up a PA business with her two kids, Jane down the road, two kids starts a PA business. People are like, oh, okay. That’s nice, nice hobby business, not take it seriously. Did you ever, I don’t think Rachel would. Now I’ve spoken to you, but you think, would you ever have felt like that? Oh, these guys need to understand that I’m great, I want to change childcare.

Rachel (38:30):
Definitely a hundred percent know what you’re talking about.

Caroline (38:34):
Thank I’m definitely glad I’m coming across.

Rachel (38:35):
No, I have definitely felt that multiple times. So when I go to a big networking event, which I don’t like those, when I say community, I don’t mean horrible rooms of people with a drink and networking. I do go to those, but they’re definitely not my favourite thing. But when I am at that sort of thing and I kind of introduce myself and I say, I do childcare, I can see you can just tell, right? And the immediate looking around for someone else or whatever, and I can see that the thing is about childcare. When people say childcare, everyone thinks small because everyone thinks, oh, it’s childminder or it’s like a single nursery or whatever. I think that has changed as I’ve gone in now, I go to different rooms now I go to rooms where everyone there is like a CEO of a business that for some reason has been chosen to be there. And so there’s a bit more of an assumption of like, oh, and so tell me the people assume that it will be interesting. So they’re like, oh, and tell me why. That’s interesting.

(39:44):
But I think absolutely my favourite dynamic, I think this is me being a bad person, this is not the story. This I don’t think paints me in a good light. But my favourite dynamic is when I’m talking to someone, usually a man, sometimes an older man, usually anyway, and he kind of says like, oh, what is it you do? And I say, well, I’m the founder of Koru Kids. He’s never heard of it. He’s like, Hey, but then there’s a younger woman right there and she’s like, oh my goodness, you’re the founder of Koru Kids. And all of a sudden, and I’m like, then I’m like, but she a hundred percent knows it. And so it’s famous to her. And that dynamic of what I just love the moment where this guy who was totally dismissing me suddenly realises that it’s actually a significant business. I very much enjoy it.

Caroline (40:46):
I love that. It’s twofold, really. It’s not just the fact it’s childcare, but I had Whitney from Flower Box on here and amazing business, and we know the flower industry is huge, but when she went to fundraise, it was like, oh, cute flowers. And she’s like, no, it’s worth millions and millions of pounds. And I think that’s another thing I didn’t know until I saw one of your talks how much the childcare industry is worth huge. So therefore the potential huge, isn’t it?

Rachel (41:11):
Yeah. So that was very important in my very first raise to an extent in my second, I think I’ve done four raises and the very first raise, if I’m brutally honest, the reason people would talk to me is because I went to Oxford and I’m McKinsey, honestly, that is the brutal truth.

Caroline (41:34):
I’m here for truth. That just shows,

Rachel (41:37):
I mean, the world shouldn’t be like that, but it is. And that got me in the door. And then I would say childcare and people would get bored again, and then I would show them a chart and then they’d get interested again. And that sort of dynamic with that just repeated itself many, many, many times. And the nice thing is it’s actually very easy to prove. So everyone thought charges were small, but then the nice thing is it’s very easy to very quickly prove to people. You just show them a chart and maybe they don’t believe you. They think that people make up charts. But then what happened, and this happened several times, is the associate or the junior person on the team whose job it is to just check these things would kind of go away and look up some databases. And then I would get these messages of going, childcare is really big. And I was like, yes. That’s literally what I said. I said that in the meeting, I showed you a chart.

Caroline (42:30):
I didn’t just say this, I showed you a chart.

Rachel (42:32):
Yeah, yeah, no, it’s true. And then they’d go, yeah, but I’ve been looking at this index. I’m like, it’s really big, it’s really expensive. I’m like, yeah, I said that to you. Remember, just ask

Caroline (42:43):
Ask mother how much is expensive?

Rachel (42:46):
And then they would just confirm it and then we would all move on. And that was an experience that happens repeatedly. I mean, I don’t know, 30 times in the first round and to an extent in the second round. And then from the third round on, it never happened because I think people know now. Yeah,

Caroline (43:04):
Okay. Interesting thing. And it’s just frustrating. It shows there’s so much potential in it, but again, it goes back to that infrastructure that means the potential is really, really, really tough. And you are this founder of such a fast growing mission business. You can tell what you are trying to achieve is hard. What does that look like? You’ve already said your husband had to take the leave and took the leave with you to do that. How does it work just having two of you, if you are both doing that at the same time, I can’t even imagine. So how does that work with you guys?

Rachel (43:40):
So my husband actually has a big job. He works even longer hours than I do. It was great that he could take that time off, but there was very much an exception.

Caroline (43:49):
But that was it.

Rachel (43:51):
Yeah, that was it. So as you would expect, we have an incredible nanny and she’s a full-time nanny now, I have to say it’s a lot easier post that has really been transformational. So I’ve run this business pre covid and post covid, and it used to be being in the office all the time and late nights and all of that is very different now. So just this morning I had lunch with my 1-year-old and my nanny, I just read her, she just got a book out. They went to the library. I just sat and read her a pepper pig book during a break between meetings. And so for me now, I don’t feel like I’m making really any sacrifices or compromises actually, which is kind of amazing. But I think it’s essential if you’re going to do it for as long as I have eight years, I think I could sprint for two, three years max. And then after that, once you’re eight years in, you’re, it really needs to be actually working in the moment rather than putting off the future like, oh, this sucks right now, but there’s a better future on the horizon. I think once I got to about six or seven years in, I was like, no, my life is now actually. I want to live my life now today. And so I am actually not willing to make any compromises around my family time now.

Caroline (45:20):
I love that. So around that point, that’s when you got stricter basically. You were just like, I’ve got to make this work.

Rachel (45:27):
I think it coincided with Covid when a lot of people reassessed and then Covid actually for me personally, opened up huge opportunity because it meant that I could work from home for the first time. And so either way I do it now is I work from home roughly three days a week and I go in a couple of days into the office. And I also just on the point of community, something that Covid made possible, which I think is super cool, is there’s a whole bunch of us who are startup founders who work together in a co-working space. There’s one on Wednesday and there’s one on Friday. And so today being a Friday, I actually didn’t go in, but some Fridays I do. And so we just work together and that’s something that I think would never have happened before only because everyone can work remotely normally, and it means that you come off a difficult phone call and you’ve got someone right next to you who is also a startup founder, CEO, and you can vent to it’s not your team. It’s just lovely. I hope it takes off. I think a lot of people could like this kind of thing.

Caroline (46:42):
I think so. And it’s bringing a different perspective as well, but also a similar one because they know exactly what you are in. And I’ve talked about this with friends, we’ve got some found friends outside of London and they’re nowhere near as collaborative as I’ve seen in the London community. And I’m like, what you are missing out on by collaborating with other CEOs and founders, even if they’re in similar industries. I hugely network within my own industry. I learned so much. I just got off a long phone call with a fellow VA who just wanted to pick my brains and it’s needed. And I also love though, what it is all about as well is you’ve got your help, you’ve got your nanny there. You couldn’t do both at the same time, but you can take those moments lunchtime with your one year olds and reading to them, which is so important and what they’ll remember at the end of the day.

Rachel (47:30):
Yeah, exactly. So

Caroline (47:31):
I love that. So thank you for sharing. And do you ever feel this, I guess, do you ever find your, I don’t know if in your community you are minority, female founder or anything like that, but do you ever feel, especially as a mom of three, do you ever get frustrated by that? How do you do it, question things like that? I find when I get asked it, it’s more like other moms who are just like, do you have some secret recipe that I don’t hear

Rachel (47:58):
Funny, isn’t it? I think the frustration I have with that question, which I do get a lot, is that I don’t feel like I have practical tips. I wish I did, honestly, I wish there was something I could say, but I am extremely conscious of how lucky I am to have a full-time nanny and a very supportive husband. I know a lot of people who don’t have that form of gold standard flexible childcare, and I know women who are building businesses without the support of their partner, and I cannot imagine how hard that is, but I don’t think that’s helpful to tell people that having the partner one, I mean, I do actually sometimes say, but that’s more to younger single people and be careful.

Caroline (48:49):
Get a supportive partner in the future.

Rachel (48:51):
Yeah, exactly. That’s slightly more helpful. But I mean, I think my only really practical tips is I have found transcendental meditation specifically very, very, very helpful. And I got through having the baby that I had just like a year ago when I was pregnant, I was a huge fan of naps. I love a nap. I would almost always have a nap in the afternoon. Again, COVID made that I

Caroline (49:20):
Just needed them when I was pregnant,

Rachel (49:24):
But then instead of having a nap, I found that doing a 20 minute, specifically 20 minute transcendental meditation had the same function as a nap. And that is hugely helpful to me. I’ve also just read, I’m just finishing at the moment, this book called Breath by James Nestor. Yes. Have you read

Caroline (49:45):
This great book also? I just a Wim Hof workshop, so I’m all about breathing at the minute. Oh my goodness. Oh, well, me too. You’re speaking to the right person here.

Rachel (49:53):
Okay, great. Alright, cool, cool, cool. Well, for anyone who doesn’t that

Caroline (49:57):
Word before meditation, because I meditate, but what meditation?

Rachel (50:00):
Yeah, for me it is specifically transcendental. It’s a stupid name. It sounds like much more magical

Caroline (50:08):
Than it’s, I haven’t heard, I need to look it up.

Rachel (50:09):
It’s basically mantra meditation, and the reason I like it is because gets me into it is only takes 20 minutes and for me, I come out of it completely and utterly refreshed. It’s like I’ve had an app, but it’s very reliable. So that’s important. It means you can schedule it between meetings. You can be like, okay, great, I will now go and have, you’ve got your half hour and you’re like, right, I will now go and have my 20 minutes and then you kind of come back out. But yeah, this book breath, I’ve actually taken quite a lot from it, and that is really giving me a lot of energy as well, which when you have slow up in kids situation, you need all the energy boosts you can have.

Caroline (50:50):
No, the best founders I’ve supported have been ones who’ve had their meditation time scheduled and really believed in self-care. So I think mothers, a lot of mothers could take that on board as well. So thank you for sharing that. I think that is really helpful. I’m all into it and it’s a great book, so anyone by breath as well. So Rachel, thank you so much for joining me today. I would just love to end on knowing, so 10 years time, so it’ll be 18 years time in Koru Kids world, isn’t it? Is that right?

Rachel (51:19):
Yeah. Oh my goodness.

Caroline (51:21):
What is success for Rachel, and what is success for Koru Kids looking like?

Rachel (51:25):
So I do want Koru Kids to be, I want us to be big and important and sustainable and just doing the same quality that we’re doing right now. I think it’s great, but just bringing it to more people, and that is likely to be outside the UK as well as in the uk, where exactly, I don’t know, but it’s something I’m sort of thinking about at the back of my mind. Then success for me personally, I think at that point, 10 years time, I’m going to have a 10-year-old and 19-year-old and a 16-year-old. My success is very much honestly about making sure that they are well on the path to growing up, feeling loved, supported, and ready to cope with the ups and downs of life. I think that’s the main things that I wish for them and kind to others. I would say those would be my things that I want.

(52:26):
Aside from that, I’m honestly pretty happy. I have a word of the year and I like to choose one word and then focus a lot of my personal activity behind that word, and my word for last year was enough, meaning I don’t want to want more. I actively don’t want to want more because that creates a gap between where I am and where I am and where I could be that I think in which suffering lies. And so I’m very, very, very, very happy with now, just in case you’re wondering, my word for this year is welcoming and so I’m trying to do things that make my home more welcoming and I’m all about welcoming people from my life into our home.

Caroline (53:21):
Oh, that’s a wonderful word. Thank you. I was curious what your word of this year was, so thank you for sharing, Rachel. Honestly, it’s been an absolute pleasure. I feel I’ve learned so much, so thank you for your time. Please, where can people find you and where can people find out more about Koru Kids?

Rachel (53:38):
Cool. Well, Koru Kids is korukids.co.uk. I am really easy to find. I’m on LinkedIn as my name. I’m on Twitter as my name. I’m @rach.of.koru.kids on Insta, although I’m terrible on Insta, so don’t find me there. Or you can just message Koru Kids.

Caroline (53:57):
You are always sharing great stats and content, so do you go follow Rachel and get annoyed about the infrastructure together so we can help change it.

Rachel (54:06):
I mostly complain. That was so nice. Thank you.

Outro

Thank you so much for listening to Bump to Business Owner. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. Please do rate, review, follow or subscribe wherever you’re listening. It really helps us to connect with more mums and business owners. You can DM me at Bump to Business Owner on Instagram and I’ll be back next week.

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