There has been a long time a shortage of accessible and affordable childcare centers in the U.S. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the shortage only got worse with 16,000 child care centers forced to close their doors, and many suppliers who have to work at limited capacity.
This has left working parents without the support system they need to be able to work every day – and is a contributing factor to the country’s worsening worker shortage crisis.
According to a recent Pew Research study, parents are still struggling to find childcare. Among working parents with children under the age of six who rely on childcare providers, more than 80% say they would have difficulty finding back-up childcare if their usual provider was not an option.
But one small business in San Diego, California, is reinventing finding childcare by leveraging the digital services economy and connecting parents with providers in real time.
PRODUCER, founded in 2019, serves as a sort of Uber for childcare. Parents can log on to the TOOTRiS website; search by their geographic area, budget and other filters; and are then immediately matched with quality, affordable childcare places, even for temporary places or drop-ins.
The platform is accessible to parents on a desktop, tablet or mobile app to provide the kind of on-the-go and last-minute convenience that working parents need.
Alessandra Lezama, CEO and founder of TOOTRiS, joined the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation in 2021 to discuss childcare resources for professionals and highlights how important childcare is to the growth of the wider economy and economic development.
And TOOTRiS doesn’t just help working parents. The company also promotes entrepreneurial opportunities for individuals to become child care providers, helping to increase the much-needed supply of child care nationwide. TOOTRiS provides access to free tools and resources, such as automated payment systems, that new providers can use to grow their programs and boost enrollment.
“In 2020, TOOTRiS supported less than 100 childcare providers in San Diego. Today, TOOTRiS provides valuable and 100% free resources to over 122,000 child care providers in 22 states that connect working parents with these programs in real time,” Lezama told the American room in 2021.
Employers are also jumping into partnership with TOOTRiS.
Through TOOTRiS’ employer platform, companies can provide fully managed childcare benefits to their workforce, regain employee productivity and increase their ROI. TOOTRiS recently partnered with restaurants, manufacturing facilities, tech companies and more to help workers across the country—and across industries—access childcare.
In March 2022, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing (MTM) in Huntsville, Alabama, announced a partnership with TOOTRiS to provide childcare assistance to employees and contribute to the cost of care.
MTM currently employs 3,000 team members and plans to hire up to 1,000 more team members in 2022 to help the facility increase its capacity to assemble up to 300,000 vehicles annually.
TOOTRiS also recently partnered with Urban Plates, a California fast-casual restaurant chain, and Maravai Life Sciences, a San Diego biotech company.
Maravai provides critical products that enable the development of drug therapies, diagnostics and vaccines. The company joined TOOTRiS to provide its employees with access to more childcare options, and as an effort to promote greater gender diversity in biotech.
At Urban Plates, childcare can be a constant struggle, especially for parents who work the flexible day, night and weekend schedules common in the restaurant industry. Now, every one of Urban Plates’ more than 650 employees across California can find and connect with child care providers.
PRODUCER recently expanded, now covers all 50 states, and has more than 180,000 providers on its platform, creating the largest network of available, licensed real-time child care options in the country.
TOOTRiS was recently recognized by the American Chamber of Commerce as the winner of the Dream Big Minority-Owned Business Achievement Award in 2021. The annual Dream Big Awards celebrates the achievements of small businesses and highlights their contributions to America’s economic growth.
About the authors
Manager, Communications and Strategy, US Chamber of Commerce
Lindsay is a manager of the communications and strategy team. She previously worked as a writer and editor at US News and World Report.