Pop out your first company before you pop out your first kid. It’s advice that Genevieve Theirs, cofounder of Sittercity, has for tomorrow’s prospective female entrepreneurs.
Thiers cofounded Sittercity — an international online platform which helps partner babysitters with clients using a unique matchmaking algorithm — during her senior year at Boston College, where she was studying English and music. In her attempt to make the startup successful, Thiers used every chance she could find to get Sittercity noticed.
“You’ve really got to be a guerrilla in the beginning.”
With aggressive marketing, on foot, Thiers gained a wide audience for her site. She followed moms throughout supermarkets, sneaked into sorority dorms, and posted the walls with flyers. From this effort, she managed to register nearly 600 sitters and 40 parents.
In the past 14 years, since the company launched, Sittercity has become an internationally recognized success with millions of registered caretakers, whose backgrounds are vetted by the company.
“We revolutionized the industry,” says Thiers. Sittercity made it easier for parents seeking babysitters — offering a cheaper, more conventional service compared to nanny agencies with charged fees around two-thousand dollars. Sittercity has expanded their areas of caregiving in recent years, offering elder care and pet sitting services in addition to babysitting and nanny services.
While Sittercity has become internationally renowned, Thiers remains modest on her success.
“I got insanely lucky,” Thiers says, looking back on her career.
Thiers attributes a large portion of her early success to blind luck. Her cofounder was her husband, Dan Ratner, whom she met on Match.com. Ratner helped Thiers with the coding on Sittercity’s website. To this day, Thiers regrets not pursuing learning how to code, herself, and implores potential female entrepreneurs to study coding.
Despite the times, Thiers remains the exception to the rule of successful female entrepreneurs. Women continue to hit a brick wall when it comes to pursuing a successful career in entrepreneurship and business. A 2012 infographic illustrating the challenges of being a female entrepreneur, created by Growing Challenges for Female Entrepreneurs, shows that only ten percent of ‘Inc. 500’ companies were led by women. This, despite the fact that, since the late 1980s, women enrolled in college outnumber men.
While the ‘glass ceiling’ has been shattered, women continue to contend with executives and CEOs unused to seeing women in a business setting. Thiers says that she is not entirely sure how female entrepreneurs can best succeed in this environment. Perhaps, tremendous amount of determination, in addition to a having a good business idea, would be the best way to go about finding success, she says.
“I fought a hard fight, and if women want to admire me for that, they can go ahead,” says Thiers.
She adds that her primary goal is to live her life the way she wants, and is currently in the process of making singing and acting her profession.
One nugget of advice Thiers has for entrepreneurs in general is to exhibit smart marketing techniques. “You are your own product.” She believes that knowing how to market your company correctly can significantly help boost one’s chances of success. ❒