Missouri Mompreneur Clears COVID-19 Childcare Hurdles with Pivot, New Business
For most entrepreneurs, managing a business in the era of COVID-19 has been more than enough to keep them busy. But for Branson, Missouri-based Niki Wiltshire, the pandemic has been a time to figure out new directions for her daycare company – and a time to start a new business.
“I am pivoting and pivoting big time,” she says.
Innovating an existing business
Niki began working as a nanny for the Granny Nannies in 2002. The company was about a year old when she joined, and she fell in love with the work. When the owner relocated, Niki bought the business. She renamed it Nanny2U and started to really grow the enterprise.
“When I purchased it, we were only in Branson, and we only had a few nannies,” she says. “Everything was on paper. I turned it into what it is now – all computerized, and we work all across the country and Canada.”
Nanny2U provides child care at home, at hotels and at events, like weddings and corporate conferences. It also offers specialized services, like care for elderly people and children and adults with special needs. The company carefully screens all caregivers.
Like many entrepreneurs, Niki built her business while working full time at a corporate job. She and her husband also started their family. But a busy schedule never stops a savvy entrepreneur from thinking big.
“About four or five years ago, I realized I needed help if I was going to make this something,” Niki says. “I realized how important assistants and marketing are. Now, I have two ladies who help me run the business.”
Business resources in Missouri
When it came to growing Nanny2U, Niki needed more than the ability to delegate. She benefited from a team of people at her corporate job who believed in her and her business. They acted as an unofficial advisory board. And she got help from business resources available to all Missouri entrepreneurs.
“Several years ago, I worked with the MU Extension in Forsyth,” Niki says. “They helped with a business plan and really getting a focus on things.”
She received hands-on guidance on accounting and QuickBooks from Missouri Small Business Development Center at Missouri State University. And talking about her business at 1 Million Cups changed the name of the game – literally.
“Five or six years ago, I presented to 1 Million Cups – it was amazing,” Niki says. “They are the reason why we changed the name from the Granny Nannies to Nanny2U. It was nerve-racking, but I got so much great feedback.”
Two years ago, Niki quit her corporate job to work full time on Nanny2U. All of her hard work was helping Nanny2U grow.
Then the pandemic hit.
Story continues below …
Meeting families’ needs during a pandemic
Because of COVID-19, fewer folks need nannies. Vacations, weddings and corporate events are all but canceled. Nanny2U has felt the pinch.
“We didn’t have any bookings in March – they were all canceled,” Niki says. “April and May, we didn’t have any bookings.”
In June, Niki says things started picking up, but there was another setback.
“We provide on-site child care for Edward Jones’ large event and they cancelled,” she says “This would have been our 15th year working for them. Last year, we were at eight or nine locations around the country. They’ve also taken us to Canada. ”This cancellation could be devastating. Instead, she started looking at the changing needs of parents – and offering new services to meet those needs.
“We recently added virtual tutoring and a pandemic relief program, which is basically a discounted rate that includes help with schooling in your house,” Niki says.
As a mom of two, Niki knows all too well the challenges parents face right now. Child care needs are evolving, and Nanny2U is uniquely poised to meet them.
“We’re looking for business partners right now,” she says. “It’s like a business in a box. I come alongside you and help you run the service in your location. I’ve tried to do this in the past but didn’t have it quite right. So I hired someone to help me get it right.”
With new programs in the works, Niki hired a virtual assistant to help get everything done.
And then she saw a huge opportunity.
Serving mompreneurs working from home
Starting a business during a pandemic might seem crazy. But Niki knew she wasn’t the only parent who needed help juggling responsibilities. And so Wiltshire Virtual Assistant Group was born.
Niki and her associate Brittany Melo provide internet-savvy services to support moms who work from home. Their offerings range from online course creation to video editing to Google Drive management.
“We like to call it a one-stop shop,” Niki says. “We help with all facets of business and running a service-based business. We’re really excited about the help we provide. It’s mostly mompreneurs and moms who have to work from home. I get it. My two kiddos are in school two days a week, and then I homeschool three days a week.”
It turns out Niki isn’t the only parent who has felt pulled in multiple directions. Wiltshire Virtual Assistant Group has connected with many clients across the nation.
“It’s been booming during this pandemic because everybody needs help getting online,” she says. “It’s been interesting how things have worked out.”
Nanny2U and Wiltshire Virtual Assistant Group provide valuable services. But they also enable Niki and her family to live their best lives.
“I’m running these two businesses and taking care of my kiddos – it’s been my dream,” she says.
Advice for Missouri entrepreneurs
Having started not one but two businesses, Niki has a few words of advice for budding entrepreneurs.
“I always say run for it and see where it takes you and do your best to try to get there,” she says. “My realist husband is quite the opposite, which is why we make such a great team because he kind of grounds me. So be sure to have someone who grounds you.”
Niki also recommends having a mentor on your team.
“Find a mentor. A business coach or something,” she says. “Find someone who has lived it and can help you and keep you going and keep your mindset right. That is huge when you’re an entrepreneur.”
She says entrepreneurs also have to know themselves and know when to ask for help.
“When it came to my virtual assistant stuff, I knew I wasn’t going to try to do this on my own. So I hired a coach. We bartered and traded,” Niki says. “It just takes time to find that right fit for you – someone who isn’t going to agree with everything you say. You need someone who is going to tell you, ‘No, I don’t think that’s a good idea,’ or, ‘Maybe try it this way instead.’ They should be encouraging but not push you in the wrong direction.”
Niki also reiterates the advice that every entrepreneur hates to hear.
“Don’t quit your day job,” she says – with a caveat. “But if you really, truly want it, then go for it. If you can do your day job and this on the side, and then, eventually leave your day job, that’s when you know it’s right. Leaving your job may feel wrong – it did for me – but if your business is something you love and you’re super passionate about, then do it.”