Transforming the way families find trusted childcare

January 26, 2023

In this episode, Legislate meets Ella and William, co-founders of Marvellous Babysitting, a convenient and easy-to-use app for booking highly trained and vetted Norland Nannies. Ella and William share some of the ups and downs of their entrepreneurial journey and how they became Norland's first ever commercial partner.

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Charles Brecque: Ella and William, welcome again, would you like to please share a bit of background about yourselves?


Ella Trigwell: So, I'm Ella, I am the co-founder of Marvellous. Originally I trained at Norland, so I'm a fully qualified Norland nanny and then I set up Marvellous with them and entered the tax base.


William Geffen: Hello, I'm Will, my background is mostly in finance and asset management and that is my full time day time job, but in my spare time I've been helping Ella create this wonderful app. I've also had a bit of experience in investing in early stage start ups and that's in fact how I met Charles.


Charles Brecque: Ella, would you like to maybe share the story behind Marvellous and how you came up with the idea?


Ella Trigwell: Sure, so I come at it from a nanny perspective, haven't got any children, so it's just been my perspective and take on finding solutions from a nanny for temporary work, but also understanding that there's a real need for good quality childcare. In the UK we have a really big shortage of childcare, especially high quality. In a way that's accessible. So, I suppose my thinking with Will was that we wanted to build something that was convenient for families and nannies, so a mobile app was our initial idea. We knew that we wanted quality to be the fundamental core aspect of the app. So, my links with Norland led and steered off in that direction. So, we've got a partnership with them which was incredible, it's the first time we've ever done anything like this before, and they were really keen to help provide more jobs for them in a way that's more modern and a solution that works for them around their schedule.


Charles Brecque: What's been your favourite moment so far?


William Geffen: Gosh, there's been a lot of great moments. The first time we had a booking go through with 2 people that we had no prior interaction with. We'd had a few before then where we nudged a few nannies onto the platform and then nudged a few parents to try it out. We had a trial period and all of that kind of thing. Then there was that wonderful day, I think this is a key moment for any market when yes, we just had 2 people that had signed up in the normal way, no nudging and found each other and had a great sit and left wonderful reviews. I think that was a magical moment, not at least because it was so subtle, it was so quiet, it happened almost without us even noticing. It was a real reassuring moment that the app could work, that it wasn't always going to have us nudging both sides, making sure everything was going to be okay. That actually the technology was working and most importantly the actual experience of having that order come over had worked really well and was fantastic, as we always hope and expected it to be. There's been a couple of other good moments, we're reaching the 1,000 user mark, very hard to pin down exactly what counts as a user, at what point in our process they count as our 1,000th user, but we're certainly in that region right now. So, I guess that might be a champagne moment, I don't know, certainly a key 1 for a marketplace. Equally and I know this probably not part of this question, but we've also had quite a few dark moments that I can think of, as I'm sure every start up can name a few and it's been equally important to overcome those bleak moments where things don't look like they're ever going to work.


Ella Trigwell: It's definitely easier to dwell on the things that are challenging, and actually you have to remind yourself that you've come a long way and we've always tried to celebrate even small moments and small wins, just to keep us going. I think a lot of people in start ups will relate to that.


William Geffen: There was a very tough moment where we couldn't get the technology to work properly and simultaneously while that was going on, we were trying to recruit for our trial group. Unfortunately, there was a spelling error with our email that was sent out with Marvellous Babysitting with 3 T's. Very simple error and so there was a moment where it just looked absolutely no parents that we'd emailed were at all interested in having anything to do. This was only a couple of days before we were due to start the trial, and that was a pretty dark moment. Until 1 thankfully very determined parent reached out to us through our website, which was very basic, no FTO at that point and told us that they tried emailing us and couldn't get through but they were really-, and thankfully we solved the issue and parents have been fantastically keen for this all the way through, yes, but that was a tough moment.


Charles Brecque: We have a bell which we use to celebrate.


Ella Trigwell: I love that, we should get a bell.


William Geffen: Yes, we did talk about getting something like that didn't we? Maybe a bell every time a booking happened, but obviously I think the nature of our business is that we have lots of small bookings, lots of small bits of revenue coming in all the time, hopefully when things are going well that bell might be a bit of annoyance.


Charles Brecque: That's the point.


William Geffen: That is the point, that's a good problem to have, you're absolutely right.


Ella Trigwell: I want bells ringing all day, that would be lovely.


Charles Brecque: What's the plan for the next 3, 5 years?


William Geffen: That's a fantastic question and important for the business isn't it? To be able to keep seeing the forest for the trees and I think the plan is first and foremost to maximise the opportunity we have. Which is we have all these fantastic Norland nannies and there's a couple of 1,000 of those to get on the app, we have a few 100 at the moment, but there's a big opportunity to get all of those onto the app, doing as many bookings as possible and getting the parents on the other side signed up to reach that sort of capacity. That is our first goal, working with Norland to do that, and then who knows, in the future there's a lot of expansion opportunities. Once you've got several 1,000 parents, there's other childcare services that we've looked at, that we potentially provide and other ways to potentially expand that nanny pool. That form will always be providing a really high quality service, it's very tempting for a lot of start ups particularly to aggressively chase growth, but in the world of childcare, that has to come second to things like safety and trust. That will always be our guiding light I think, but yes, I think we definitely keep a pretty open view about what the future might hold for us, but with that guiding principle.


Charles Brecque: We're in a similar situation with contract. Yes, we could add all the contracts in the world in 1 go, but then there would be all sorts of issues that we'd have to deal with, and you can't afford to compromise on trust and the integrity of that contract.


William Geffen: Absolutely, I imagine that's pretty tempting when someone comes through with a type of contract that you don't have experience in the end, to drop everything and pursue that because that's growth. What it sounds like you're doing is very carefully nailing 1 avenue at a time, while listening to customers about what to potentially approach next and that's definitely how we're approaching it too.


Charles Brecque: What are the key contracts that you've interacted with so far?


Ella Trigwell: Well, obviously the partnership with Norland was our first main dealing with contracts which was quite a big one and something that neither of us really had much expertise in. So, it felt like a bit learning curve and unfortunately I'm a bit of a perfectionist, and I want to make sure that we've looked at every single detail and we haven't forgotten anything and as with contracts, there's so much reading to do and there's a lot of the jargon that we were having to research, just that alone was tricky. So, that was a big one for us for sure. We've had other things like terms of use, again, there's so much around tech and GDPR that we had to look at, which you can get in a struggle of just trying to make sure that you're not missing anything and there's no loopholes that you're crossing over into, so that was big one for us as well.


Charles Brecque: With those contracts did you overcome that learning curve by yourself or did you seek outside counsel?


William Geffen: I did get in contract with you at 1 point, unfortunately partnership agreements weren't in your wheel house yet but I'm sure they will be soon. So, and unfortunately like Ella said, it was Norland's first ever commercial partnership. So, they were pretty new to the whole thing too. So, unfortunately we did have to reach out to outside legal help to make sure that we got those contracts because they were such a vital component in our offering, and it's a significant expense. Every start up is in some ways an experiment and it's a pretty hefty investment into that experiment to pay 4 figures plus of legal expenses straight off the bat. You have to have real conviction in what you're doing and that it's going to work. I think as obviously not to toot your horn too much, but the fantastic thing with Legislate, it sounds that it will bring that barrier down, and that's everything with a start up isn't it? To be able to experiment cheaply in a lean fashion, fail fast and find what really works and having to bind yourself into an expensive legal agreement is the antithesis of that. Thankfully it's worked out for us so far. There's a few other agreements, legal contracts we've had to do, there's shareholder agreements as well, Ella mentioned terms of use and there's not strictly a legal document I'm not sure about, but there's a privacy policy as well.


Charles Brecque: Sorry we couldn't meet your contracting needs back then, but if ever you do want to create your employment contract when you start hiring?


William Geffen: Yes.


Charles Brecque: If you were being sent a contract assigned today, what would impress you?


William Geffen: So, that's a great question, what do I look for in a really good contract? I think from an investment point of view, what I often look for in companies is good incentivisation of management. So, looking at how the senior executive are tied in with their incentives aligned with shareholders and other stakeholders. There's been a lot of research into this area, but 1 of the companies who I feel really get this right in a very beautifully simple way is a company called Constellation Software. Constellation Software had their senior executives, all whom make a lot of very important capital allocation decisions, they all have half their pay put into stock, they buy stock on the market. I think that's done a really fantastic job of making sure that they're really held accountable to shareholders because if there's a lot of decisions they can easily make that destroy shareholder value. Making foolish M&A decisions particularly. You see it again in the start up world and it's something that we've had to grapple with a little bit. How do we bring in early employees and really incentivise them properly to do what they do well? Yes, Ella, what do you think?


Ella Trigwell: I feel like my answer is not going to be as high level as that, but for me it's circling back to what I said earlier about that jargon. I'd love to see contracts that just are there and ready to go for who like us weren't really sure about some of these legal terms and just said things plain and simple so that both parties can understand what's being laid out and what they're agreeing to. So, I would value simplicity and getting rid of all the jargon.


Charles Brecque: Thank you both for being on the Legislate Podcast, best of luck conquering the market and I look forward to seeing how you progress and hopefully having you on the show at a later date.


William Geffen: That's fantastic, thank you very much for having us Charles.


Ella Trigwell: Yes, thank you so much.


William Geffen: We'll be in contact very soon I'm sure to sort out some of these employee contracts.


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