Longtime San Antonio friends behind Time Out Sitters
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Tiffany Murgo and Katie Rakowitz met in an English class at Bradley Middle School and became fast friends.
The San Antonio Express-News reports they remained close through high school and college, were in each other’s weddings and have raised their kids together.
In 2011, after Rakowitz had her first child, she started looking for work she could do from home. She ended up acquiring a small baby-sitting business a year later from a woman she met through a moms’ group. At the time, the business had 35 babysitters and was booking about 125 jobs a month.
Murgo officially became a partner in 2014, and the best friends worked to rebrand and grow the business. Today, Time Out Sitters has about 250 babysitters and handle about 1,000 jobs a month. The partners also have added pet and house-sitting services.
They’ve also expanded north up Interstate 35, adding Austin and Waco among other cities. Now they’re working to grow their presence in those markets and hire more sitters.
“We’ve come a long way,” Rakowitz said. “We’re thankful for the community. We’re dealing with your babies, and that’s a big deal. It really is very humbling.”
The name, Time Out Sitters, stems from “when parents need time out,” she said. People in need of child care register through the website and submit a request with the date, time and location. Rakowitz and Murgo match them with preselected sitters.
The partners say the vetting process is part of what distinguishes Time Out Sitters from similar services. All sitters are 18 or older, have prior child care experience, are CPR and first aid certified, and undergo background checks. Rakowitz and Murgo, both 38, said they personally interview each candidate and call their references before they are hired.
After being set up with a sitter, a client gets an email confirmation with a picture and biography of the sitter, who also calls them the day before the job to introduce themselves.
“Our rule of thumb is if we wouldn’t have them come into our home to watch our children, then we’re not going to bring them on the team to watch other people’s children,” Murgo said.
Candidates, who are typically referred by other sitters, are independent contractors.
Those using the service pay an annual membership fee of $50. Hourly rates are based on time, the number of children and other factors, such as a sick child or someone needs a sitter on holidays.
In-home rates start at $13.50 an hour for one child, with another $1 per hour for each additional child and $3 per hour for each friend or guest. Job minimums start at three hours Monday through Thursday, with higher minimums on weekends and holidays. They have discussed surge pricing for busy times, Rakowitz said. There are group rates for outings and events.
Time Out also has sitters who are able to care for children with special needs. They also have about 10 sitters who are certified to care for foster children.
“We talk a lot about the trust that the clients have in us, but it’s also the trust that the sitters have in us,” Murgo said. “We have two clients.”
Another factor they believe sets Time Out apart is their connection to the community, as longtime San Antonio residents.
Before they teamed up on the business, Rakowitz worked in sales and catering. Murgo also worked in sales and helped manage her husband’s business. The pair would often bounce ideas for businesses off each other. They talked about a child and pet boutique and a sandwich cookbook.
Murgo typically handles job requests, invoicing and emails, while Rakowitz focuses on hiring and making sure sitters’ documents are up to date. As they approach the holidays, which are usually busy, they start accelerating hiring in October and November.
Rakowitz and Murgo declined to disclose what cut they take from the fees.
They compare managing a business together to a marriage: there are highs and lows, but working through the struggles is rewarding. They respect each other. And if they were too similar, they agree they would butt heads far more often.
“It makes it so much more gratifying because we’ve been through all these really hard things together,” Murgo said.
Eventually they hope to add a mobile app and expand to more cities, but for now they are focusing on Austin and Waco.
“We do want to keep on growing, but we also need to make sure we stick to how we hire and doing things the Time Out Sitters way,” Rakowitz said.
Information from: San Antonio Express-News, http://www.mysanantonio.com