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Who can let the dogs out? Akron-based Komae adds pet-sitting to its parenting swap app

December 21, 2018

Who can let the dogs out? Akron-based Komae adds pet-sitting to its parenting swap app

AKRON, Ohio -- An app that lets parents exchange free babysitting has added free pet-sitting into the mix.

Komae Inc., a female-founded startup based in Akron, began as a service-sharing platform (myKomae.com) on which trusted circles of friends swap babysitting turns rather than paying for sitters. With the app, parents can create a “village” – komae means village in Greek – and when the need for a babysitter arises, they post a request to members of their group.

If it works for kids, why not pets?

“We noticed our customers making their own hacks to swap pets on the Komae app,” said Audrey Wallace, who in 2016 co-founded Komae with Amy Husted. “When people post ‘feed kibbles,’ you know something is up. This didn’t surprise us since our parents our savvy like that. Whether it’s babysitting or pet-sitting, our motto is Share. Don’t Spend.”

All Komae parents have to do is go to their profile on the app, add pets and start making pet-sitting requests, whether it’s for an hour, a weekend, or longer. Or, parents in need can sign up and start their own baby- and pet-sitting “villages.”

Komae works with points. Just as parents earn points when they watch each others’ kids, then cash in those points when they need a sitter, so it goes with pets. A point is one hour. The app makes scheduling easy, and it calculates, banks and transfers Komae “points” between families.

Kristin Kauker, who, with her husband, Scott, has two children and two dogs, is one of those who early on solicited pet-sitting on the sly.

“We were kind of hacking the system since the beginning,” said Kauker, whose family lives in West Akron. “It was originally just children, but still I would post ‘Can somebody let out my dog.’ The founders were seeing more and more of that.”

When Kauker, a part-time teacher, has to stay later than expected or for some other reason can’t get home to let out her dogs, she posts her need on the app and the app immediately sends a notification to everyone in her “village.”

“Their phone dings and they see it right away,” she said. “People can either accept or decline. The response is usually fast.”

Tera Dent and her husband, Jon, would love to have a dog, but with children ages 6, 4 and 2 in January, that’s out of the question. If needed, she’s happy to, with her children, drop in on a Komae friend’s cat to keep it company, or let out someone’s dog in exchange for babysitting, or just because.

“It’s really a great way for my kids to get their animal fix,” said Dent. “The kids and I both love it. I prefer to do this rather than own a dog because I know I’d be the one taking care of it.”

On Komae, people create profiles for their kids and/or pets. It’s free to make an account and invited trusted connections to join, meet new parents and schedule play dates. To start scheduling sits, there is a $5 a month membership.

Komae can include Swappers – parent friends who swap free sits; Sitters – paid babysitters who are paid cash at the door, and Angels – family and friends who don’t need sitting themselves and help for no points or cash.

According to Wallace and Husted, the national average babysitting rate is close to $19 an hour, and pet sitting comes in at about $17 an hour. In a release, they offer figures from Laura Bennett, co-founder of Embrace Pet Insurance.

“We know that 68 percent of American households have pets, and that number is on the rise,” Bennett said. “People are looking for creative new ways to care for these furry members of their family. Specifically, ways that don’t increase their already high pet budgets, since Americans spend about $125 on their pets every month. Swapping free pet care with a trusty neighbor or local friend is a smart solution.”

So far, Komae has 271 pet profiles, Wallace said. The app works on both Apple and Android, and can be downloaded from Google Play or iTunes.

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