“I think it’s important that a woman of color can start something new and have a voice in Pittsburgh.”
Priya Amin is a self-proclaimed vagabond by trade. Growing up in New Jersey she bounced around for school and work from Arizona to Oregon to North Carolina and St. Louis, before ultimately landing in Pittsburgh. After completing an undergraduate degree from Rutgers in Biotechnology, Priya worked as a software consultant before realizing that she liked business more than science. She pursued a MBA and then worked for IBM followed by a mint position at Nestle Purina that combined her love for business and animals and came with the perk of bringing her dog to work daily.
While working at Nestle, Priya had her first child, and work life balance got hard. “I was working 60 hour weeks and my husband and I were like passing ships in the night, I thought, how can I make this easier? ”She ended up leaving her career to be a stay-at-home mom and her husband’s job brought them to Pittsburgh; but things still didn’t seem easier. “I really felt like I lost my identity. We are inextricably tied to our job and when you don’t have an answer to ‘what do you do’ it throws you for a loop.” She admits that their first year in Pittsburgh was tough and she struggled to find her place. She decided to start a consulting company called Roki (named after her two boys, Ronin and Kirin) that assists small businesses with strategic marketing and branding, but quickly realized she couldn’t go to client meetings or networking events because she didn’t have childcare.
And so goes the saying that necessity is the mother of invention, the idea for Flexable was born. Initially Priya envisioned a co-working space with drop-in childcare, but when she met her co-founder, Jessica Strong, that vision shifted. She laughed as she explained their rom com-like introduction “We met and sparks flew. We were kindred spirits and the second time we went out to dinner we started talking about Flexable and going into business together.” They applied for the Alpha Lab accelerator program in July 2016 with the task of solving the challenge of childcare falling through or not being available, by creating an online platform to connect people to childcare options. As they iterated, they recognized that bringing childcare to places where people already are would solve the matching piece of the equation. Flexable provides on-site childcare at offices, conferences, and events to help drive inclusivity, productivity and attendance by using carefully vetted and fully insured caregivers to deliver safe, high quality childcare everywhere.
Their biggest break came in the fall of 2017 when they were contacted by the City of Pittsburgh, as employees were taking time off for Rosh Shoshannah and Election Day because school was closed for their kids. After a successful pilot program, the trial manifested into a full year contract for days when school is closed, but work is not. That steadily grew into 250 events, contracts and organizations across Pittsburgh, seeing the service as a valuable resource that can positively impact a company’s bottom line: “In the U.S., there are 56 million school-aged children and on average, they have 21 days off of school. The average U.S. employee gets 10 PTO days and claim they use nearly 80% of them for childcare reasons. In fact, it costs U.S. companies $4.4B in lost productivity because of absenteeism due to lack of childcare.”
So how do they find qualified caregivers? Priya explained that they are constantly refining and optimizing their supply-demand equation for staff. To date, they have an elite group of caregivers who have childcare clearances, first aid training, as well as Flexable training on safety and resources. As for who works there, it’s a diverse mix “We have a children’s museum employee, a chef, college students, retired folks, stay-at-home moms. The benefit of our services is that we can schedule by days based on the 5-10 events we work each week so that those we serve have increased flexibility and so do our employees.”
When Priya isn’t working to help other parents, she’s spending time with her husband and kids. “We love Schenley Plaza and going to the park to run around. Mesa is one of our favorite food kiosks.” Any spot that serves tacos is a hit and Tako downtown and Bea Taco on Banksville Road are among her favorites. Growing up on the east coast and then spending time in the west and the south, Priya feels like Pittsburgh is a perfect mix of it all “Pittsburgh has the work hard mentality, but people are nice and the pace of daily life is manageable. As Google and other west coast companies have a larger presence here, we’re starting to see some of those work culture shifts happen here, too.” While it can sometimes feel parochial, the city’s progressive attitude and leadership makes it a welcoming atmosphere. “I’m proud of myself for starting something and making a difference here. Even if you don’t have a huge budget, you can garner community support and make an impact.”
Interested in using Flexable for an event or becoming a caregiver? Find more info here!