Carly Buxton’s memory of life just after her first daughter was born in 2017 is her baby in her lap and her phone in her hand, searching for solutions to the challenges of caring for a newborn.
“I had thought all this stuff would come to me or be natural and I found the opposite,” Buxton said. “I was in this internet black hole of blogs and podcasts.”
That experience was the genesis for her company Nessle, which offers an online directory of child-rearing professionals.
Buxton launched the business in 2019 and offered a directory service in what she described as a “Wizard of Oz” format, where she would connect parents to professionals herself.
Now the company has launched a new app that automated the process and is also rolling out a package targeted to businesses that would offer Nessle services to employees as a fringe benefit this fall.
And last month, the company announced it was selected as a participant in Amazon’s AWS Impact Accelerator for Women Founders. As part of the program, Nessle gets $125,000 in cash and $100,000 in Amazon web service credits.
Buxton said the idea of the business-to-business employee benefit service grew from a common way people have used Nessle: buying the company’s service on behalf of others.
“The demand has more and more been from people paying for others rather than paying for themselves, like buying it as a gift,” Buxton said. “We think there’s an opportunity for employers to offer Nessle to parents and their growing families. It could be the most promising direction for the growth of our company.”
Buxton said three nonprofits as well as a tech company and law firm will pilot the program.
Nessle’s pitch is that its curated service helps parents find answers to their questions faster and more easily than they would through scattershot Google searches and message boards.
“Instead of going to a shared forum where everybody and their aunt can weigh in, they go to our pre-approved group of experts,” Buxton said.
The pitch to professionals who list their services on Nessle, such as lactation counselors, doulas, midwives and nutritionists, is that it can be a source of income for them.
Buxton said she has 20 professionals signed up. Nessle takes 20 percent of each transaction those professionals book through the directory.
There isn’t an onboarding fee for professionals. Parent users can view the directory for free to find in-person or virtual services and pay for them a la carte. A one-on-one video question-and-answer session is $50 per 30-minute session.
Upon launched Nessle, Buxton got certified as a postpartum doula and lactation counselor, and she started to work with clients in the Boston area, where she was living at the time, after her childbirth experience.
She said she used digital tools like video conferencing but it didn’t get a lot of buy-in from parents or professionals until the pandemic shifted daily life to digital spaces.
“I was like, ‘This business isn’t going anywhere.’ But with the pandemic, parents absolutely had to rely on digital support,” Buxton said.
Now living in Richmond’s West End, Buxton operates the business out of the 1717 Innovation Center in Shockoe Bottom. She and co-founder Michelle Cunningham are full-time at the company and they have a couple of contractors slated to become full-time employees.