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Look A Little Closer . . .

An unfulfilled need? Or a business opportunity in disguise?
February 1, 2000
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/19012

What ended up as a $100,000 business began simply as Kimberly Porrazzo's personal search.

"I became pregnant and planned to return to work [after the pregnancy], so I started looking for a nanny," explains the owner of Southern California Nanny Center in Lake Forest, California. "I wanted [a nanny that could provide] individual attention for our child in our own home."

But Porrazzo was frustrated with the services offered by nanny agencies and instead went looking for help on her own. There was nothing available.

"That's when a light bulb went on. Here was a need not being met," says the 42-year-old Porrazzo, whose background in human resources and computer marketing communications conven-iently included interviewing, hiring, firing and training. In 1992, using just $300, she created The Nanny Kit, a self-published manual that helps parents select a nanny. She began marketing the kit through seminars held at community colleges, local medical centers and other locations.

"After my presentations, parents would come up and ask if I could consult with them," says Porazzo. "Initially, I went to the homes of the soon-to-be parents and spent a couple hours outlining a strategy that was suitable for them. The Nanny Kit was part of the package." According to Porazzo, the personalized consulting service quickly became too much to handle.

She figured there had to be an easier way. She decided to give parents a list of candidates they could call themselves--her customers were enthusiastic about the idea. This led to the creation of a database of nannies prequalified by Porrazzo which she provided to parents for a small fee. "But that became too cumbersome as well," says the mother of two. "I was working more hours than I wanted to. People would also say, `Why can't I get into your database from my computer?'"

That question flipped on light bulb number two--the result is the Southern California Nanny Center Web site (http://www.sandcastleweb.com/nanny), which went live in 1996. Parents subscribe to the database which is maintained and updated by Porrazzo. "I liked that much better," she says. "It was very efficient."

An appearance on the Today Show gave Porrazzo a higher national profile and brought in calls from people all over the country asking whether she had similar databases for their areas. "I wasn't prepared at that point to expand nationally," says Porrazzo.

So in 1997, she packaged the whole kit and caboodle as a homebased business opportunity with a protected territory, designed for stay-at-home moms seeking part-time work. She currently has people operating in San Francisco, Minnesota and New York, and recently sold her Southern California territory.

In April, the self-published manual that launched the business was picked up by Penguin Pub-lishing. The book is now available at major booksellers. "It's funny how things change," says Porrazzo. "The whole process evolved on its own. All I did was listen to my clients."

And to her father, who used to tell her that if she found a need and filled it, she'd get rich. This entrepreneur knows it's just a matter of time--and a few more evolutions in the process--before she makes her father's advice come true.