Get to Know More About Sawyer and Its Founder

Get to Know More About Sawyer and Its Founder
Photo credit: Jana PeaI love exploring and doing cool things with my kids in and around NYC. However, it can be challenging to discover educational programs and cool activities without hours of searching. Enter Sawyer, a subscription-free platform that connects parents to hundreds of the most enriching activities and programs, from semester-long after-school classes, to last-minute toddler music class, to a range of holiday and summer camps.

Currently active in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago neighborhoods, with plans to further expand in 2019, the platform’s innovative technology allows families to filter providers by location, child’s age, activity type, and more to find the best local experiences, allowing parents to easily create and maintain a calendar of activities for their children. Read on to learn more about this platform from our latest interview with its founder, Marissa Evans Alden:

Get to Know More About Sawyer

Weekend Jaunts: How did the idea of Sawyer come about?

Marissa Evans Alden: It was 2015 and I was working at Rent The Runway with my now Sawyer co-founder Stephanie Choi. She’d recently had a baby and was finding it very difficult to juggle being a new mom with a demanding career which didn’t allow her much time to be searching for activities for her little one. I’d go round to hers for dinner and we’d frequently find ourselves chatting into the wee hours as she went through her growing list of grievances at the whole process. We both couldn’t believe that even though we had access to all this incredible technology designed to save us time, when it came to navigating out-of-school programming, we were still expected to spend hours on Google, pick up the phone and then write and deliver a check. That just seemed archaic to us. It really didn’t match up with how we were living the rest of our lives. The platform Stephanie and so many other parents desperately needed simply didn’t exist. So we decided to build it ourselves.

Seeing what Sawyer has evolved into is something I’m incredibly proud of. Existing as a subscription-free, mobile-first platform, we’re on a mission to ensure every child has the opportunity to discover their own love of learning, and are alleviating some of the stress of parenting along the way. So whether you’re looking to plan the next few weeks of your child’s Mandarin studies, or simply want to find something to do on a rainy day, there is something on Sawyer to cater to every child’s budding interests, and every parent’s needs.

Weekend Jaunts: How does it work?

Marissa Evans Alden: The Sawyer marketplace connects parents (currently more than 100,000) to hundreds of the most enriching children’s activities and programs, right in their own neighborhood – making out-of-school education more accessible than ever. With Sawyer, parents can sign up for free with their email and immediately begin scoping out fun classes, semester-long courses and summer camps for their children. We’ve also designed for simplicity and convenience, so the site is mobile-friendly and allows parents to filter activities by age, location and activity type to find the best local experiences. Parents can also create and maintain a bespoke calendar of activities for their children making it easy to plan the rest of their lives around.

The best part is that the marketplace hooks into our backend platform, Sawyer Tools, that our providers use to run their business – so their listings are updated in real-time. That means parents never have to worry about booking a class that might be cancelled or showing up to one that’s already full.

Weekend Jaunts: How can Sawyer help families?

Marissa Evans Alden: As a working parent myself, I know how tough it can be to find enough hours in the day to get everything done. Between chasing after my toddler, finding time to spend together as a family, managing my own work/life commitments, in addition to finding out-of-school activities for my daughter, it can be overwhelming. With Sawyer, we wanted to give parents as much time back as we could. We’ve streamlined the activity booking process, so parents can find things to do with their family and cross things off their list with no headaches.

Not only that, but from every single booking, we’re also learning more and more about how parents plan out-of-school programming for their kids. This allows us to continuously fine-tune the platform to ensure we’re meeting the ever-changing needs of busy parents. Basically the more you use Sawyer, we can provide you with more tailored recommendations based off of prior bookings.

We really pride ourselves in taking a data-driven approach to everything that we do and create. With this in mind, we’re really starting to get a grasp on what the future of Sawyer might look like and our vision for the platform that will go far beyond convenience. We have several irons in the fire right now so I’m really excited to see where we’re at this time next year!

Weekend Jaunts: What sort of activities can you find on the platform?

Marissa Evans Alden: We have thousands of activities available, with more being added every week. We want every curious child to find the activity that feels right for them. We divide activities into 23 categories, ranging from cooking, to STEM, to mindfulness and more. Our search-by-age platform also allows parents to find the best, appropriate class for their child, whether they’re 2-months-old or 17-years-old. For those reading who live in Brooklyn, some of our most popular providers include Treasure Trunk Theatre, Brooklyn Game Lab, The Dynamite Shop and Stories Brooklyn which offer everything from creative drama to storytelling as well as after-school fun and summer programming. There’s really a lot to choose from!

Weekend Jaunts: Anything else to add?

Marissa Evans Alden: Children are so over scheduled these days. Is having your 8-year-old juggling piano lessons, soccer practice, STEM classes and studying Mandarin really necessary? While it’s great to have your kids involved and trying out different things, it’s really important that you take the time to choose the “right” one for your child. I always think that one new activity per semester is a good guideline to follow!


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