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ASU alums pivot babysitting startup to remote learning during pandemic

Busy Bees app creates caregiving network

July 17, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has required everyone to adjust — students, families, employees and business owners.

Two Arizona State University alumni launched an enterprise six years ago to match parents with qualified babysitters, and now they’ve expanded to help families who are dealing with schooling at home.

Busy Bees Babysitting is a platform that was created when Amanda Belinger started a group text connecting parents in Arcadia with young women who wanted to be babysitters. Belinger launched the business in May 2014 and her friend Katrina Brumm joined the startup a month later.

“Together we worked together to make it an app, which took about a year,” Brumm said.

“It’s like the Uber of babysitting.”

Now more than 1,500 young people work consistently as “Bees,” with 6,000 families registered on the app, Brumm said. The Busy Bees app has booked more than 150,000 jobs in the Phoenix and Tucson areas in its five years.

ASU alums Amanda Belinger (left) and Katrina Brumm are co-founders and co-owners of Busy Bee Babysitting, which added "Homework Hive" remote-learning help when the pandemic hit.

Belinger, who graduated from ASU in 2006 with a degree in communication, had mentored young women for several years as a leader for Young Life, a Christian youth organization.

“Her friends were having kids and she had this connection with these awesome local girls,” said Brumm, who graduated from ASU in 2010 with a degree in marketing and international business. Belinger and Brumm are both on the board of Venture Devils, the ASU program that supports student, faculty, staff and community-based entrepreneurs.

The two women created the app for families to book and pay for babysitting. Rates start at $10.50 an hour for a high-school-age Busy Bee working with one to three children on a weekday, and go up from there for college-age caregivers, additional kids or weekend jobs. Parents also can book a Busy Bee if they want to go away for a night or two.

“The big difference is that with Uber you don’t care whether you have the same driver whereas with child care you want to build that relationship, so families have the ability to request the same person,” she said. “That’s a ‘preferred Bee.’”

All of the caregivers, many of whom are students at ASU or other colleges, are vetted with background checks and all are CPR certified. And all of the families must be referred from someone else in the network and are evaluated to make sure the environment is safe.

Brumm said the app is popular with families who need child care beyond the typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“My dad was a fireman and my mom was a nurse and so I know how some parents don’t have a set schedule,” she said.

“Lots of families use us for full days, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.”

The Busy Bees app was having its most successful month ever in March. Then the pandemic hit.

“It was a tough decision but we suspended all in-home bookings because as we learned new information, we were no longer comfortable,” she said.

“A lot of our Bees are nursing majors who were in hospital settings.”

But as parents were trying to balance schooling their children at home with work, Belinger and Brumm decided to expand their scope. They added “Homework HiveParents book the Homework Hive on the Busy Bees website, not through the app.,” in which the Bees helped out with lessons remotely.

“They would walk the little ones through the curriculum the school provides and give a lot of one-on-one engagement, plus ‘wiggle breaks,’” she said.

“Parents are trying to work from home with conference calls, or even do an in-home workout, and it’s hard for kids to learn without asking questions. They don’t mean to interrupt but they don’t understand what ‘work’ means.”

Families can choose specialized homework helpers who have experience with kids with special needs or are fluent in another language.

Alexia Carter-Salomon is a special education teacher in Phoenix and has worked as a Busy Bee to earn extra money for three years, thanks to the flexible schedule.

“When Busy Bees stopped going into homes and turned to remote learning, I was like, ‘Oh perfect! I’m already doing that with my own students,’” said Carter-Salomon, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from ASU.

She said parents are grateful for the academic help and she uses the lesson plans from the kids’ schools or her own curriculum.

“A lot of parents feel like their kids have missed so many learning opportunities and it’s refreshing to get a teacher teaching their kids for two hours,” she said.

“For a lot of parents, it’s been a long time since they did sixth-grade math.”

Busy Bees has kept the Homework Hive even as it transitioned back to in-home babysitting a few weeks ago.

Brumm said the service is especially helpful with the ambiguity surrounding the coming academic year, as schools decide whether to reopen with in-person classes or teach remotely.

“A lot of moms mention to us that even if everything returns to normal, if they can have someone walk their 7-year-old through homework, they would love that,” she said.

The Busy Bee app is available on Google Play and the iTunes Store.

Top image from Pixabay.

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