Sitters Studio harnesses the creativity of working actors and artists to provide activity-centric childcare for busy New Yorkers
Parenting and child development theories come and go, but one thing that remains consistent is the desire to encourage kids' creativity, whether through art, music, dance or writing. Kristina Wilson founded the babysitting agency Sitters Studio based on that impulse. The company espouses the philosophy that exposing children to art will build self-esteem, increase motor skills, help develop problem solving skills, and encourage creativity.
Every babysitter working for the agency is also working as a freelance artist. Wilson had come up with the idea of hiring artists as babysitters when she was trying to balance the start of her own acting career, while working a full time job at Morgan Stanley in 2006. She knew she had to pay her bills, but finding the time to make auditions was almost impossible - a familiar struggle among working artists.
"Working from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Morgan Stanley and trying to be an actor wasn't working," she said. "I could pay my bills, but I didn't have the freedom to really do anything else." She then started thinking about what job would be able to offer her a flexible schedule, and the ability to earn enough money to live comfortably in New York.
Then she luckily overheard one of her managing partners at Morgan Stanley complaining that his babysitter had cancelled and he didn't know what to do. Working as a babysitter since she was 13 years old, Wilson tried explaining to her boss that these things do happen and was wondering why he was so upset. He explained that he had been keeping this sitter "on retainer" by paying her $50 a week to always be available on the occasional Friday night that he would need her services. In addition to her weekly pay to stay available, he would then pay for the time she spent actually babysitting.
Once she realized that it was so difficult for New York parents to find quality babysitting that would align with their busy lives, Wilson knew that this was an opportunity to make money, keep a flexible schedule, and offer parents quality childcare. She started sending her friends out to babysit as well. When the amount of appointments began to outgrow the number of friends she had, Wilson interviewed more artists in different Starbucks around the city.
With her experience as a working actor, Wilson offers the same amount of support to her employees as she does her clients. Babysitters make their own schedule each week through an in-depth scheduling program that was developed by her staff. She also allows sitters to take extended amounts of time off if they get booked for a Broadway show or tour, or need extended periods to focus on their own work.
As the company has grown, with offices in New York and Chicago and plans for another in Washington, D.C., their philosophy of offering an artistic activity to kids during each babysitting appointment has also evolved. Originating with actors, babysitters who work for Sitter Studio now include photographers, fashion designers, painters, musicians, graphic designers, comedians, and other creative types. They categorize their sitters into four groups: act, art, music, and dance. Each babysitter incorporates their own creative outlet into the activities they do with the children, calling themselves "artisitters" instead of babysitters.
"This babysitting service is fantastic! We live on the Upper West Side, and we've used this babysitting service over a year," said client Claire W. "Sitter Studio is very professional. You can schedule sitters via email or phone. All sitters are trained and CPR certified. Amazing, kind, creative sitters bring art projects and toys every time they come. Absolutely love them."
Wilson requires her artisitters to carry the same brown tote, branded with the Sitter Studio logo, to every appointment. It operates similarly to the bag Mary Poppins used; each tote is filled with games, art supplies, and other creative activities. They also fill out a "studio scoop" at the end of each appointment which works similarly to a report card, informing the parents of the behavior of the child and what activities were completed.
"The studio scoop's hit upon this idea of wanting to explain to the parents what the artists are doing, and really share that with them," she explained. "Part of that idea also came out of being an actor myself, I realized performance artists would often get short changed because parents can't see any proof of those activities later."
From its birth as a babysitting agency, Sitter Studio has grown into a multi-faceted child care service. In addition to traditional babysitting services, they have opened up a pre-school in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn, they service dozens of hotels for visiting families, and have recently introduced Nanny Placement Services.
In each section of the agency, Wilson expressed the importance of making sure they balance the needs of the parents, as well as respecting the artists that work for her. "We work very hard to be a full service option, meaning we understand how important the value of time is," she explained. "Most of our clients are looking for part time [child] care, so each appointment is very specific to meet the needs of the family. It's really important that when we send an artisitter to someone's home or hotel that we feel confident it is a good fit; making it worth everyone's time."
If you would like to contact Sitter Studio visit their website at www.sittersstudio.com or call them at 877-844-8204.