Susanne Vesilind and Kim Burnside are Triangle moms who understand the need for reliable babysitters.
Burnside, a former teacher with a tutoring business, remembers the days she was left scrambling when her babysitter canceled. Vesilind, a part-time teacher at Cary High School, has seen it from another angle as a long-time babysitter with a popular babysitting service business in Richmond, Va.
So, a few months ago, the two launched Peak City Sitters, a local babysitting service that places reliable sitters with the families who need them. The business is partly modeled after Vesilind's River City Sitters in Richmond, which she still owns.
"It's hard to find good sitters, but we do it," Vesilind said.
Vesilind and Burnside go way back ... and it's a great story. The two met decades ago as second graders at a West Virginia elementary school. Together through middle school, they lost touch once they separated for different schools in high schools.
Fast forward a couple of decades and they reconnected by complete coincidence here in the Triangle. Their husbands worked together and, when they learned their wives were from the same West Virginia town, they realized they actually knew each other. And there were more coincidences: They had kids about the same age. And they lived just five minutes from each other.
The two became friends. Burnside eventually convinced Vesilind they should be business partners too after learning about the success of River City Sitters and understanding the need here in the Triangle. Vesilind started River City Sitters about 15 years ago when she was a young teacher looking for babysitting jobs on the side. Today, the business has five employees and 150 babysitters on its roster.
"We're living in the metropolis of kids everywhere," said Burnside, who lives in Apex.
In just the first few months, business has grown mostly by word of mouth, the two tell me. Families can sign up for a sitter through Peak City by becoming a registered client. There's a $35 per family annual registration fee. An on-call referral fee, which is charged each time a sitter is provided, is $12 for a single day, though there are deals if a family needs a sitter regularly on a permanent basis.
From there, the babysitting rate, which goes entirely to the staffer, runs between $12 and $16 an hour, depending on the number of kids. Unlike some services, Peak City does not take a cut from the babysitting rate. The business earns the money through the fees.
They've helped families in a variety of situations, providing babysitters who can take over on date nights or when mom or dad needs to go to work. In Richmond, one bride hired multiple sitters so her guests could enjoy a kid-free wedding reception, Vesilind said.
Burnside or Vesilind interview the sitters in person, do extensive background checks and require them to be CPR certified. All sitters must be at least 18 years old, though the average age is in the late 20s.
The two say they also work hard to meet families' specific needs if, for instance, there's a young baby in the family or a child with special needs. (Burnside is a former special needs teacher, who now also teaches at a local preschool).
"What you need is what we find for you," Vesilind said. "It's not computer generated."
Launching a new business hasn't been without its challenges though lessons that Vesilind has learned at River City Sitters has helped along the way. For Burnside, who misses her old teaching job, the business has been a fun new extension of her professional self after years of mostly staying at home.
And they both love giving parents a little bit more time for themselves.
"We're moms, we understand what it's like," Vesilind said. "It's like helping a friend out."
Said Burnside: "And it feels good."
Peak City Sitters serves the Triangle. They'd love to welcome more families and sitters to their ranks!
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