'Work like mad in your 20s - before you have kids'

Rachel Carrell went from corporate CEO to starting her own nanny-sharing site. Here's how.

by Kate Bassett
Last Updated: 11 Dec 2017

35 Women Under 35 - Where are they now?

‘Finding quality childcare and nannies is a huge struggle,’ says Rachel Carrell. ‘Every time I talked to other parents, they’d say they wished they could do a nanny share - but they couldn’t find the right family to pair up with.’

Carrell decided to find a solution and started to test-run her own nanny-sharing website, Koru Kids, last year: ‘I thought, "If I can sign up ten families, I’ll quit my job and do this. I signed up 37 families right away."'

Koru Kids officially launched in January and is backed to the tune of £600,000 from investors including Michael Pennington, co-founder of Gumtree. Carrell's London-based business employs seven people and already has more than 3,000 families on its network.

Parents supply details (their postcodes and ‘nanny needs’); Koru then presents users with the best one or two matches from its database. Think online dating but for parents/nannies. Koru takes care of contracts and payroll, and charges a monthly fee for the service. Carrell has also started running nanny-training ‘bootcamps’ for uni students and is planning another funding round later this year.

‘We’ve built an amazing service and a brilliant team but I constantly wonder: "Am I doing enough?" "Can I land this thing?" My employees and investors believe in me – I’d better bloody well justify their faith!’

Carrell grew up in a small farming town in New Zealand and moved to the UK in 2002 when she won a postgraduate scholarship to Oxford. After completing a PhD in international development, she joined consultancy giant McKinsey and worked there for six years in sectors ranging from mining to retail. ‘That job took me to Norway, Russia, South Africa... it was my ticket to explore,’ she says.

MT first discovered Carrell in 2012 when she appeared in our 35 Women Under 35 list. She’d just been appointed chief executive of DrThom, the country’s largest online doctor service owned by LloydsPharmacy. ‘Lloyds took a punt on me; it was my first real operational role. But I’m a voracious learner. Two weeks before I started that job, I obsessively read every single book and blog about e-commerce and talked to every expert I could find. It was like cramming for an exam.’

When Carrell joined DrThom, it had 200,000 registered patients and was turning over £6m. On her watch, the number of registered patients grew to 1.3 million and turnover jumped to £20m.

It was while she was in the top job at DrThom that Carrell had a baby. After six weeks of maternity leave, she was back at her desk. ‘I wanted to exclusively breastfeed my daughter Naomi so I had my own pumping room in the office with a fridge. I felt like a cow but I made it work.

'My advice to other women is to work like mad in your 20s. Then, by the time you have kids, you have control over your career. You can call the shots. You don’t have to justify taking time off to go to the school concert.’ 

Read about this year's 35 Women Under 35 here.

Join us at MT's Inspiring Women conference next month with keynote speakers including restaurateur and Bake Off judge Prue Leith and Grey London's creative director Vicki Maguire.

We'll be launching next year's 35 Women Under 35, in association with Accenture, in February 2018. Watch this space.

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