BEIRUT: Playing a slightly different tune from the more usual tech startups popping up in Lebanon, Jaleesa, a locally based Web startup, is offering trained babysitters on demand for on-the-go families and single parents across the country.
The platform is considered the first of its kind within the region, and is described by its CEO Angela Solomon to "bring a new approach regarding child care from a contemporary perspective, since it offers parents a more responsive and educational type of care for their children."
Jaleesa abides by a priority system made up of three Cs. "Care," where sitters are trained in first-aid, child protection and children's behavior management. "Convenience," which offers customers the ability to book a sitter at any convenience 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And finally "Community," where for every hour booked, the platform will subsidize one hour of child care for an underprivileged family in Lebanon.
"The aim behind creating Jaleesa is to develop a business which is smaller yet faster to operate in terms of social impact in Lebanese child care development and growth," Solomon told Annahar, while adding that the company offers a different perspective of babysitting that engages children from an educational and productive standpoint.
She noted that this kind of service paves a way for the birth of a new market, by helping underprivileged women find work from one side, and parents benefiting from highly trained babysitters which ensure a more engaging experience for their children while breaking away from the region's traditional norms.
"We aim at increasing women's access to the workplace, by targeting women who are already working and require more flexible child care options, as well as underprivileged women who struggle to find work at all," Solomon added.
Jaleesa's mechanics are pretty simple, parents can visit the website to browse for sitters depending on their location, schedule and customized preferences such as if the parents request a sitter that can offer their child certain activities suited to their personality, to play with them or by triggering their children's inquisitive nature.
Parents then proceed to booking a sitter instantly – after checking their rating on the website by other parents, viewing their picture and what they might offer to their child – at a rate of $15 per hour while repeat customers receive deals and discounts, which Solomon guarantees that "the company has had a 100 percent rebooking rate with every family we have worked with."
Taking a dive behind the scenes of the company, applicants who desire to become a Jaleesa babysitter must firstly submit their Lebanese ID and criminal record check from the Internal Security Forces.
The second step would be filling the application found on the website which entails general information and answering a series of questions – which would be displayed on the potential sitters' profile in the website – that tackle their know-how in terms of child care as well as questions which would help potential customers to indirectly get to know the sitters' personality.
After this excessive vetting process, applicants must undergo a series of training and assessment criteria with Jaleesa's in-house child psychologist and with partner NGOs regarding a number of key issues such as child behavior, development and personality along with activities that would prove beneficial and stimulating to the child.
Jaleesa will then contact two work references provided by applicants to fully check their professional background and work ethics for any red flags.
Solomon, a previous English teacher and British diplomat, co-founded Jaleesa with two other partners; Hassan Baylon who's the company's CTO, and a recent graduate from the American University of Beirut with a lifelong passion for technology and experience in website and application development. And, Stephanie D'Arc Taylor the company' COO who also was an English teacher in Palestinian refugee camps in South of Lebanon and a former journalist.
Solomon's goal for her newborn company "is to expand outside of Lebanon and into the both Europe and the MENA region, leading to our hopes of creating 100,000 jobs within seven years especially for underprivileged women in the region."
During the Banque du Liban Accelerate 2016, Jaleesa won first prize in a global top 5 interntional startup competition. Of the ten finalists selected out of the 100 semi-final startups, Jaleesa was the only company hailing from Lebanon. It was also by far the youngest company, having only launched its website on September 22, 2016. Since then, the online platform has sold 41 hours of child care, and enlisted 17 quality babysitters of diverse backgrounds.
Jaleesa won a check for $20,000 which Solomon noted "will be put to good use in terms of spreading word of our company by continuing its market validation in Lebanon and to enlist 50 additional babysitters to its roster.".
Annahar recently launched "Startup City," a column series designed to cover the hundreds of early stage businesses in Beirut, and what they represent as to the talent and optimistic business plans of local young tech workers. Send your nominations to: Startup.city@Annahar.com.lb
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