Whether you just moved to a new neighborhood or you're traveling, you've probably wished there was a faster way to find the perfect playground for your kids to blow off steam, the nearest public place to change your baby's diaper, or, perhaps most challenging of all, reliable, qualified, licensed child care. This very conundrum is what inspired Sara Mauskopf and Anne Halsall to create Winnie, an app that's being called "Yelp for parents."
Both Silicon Valley vets and millennial moms, Mauskopf and Halsall both have impressive experience in tech. Mauskopf spent time at Google, Twitter, and YouTube, and Halsall was at Google, Inkling, and Quora before the two crossed paths at Postmates. When Mauskopf returned to work after maternity leave with her first child, she and Halsall—who had just had her second child—hit it off.
"We immediately bonded as the only moms there," Halsall tells Parents.com. "And as a new mom, she had all these questions for me. When she had her baby, she struggled a lot with feeling really isolated and stuck at home. She didn’t know where she could take her baby." For instance, she wanted to know how she could easily find spots that were friendly for nursing or had changing tables.
Halsall's answer for her at the time: "It's word of mouth, you talk to people, and there isn’t really a centralized place to find that information." This obviously struck the pair is bizarre, being that as millennial parents who work in tech, they knew they could use Postmates to "get a burrito in 30 minutes or less," but they couldn't pull up an app to find something as basic as a spot to change a diaper. "We felt this was a common problem, and we were passionate to solve it, and we took the leap," Halsall explains.
Both women put in their notice at Postmates, and the next day, they started working on what's now known as Winnie. That was back in 2016, and currently, the app boasts over 1M users (with data on over 10,000 places across the U.S.).
Clearly, the duo's suspicions that this concept was one parents were in need of was spot-on. The app's utilizes crowdsourcing to gather information on family-friendly spots, and Halsall shares that early users were really eager to share information. "When you have kids, you really have to figure out everything yourself, and then, you feel like you’ve won a war, and you want to share that information with the next person, so they benefit," she explains. "From the beginning, I was stricken by how helpful and kind the community was."
She really got the sense that parents using the app were eager to connect and felt like "we're all in this together," sharing their experiences in order to support one another.
Now, Winnie users can pull up the app to connect with their local network of moms and dads, ask questions and get recommendations about anything from sleep training to local child care, find local, fun activities for kids or new friends and playdates, as well as browse and search a directory of family-friendly restaurants, shopping, parks, etc.
The app also recently launched their comprehensive child care search tool in San Francisco, Houston, NYC, and soon cities and towns across the U.S. You can enter your zip code to see every licensed provider near you on a map, then filter for factors like schedule, age, or availability. Providers claim their page to add photos, list open spaces and update their information, while parents share reviews about their experience.
Of his experience using Winnie, a dad named Andy S., shares with Parents.com, "A friend, a new dad, was complaining about a particular restaurant chain not having a changing table, one of those things being a parent makes you notice. Winnie knows where to find one and can often tell him which places have the rare changing table in the men's restroom. Thankfully, he is a good dad and was keen on that feature. I started telling him that Winnie is like an all-knowing grandma, who doesn't judge you and understands modern parenting."
He acknowledges that, at this point, Winnie doesn't quite have the "volume of reviews that Google or Yelp has," but the app's "quality and information targeted directly towards the needs of parents, caregivers, and kids makes the app a worthy tool for parents when going on an adventure in the home or out."
And when on those adventures, "just knowing little things can be really useful," says Winnie user Anna Gazdowicz. "As in, are there changing tables in the bathrooms, or at least enough space to be able to change a baby's diaper somewhere within the establishment? Is there enough space to be able to move around easily with a child? Does the restaurant provide high chairs? We were recently looking for a place to go for brunch with a friend, and I checked Winnie and saw that a nearby restaurant not only had high chairs, but they also took reservations on weekends for brunch. Score!"
Gazdowicz also proves Halsall's point that users enjoy supporting other parents. "I enjoy being an active member of a community," Gazdowicz tells Parents.com. "For example, I visited a particular local park to take my baby for a walk in the baby carrier when he was really young—around 2 months old—and it was a great park just for that, but it wouldn't be as fun to visit with toddler-aged kids, nor would it have been doable if I had been using a stroller instead of a carrier due to the uneven terrain. So, I made sure to include that info when I wrote a post about it on Winnie."
Although the app already checks so many boxes for users, there's obviously so many other pockets of parenting info that Mauskopf and Halsall look forward to diving into. The next level for the app? Expand offerings around child care, so parents can discuss and discover quality daycares, preschools, summer camps, classes, extracurricular activities, etc. "It works really well with our idea that we want to help families be doing more with their children and having more enriching experiences," Halsall says. "[The app] is very helpful to keep them happy, and keeping them happy keeps mom and dad happy."