They say “It takes a village” to raise a family. But sometimes childcare falls through, and if you don’t have immediate family nearby, you may be caught in a bind and have to adjust your plans or work from home. As a mom and entrepreneur, Justina Olatunde Davis was struggling to find the balance between working and keeping her children engaged in educational activities throughout the day, without defaulting to television or tablet entertainment.
“My family is Nigerian and they are extremely supportive of me pursuing work/life balance,” says Davis, who is currently part of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative’s (WEI) second cohort. “I thought it would be great if there was a way to provide instant support for women as they try to pursue their own work/life balance. That’s a really big challenge. I wanted to create something that’s flexible and affordable, wherever you are, so you can continue to chase your goals and find some balance.”
That’s how on-demand child enrichment app Omodé was born. Davis chose the word Omodé, which means “children” in Yoruba, Nigeria’s official language, to honor her background. The app connects service providers that have expertise in childcare, cooking, martial arts, language lessons and more with parents looking for help and a little more than a traditional babysitter.
Launching today following a beta phase, Davis shares more about how her background helped her turn her idea into an MVP, figuring out her market fit, and why she feels like Atlanta is the right place to build her startup.
What prompted the idea for Omodé?
It started one day when I was on a phone call to discuss a project that I was working on. I have two kids and they kept pulling and tugging on me while I was in the middle of this conversation. I thought to myself, if only I could get these kids engaged with something other than the tablet again, or another television show, just so I could get through this call.
[I needed] someone that could come over and engage them in a fun artistic project to keep them entertained while I finish work. That sparked the idea and then evolved into dance classes, cooking class, and others. It turned into a hub of enrichment activities for kids on demand.
How did your background help you grow this idea into a startup?
I’m a mom of two and I’ve always been a business owner — from tech startups to real estate. I knew that I always wanted to go back to being a founder and when I had children, this idea popped up back into my head. It was a good mix of my tech background with my present situation as a mother, making me a preferred target customer for this type of service.
What kind of features can parents find on Omodé?
It’s a mobile app for parents to sign up and choose an activity that would interest their children. For example, they can choose a cooking class and a list of vetted service providers come up with a short bio, what they specialize in, and certifications. They can choose the one that pairs best with their child and book them for now or a later date.
How do you vet the service providers?
We advertise for service providers, called enrichment partners, and they range from college students to retired teachers and childcare experts. They go through a background check and once they are approved, they can create a profile and advertise their skills on the platform. The enrichment partners are encouraged to list any relevant skills as well as certifications and degrees to market their profile. This way parents can get a sense of their background and where they come from. Our goal is to expand the pool of childcare providers — from teaching a child to rollerblade to gardening.
How can Omodé save parents time and help children continue to thrive?
Children are naturally curious and full of wonder. But what does that mean for parents? Sometimes that means driving from one place to the other, sometimes across town, for lessons. Omodé honors this wonder by helping children try these different things at home. If you’re stuck at work, you can have someone come and engage with them on a scrapbook project while you finish. It saves time and resources.
What’s your revenue model?
Omodé has two levels — a beginner to intermediate level of enrichment activities starts at $35/hour and you can also add-on 30-minute increments for $17.50 per increment. Then a second expert level where your child has already been taking lessons previously, like Spanish or piano, and you want them to become an expert in this area. Those expert lessons are $65/hour with a 30-minute increment option to hone in any skills that they’ve already developed.
What’s your current funding status?
We’re self-funding at the moment. We will be looking for funding later on. Right now we are focused on getting our market fit and getting our product right for the user.
How does Atlanta play into your startup story?
If you’re looking to start a startup, you should look here. Atlanta puts their resources where their values are. At the Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative, they offer support and resources to assist women that are starting their businesses. The tech community here is extremely supportive. You get a mixture of mentorship and resources that will help you in your journey. It helps to surround yourself with people that have been there, guiding you along that journey.