If you’d told us back in January what this year would end up looking like, we’d probably have written you off as daft. But just like everyone else, this year has completely changed the game for us in terms of how we approach childcare and the ways in which we support parents.
Although it’s undoubtedly been a year marked by a lot of difficult events that no one could have predicted, we’re incredibly proud of the way in which we’ve taken things in our stride.
As a business, we’ve shifted our mindset and found new and inventive ways to help parents navigate their way through the new normal.
As a team, we’ve grown massively and expanded our skills with each new member of the Bubble team.
And as a brand, we’ve refocused our image and messaging to reflect the core mission which we’ve had all along: to help parents be all they need to be.
Here’s a round up of just some of the things we’ve got up to over this unusual year:
The calm before the storm
The first couple months of this year were, on reflection, delightfully calm. We don’t mean that we didn’t do things – quite the opposite, in fact – but we were focused on building our existing relationships and growing our company in line with our expectations and goals from the previous year.
There were definitely some pretty amazing moments though. For one, we worked with Binky Felstead – a television star and long-time Bubble parent – on several occasions, and it was wonderful to see just how much she loves and relies on the app.
We’ve always known that Bubble was loved by parents across the country, and working with Binky helped us in our journey from a ‘well-kept secret’ to a ‘must-have app’ on any parent’s phone. She even loves us so much that she decided to invest in the company!
Speaking of investment, we were also incredibly grateful to have secured another round of funding earlier in the year, with the support of the wonderful Ada Ventures. This boost provided us with the resources we needed to grow exponentially – and we were described by The Times as ‘the Uber of babysitting’.
Lockdown 1…and the dreaded homeschooling
Of course, we (like everyone) were taken aback in March when the increasing number of Covid cases led the government to put the UK into a national lockdown. As a business, we were of course worried about how this would impact us and our company’s objectives, but as parents we were also aware of the impact this would have on families like our own.
We knew from our own experience that the closure of schools and nurseries was by far the most challenging aspect of lockdown parenting. That’s why we decided to use our resources on helping parents through the highs and lows of homeschooling.
We enlisted the help of a teaching advisor (Sarah Zeqiri), to provide resources and advice to Bubble parents, who could send us their homeschooling questions via the app.
We created lots of articles for parents to refer back to whenever they were struggling to keep the kids focused, and we worked around the clock to support parents who were struggling to juggle remote working with childcare responsibilities.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the closure of schools and nurseries also had a pretty big impact on the way that businesses, the government and society as a whole view childcare. We’d always known as parents that childcare was the invisible infrastructure holding up our society – allowing parents to work, children to develop and businesses to flourish.
But when everything went remote and companies realised just how much parents were struggling to manage their childcare responsibilities alongside working from home, the national conversation shifted.
We were so glad to be a part of this movement and contribute to the discussion in the national media – our CCO Sarah’s article on how the government should do more to support working parents was even published in The Telegraph.
Even once the first wave was over and the conversation started to shift away from childcare, we continued to lobby for greater childcare support, particularly for working parents. Our founder Ari spoke to Sky News about the importance of employer-backed childcare support, and we spoke at Flexpo’s Digital Summit to promote a sustainable shift towards flexible working.
Helping our NHS
As a nation, this year reminded us of just how important our key workers are. The support we showed them every Thursday was great, but we wanted to provide our NHS staff with some more tangible support so that they could continue doing their all-important work of saving lives.
That’s why we launched the volunteer childcare service in the Bubble app. Working with the National Health Supporters (who support NHS staff with childcare & domestic help), we created a new service which allows NHS parents to have their childcare requests matched with local volunteer sitters. We also waived our usual booking fees, so the end-to-end service is entirely free.
The results were incredible, with over 10,000 hours of voluntary childcare being requested by NHS staff through the app. We were grateful that so many of the wonderful sitters and nannies on Bubble opted into the service, enabling us to help serve the people who’ve spent so much of this year serving us.
The sitters on Bubble are really what make our community so special, which is why we’ve always wanted to show parents that use the app what a diverse and talent bunch they are. One of the ways in which we did this was through our first ever TV ad – it was a real ‘Look mum, I’m on the telly!’ kind of moment.
So many incredible sitters took part in the ad and we were really grateful for the opportunity to highlight what an incredible community we have. This year especially, when many people were furloughed or lost their jobs, Bubble has been there for sitters as an additional source of income and stability despite everything else going on.
We also created some exciting features in the app which have allowed sitters to better show off their personalities when applying for jobs. Our new ‘sitter profile video’ feature now enables sitters to post a video introducing themselves, giving parents an opportunity to learn more about them and get a better sense of what they’re like before choosing who to book.
We got a new look
We know, the whole idea of a lockdown makeover is a little ‘done’…but when we decided to rebrand, we really did feel that the time was right to update our image and messaging to better reflect our mission of helping parents be all they need to be.
As you’ve probably already noticed, the Bubble community means the world to us, which is why we decided to integrate our wonderful sitters and parents into our new brand design. We updated our parent and sitter apps with bold, beautiful colours and plenty of gorgeous photography of our community.
Switching things up
Alongside our regular babysitting and nannying services, we’ve also used the disruption and challenges of this year as an opportunity for innovation. We launched a new feature which allows parents to book a night nanny through Bubble, to support parents during those tricky first few weeks.
We’ve also launched a new feature called ‘Helpr’, which allows parents to post a job on the app for non-childcare tasks – e.g. dog-walking, tutoring or elderly companionship. Sitters on Bubble are pretty multi-talented, so it made sense to allow them to offer their other skills to Bubble parents.
We also wanted to do something more for parents, to provide them with some light relief but also some relatable content which reflected how bizarre this year has been for us all. That’s why we launched our new series, Normal Parenting with Ellie Taylor, which looked at how the pandemic has affected us as people and as parents.
We’ve grown (a lot)
Despite everything that’s happened this year, we’re really proud to have grown so much as a team and as a community. Our team has doubled and we’ve stepped up our marketing work – and we’ve even got another new addition to the team planned for January 2021!
We’ve also grown as a community, with over 14,000 new parents signing up to the app along with over 11,000 new sitters. The sitters also reached some pretty incredible milestones, including Mikey (a Super Sitter) reaching his 500th sit on Bubble! Even though lockdowns made things tougher than usual, we also saw our busiest Wednesday ever this year (the day before lockdown 2 hit)…
And although we couldn’t meet up in person, we still made lots of new friends this year – from our work with several podcasts (Made by Mammas, Scummy Mummies, The Parent Hood and Spinning Plates) to our collaborations with Sharky & George on our Saturday Lockdown Club and their Charity Advent Calendar for Tommy’s. We also got to work with Penguin Random House on a giveaway competition, alongside other work with The Mum Club, Pregnant Then Screwed…. the list goes on.
Although 2020 has been difficult, we’re also really proud of everything we’ve managed to accomplish this year. We used everything at our disposal to help parents through this tricky year, and as a business we’ve hit so many milestones and achievements despite the uncertainties we’ve faced.
We’re so excited to keep the momentum going next year, and we can’t wait to enter into a new phase of our development as a company and community. Bring on 2021!