This week, we sat down with Annie Delaney, the founder of Rayz Kidz. Rayz Kidz is our favorite way to stay up to date on our children’s days while they are spending time with their caregiver. The app allows caregivers to easily share photos and real time updates with parents, as well as search through pre-vetted, age-appropriate activities for children. Parents can check on how their child’s day is progressing (making hand-off a breeze at the end of the day!), view photos, message with the caretaker, or update the child’s schedule. The BAHS team highly recommends this app to our client families and to our candidates!
What inspired you to start Rayz Kidz? How would you describe the company’s mission?
I started Rayz Kidz out of my own personal need. We were fortunate to hire a home caregiver when our second baby arrived. There were so many aspects I loved but I did miss elements of the daycare center environment we were used to. I wanted more proactive, organized communication, in real-time to feel in-the-know without receiving a barrage of texts. I missed the organized activities the daycare centers would do with our oldest to keep her learning through play. At the same time, I realized how hard it is to develop this learning environment if you didn’t have an entire curriculum departmentplanning your activities.
Our mission is for families, childcare providers and kids to thrive. For providers, we want them to focus on what they do best (taking care of the kids) and utilize the app for the rest. For families, we want them to be confident in their childcare and to truly enjoy raising their kids. We want kids to thrive with a positive parent/caregiver relationship and to grow and develop in a supported learning environment.
What’s the hardest part about managing your company?
Prioritizing! There are so many features we want to add to the app, so many resources we want to provide, and ways to show up for our community – but we can’t do them all at once and have to prioritize which are most impactful and make the most sense with where we’re going.
And the most rewarding part?
Hearing from families and nannies of the impact the app has had on their day to day lives and how much joy both sides are getting from the app. We use it every day in our house and I don’t know what we’d do without it. It’s really fulfilling to step back and realize it was at one time just an idea – to bring that to life has been a very rewarding process.
What was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome in starting Rayz Kidz?
My own self-doubt. I had no experience in technology. I have an accounting background. I’ve never started my own company. But I was fueled with the passion to create this thing that I wanted and needed – and knew so many others could benefit. So, I just started. I started with a newsletter that I sent to friends and family, then I built my own app using an online service and trialed that with a larger group. Once we had enough of a structure for the design we went ahead and hired a developer to start on the core features, then we kept going from there!
You left corporate American to pursue your own passions. What advice would you give someone considering leaving their current job to take a risk on their own project?
That it’s totally possible but it’s not easy. The saying “If you build it, they will come” only seems to work for Kevin Costner. Have a go to market plan and really understand that market. Although the product should always come first, you have to have a plan of how you’ll sell it. Talk to others in the industry and/or with a similar market approach (B2B, B2C) and understand how they did it. In my experience, other entrepreneurs have been very generous with their time – they know they received a lot of help and they are doing their part to pass it along.
How do you manage being an entrepreneur and a mother? Any tips for those struggling to balance both?
First, we have great, reliable childcare. There’s nothing like feeling confident in your childcare to allow you to go to work every day and focus. Second, I have a very supportive spouse who understands that the job isn’t a 9-5, helps to cover no questions asked and is my biggest supporter. Lastly, an attitude of gratitude. I know it’s not easy to balance, how fortunate am I to have both a career and a family? When I get down or frustrated, I stop and think of what I’m grateful for and that always helps me to reset. The things I’m complaining about today, I was yearning for 10 years ago. I recognize that all of this comes from a place of privilege and others don’t the same luxuries of reliable childcare or a spouse, but one thing I’m sure of is we can all find 1 thing we’re grateful for each day.
We understand you work with your father on the app – how does it feel to get to work on your passion alongside your family?
It’s the best. It has always been a dream of mine to work with my Dad. I’ve admired his career for many, many years and it was the biggest honor when he suggested working together several years ago. Trust is important in any relationship, including business relationships and there’s no trust like a parent-child. We both know we’re looking out for each other’s best interests. Because of this, we’re not afraid to be honest and have tough conversations, because there’s no one who would be coming from a more sincere, genuine place than each other.
How has your life changed since you founded Rayz Kidz?
I have a sense of empowerment that I was really missing before which has shown up in myself as confidence – both in the working environment and outside of work. I’ve grown as a business person and am now able to much more clearly see business issues as they are, as opposed to the people issues that used to cloud my view. On a personal front, we’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices as a family but we know that it’s an investment and one that will take time. I’ve definitely improved by ability to be patient and to be comfortable with uncertainty and risk taking.
What is your favorite way to spend time with your family?
There are so many ways but our daily favorite is our kid’s nightly “performance” they put on for my husband and me. Part of our bedtime routine includes each kid getting to perform a song of choice, whether it’s an original or a favorite Disney tune, they’ll don their unique looks whether it’s a princess dress, multiple tutus, butterfly crown, sunglasses or sometimes wear them all at once while they sing and dance. It’s their favorite part of the day too.
Do you have any tips for parents hiring a caregiver for the first time? What do you look for in a nanny?
My tip is for parents to know they are probably bad at it! I know that sounds strange, but it took me a while to realize it and has been super helpful frame of reference to approach the process differently. At our jobs, we understand what we’re hiring for, we understand the subject matter. For a nanny, we know our kids, but we’re not experts in childcare or in employing someone in our home. Utilize agencies to help guide you, prepare for interviews with thoughtful questions that go a few levels below the surface. Don’t just rely on a gut feeling – put in the time for thorough, in person interviews. When we are hiring, we’re looking for both someone who aligns with our childcare philosophies and approach, can explain their approach well and support the logic as well as someone who aligns with our living style. Of course, you’re looking for someone that can bond with the kids – but that part usually happens on its own. You as a parent was to feel good about your relationship with the nanny as well so make sure that’s an equal part of the equation.
What’s your favorite feature in the Rayz Kidz app?
For my personal use, the photos for sure! There’s a certain smile that a parent has when they see a photo or video of their child – any other parent can spot from a mile away. And to have all those photos easily accessible in a shared album so we can look back at them often makes it even better.
For nannies, the activities. It’s a long overdue resource that I’m so proud to have put in their hands. It saves them hours a week in planning time, make them better caregivers and the best part is that the kids benefit from hands-on play activities grounded in learning and development that is age appropriate.
The app has tons of great activities for children – do you have any favorites you’d be willing to share?
There are so many good ones! We feature lots of easy recipes for play like playdough and bubble foam, easy bake together snacks like banana muffins or apple nachos, sensory bin ideas, etc. But some of my favorites are the ones that get kids up and moving. My oldest daughter’s personal favorite is an imaginative play activity called Plane Trip Play, grab the printable here, have them pack their bags following the checklist while you set up a pretend terminal and plane. Have them “check in” at the terminal then board the plane to their destination! We often play several rounds of this because there are so many places they want to visit (and they love being able to “travel” wherever they want).
What’s next for Rayz Kidz? Are there any new additions or projects on the horizon?
We’re investing heavily in continuing to add features to the app and we’re so excited for what’s to come! The biggest advancement is in our baby tracking. We’ve spent a lot of time on the design to make sure it’s intuitive and user friendly for both parents and nannies and/or newborn care specialists including graphs to help identify patterns and keep track of your baby’s growth. It’s just in time as we’re due to welcome baby #3 in a few months (so you know it will be tried and tested, for sure!).
Our mission is for families, childcare providers and kids to thrive.
– Annie Delaney, Founder of Rayz Kidz