Like many Canadian startups, CareGuide has felt the effects of the current COVID-19 pandemic. The Toronto-based company made the decision to temporarily lay off approximately one-third of its full and part-time employees in early April. However, in recent weeks, the startup has begun to see an uptick in sales as users start to hire care providers again.
“Families are clearly adapting to this…they’re now starting to find a way to get back to work and to work in different ways.”
CareGuide runs a number of platforms that match families with various types of care providers. Founded in 2012, the company has raised approximately $13 million in venture funding and debt to date, according to Crunchbase. “Chief executive dad” and co-founder John Philip Green recently told BetaKit that in spite of a “real hit” to CareGuide’s sales at the beginning of the pandemic, “now they’re coming roaring back.”
“Families are clearly adapting to this, and if they were all holding their breath for a few weeks, they’re now starting to find a way to get back to work and to work in different ways,” said Green. “And, for a lot of families, that requires some form of childcare. So, our nanny businesses … are all seeing fantastic uptick in the last, say, seven to 10 days.”
CareGuide operates six platforms including Sitter.com, ElderCare.com, PetSitter.com, Housekeeper.com, CleaningLady.com, and HouseSitter.com. Green noted CareGuide’s housekeeping and pet sitting services have also started to see an uptick, while elder care and house sitting remain flat.
Given the recent improvement in sales, Green told BetaKit that CareGuide is considering hiring back some of the employees that had been temporarily laid off. The layoffs included approximately 33 full-time, part-time, and co-op employees. CareGuide has already taken steps to repatriate its staff, including transitioning co-op students to full-time employment after their terms ended.
Amid the company’s own struggles, CareGuide has worked to pitch in amid the pandemic, offering free access to its childcare matching platforms for frontline healthcare workers. The service is currently available through its CanadianNanny.ca or Sitter.com websites.
The Toronto startup has also partnered with Uber as part of an initiative to help drivers find employment through services such as CareGuide’s after a sharp decline in ride-hailing. Uber also partnered with Domino’s and United States-based retail delivery service Ship.
Green told BetaKit one of the most important things CareGuide is doing amidst the pandemic is supporting nannies that have been laid off by their employers. He called this an “extension of [CareGuide’s] longstanding effort” to promote the legal employment of nannies.
“We’ve actually been busier than ever supporting the nannies enrolling them into EI and helping them navigate all that stuff.”
“For some reason, the care industry tends to be a low paying job … it tends to be women and women that are at the lower rungs of the socioeconomic spectrum. And so, they often don’t get paid legally,” Green said. “We’ve been really advocating for legal employment in this sector for years.”
The CareGuide co-founder added that amidst COVID-19, the need for legal employment has become “excruciatingly apparent.”
“In this time … the nannies that weren’t getting paid legally can’t go on EI [employment insurance],” Green noted. “We’ve been losing customers, like families letting go of their nannies out of necessity, [but] we’ve actually been busier than ever supporting the nannies enrolling them into EI and helping them navigate all that stuff.”
CareGuide has had its own struggles with federal emergency support measures. As a subscription-based company that relies on recurring monthly revenue, Green said CareGuide has not qualified for any government support except for the Canadian government’s 10 percent wage subsidy.
Due to the cap on the program that only allows for a maximum of $25,000 total per employer, Green noted that CareGuide was not able to utilize it to keep its employees. Green did not respond to questions about whether the company will be utilizing this or any government programs as it looks to rehire staff.
As part of CareGuide’s decision to make temporary layoffs, Green has also reduced his own salary by 50 percent and implemented a company-wide mandatory 10 percent salary cut. The startup also reduced discretionary spending, including marketing and perk programs for employees (such as office lunches given social distancing rules).
“The good news about this business is that it just hasn’t gone to zero,” said Green. “It’s one of those things that even in the darkest hours here, we were getting sales every day, every hour.”
Green noted that while he is still a bit hesitant about this uptick in sales, CareGuide is back in “growth mode.” “We’re building and we’re helping nannies and we’re looking at scaling up again.”
Image source CareGuide via LinkedIn