Northern Wilds Magazine
Karin Kvam. | SUBMITTED
Along the Shore

Spoonfuls of solutions: Duluth Poppins provides seamless nanny matches

A new nanny agency has popped up in the Duluth area. Named after the iconic Mary Poppins, Duluth Poppins endeavors to streamline the process. The agency is the brainchild of Karin Kvam, who has been a nanny herself. She hopes to make the search for the perfect nanny as effortless as swallowing a spoonful of sugar.

“Childcare is just really hard to find,” Kvam said. With the success of her first agency, Rochester Poppins, which catered to medical professionals, Kvam saw an opportunity to expand her services to Duluth. She serves as a matchmaker for families, nannies, and sitters.

Tracy Ramsay is a realtor who helps people relocate to the Duluth area. She reached out to Kvam and asked her to bring her nanny matchmaking service to Duluth.

“I first met Karin when she was a UMD student serving as a nanny for a dear friend of mine; she was professional, caring, and competent,” said Ramsay. “Seeing what she was able to accomplish in Rochester (serving Mayo Clinic staff and medical visitors) and what we needed in Duluth, it felt like a natural, mutually beneficial fit.”

When families use the Duluth Poppin’s app, they don’t have to worry about thinking they made a connection only to never hear from the nanny again. Kvam says that on some of the other major online apps, there is an issue of not hearing from anyone. “A family may reach out to multiple nannies and just never hear anything on those big platforms, which can be extremely frustrating. We take that out of the equation,” she said.

Nannies are extensively vetted, including passing a CPR class, a background check, a motor vehicle check, a social media check, and having four references.

Kvam helps families write contracts, including how much nannies will be paid—the going rate in Duluth is $18 per hour. The contracts break down the nitty-gritty of the job duties and responsibilities. Some families need a household manager or someone to cook and clean. Other families have rules about using smartphones while watching their children or posting photos of their children on social media.

Sometimes, families might not think about a contract. However, in the nanny realm, template contracts lay out the minimum requirements and expectations.

Jeff Adolf is a father living in Rochester. He said looking for a nanny before finding Rochester Poppins was a “crap shoot.” He and his wife had a nanny, but she was ready to retire.

Through a recommendation from a mutual friend, Adolf and his wife reached out to Kvam, and the response was swift. “Karin did all the weeding out,” Adolf said. He said he appreciated the thoroughness of the vetting process and the convenience of the paperwork provided. “We called on Monday morning, and Karin had recommended two choices. Both were good, and by Wednesday, we had a nanny.”

Heather Gerlach, who has an undergraduate degree in psychology and is now in school to pursue a master’s in counseling, is a nanny in Rochester. “One of my friends and coworkers had worked with [Karin] before, and so I let her know I was looking for a side job.”

Gerlach has a full-time job working with adults, however, she missed working with children.

“I feel Karin personally tries to get to know nannies and families… making sure the personalities are matched and the nanny is able to meet the family’s needs,” Gerlach said.

Gerlach said using the app provides her the opportunity to work with a variety of families. The fact that the families must be vetted and go through paperwork also comforts her. “I appreciate that the families are going above and beyond to be vetted to be on the app,” she said.

Gerlach also listed ghosting as an issue with some other babysitter apps. “They’ll book me, and then they’ll cancel at the last minute, kind of thing.” One thing she likes about the app is that families can see when she is available for babysitting gigs. “So, the communication is easier.”

Hannah Schepp is another nanny. She started her first nanny job with Kvam in 2022. “She had someone who really needed help ASAP and felt I would be a good fit. She introduced me to them, helped build the contract, and helped negotiate pay and set up payment,” Schepp said. “She also checked in through the contract with both me and the family.”

Kvam said nannies tend to fall into four categories. They are mostly female, though she does have a couple of male nannies. Many are college students, and many are teachers who want to step back from the classroom, but still want to earn money and work with children. Another subset is moms who are empty nesters, and grandmothers.

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