For our latest installment in the Supporting Small Businesses Series, we sat down with Mollie Yarsike. She is the founder of Black Tie Kids, which offers an on-site camp-like experience to keep little ones entertained during weddings and events so that the adults get to adult! Their second division, Black Tie Pups, provides pup care, and will handle the transportation and logistics needed for you to include your furry friend in your special day. Mollie shares some great advice on activities for children during this time and also gives us some insight into finding inspiration in the everyday.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
My name is Mollie Yarsike, and I grew up in Detroit, Michigan always babysitting for various families in the area. For college, I attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, and after graduation, I moved out to Los Angeles. Living in LA was something I had always wanted to do, and I figured after graduation was the best time to make the move. Though I didn’t know anyone there, through the F.I.T. Chabad, I was able to make friends through the Jewish community.
How did you get the idea to start Black Tie Kids?
Recently after moving to LA, I attended a Shabbat dinner for young professionals that was hosted by a rabbi and his wife. His three young children were trying to keep to themselves, but during the dinner portion of the meal, the youngest child, who was about four years, old was acting out and wanting attention. Her parents were busy hosting the meal, so I tried to connect with her. We had some fun at the dinner table, laughing and playing eye spy together. Once I was home, I had a “shower thought” and realized that there needed to be something for kids to still feel special and important during adult-focused events.
I’ve always nannied and babysat throughout college and high school, and I am still in touch with many of the kids/parents. I realized no service like this really existed like this so why not try to start a childcare service for weddings and events? I am a go-getter and wasn’t afraid to take the plunge. I started by “cold emailing” wedding planners in the area. Planners started to use Black Tie Kids, as they didn’t know of any other service like this.
As word got around about Black Tie Kids to other wedding planners and vendors, more and more clients wanted to use our service. Clients and event venues didn’t want the liability of having to care for any young wedding guests. Some couples also only want their flower girls or ring bearers for the ceremony, but not at the party. Throughout the past few years of working at weddings, I’ve learned what to do, how to grow, and how to manage a team. About three years in, I realized that there was a need for dog care at weddings. Many couples have their dog as part of their ceremony, so we added pet care on as part of our services, which has been a very popular addition.
How have people been able to learn about your service and sign up?
Most people connect with us through their wedding planners or venue coordinators. As we keep growing, word of mouth really helps. Additionally, our clients have posted amazing Yelp reviews which helps new customers connect with us. I am also continuously networking and continuing to interact on social media so that our name is recognized and known.
How has Coronavirus affected your business?
Right now, there is a struggle for us wedding/event vendors, as we navigate how to reschedule dates with our clients. Thankfully because I do have another job, I’m able to tell my current clients that there is no charge to move their date and the price won’t increase even if the event will take place next year. It’s not like they are choosing to cancel their wedding, this is an unprecedented time.
How many cities are you in and how have you determined which areas to bring Black Tie Kids to?
Black Tie Kids started off in Los Angeles because that’s where I was living and where the idea came to fruition. From here I built up my staff in LA and then ventured into a few other major California cities, San Diego and San Francisco. My main target audience is in the surrounding area of large cities like LA, San Diego, San Francisco and New York City. In a few years, once everything is more stable in the economy, Miami and Chicago are the two markets I would like to enter next. In general, I’m looking to expand in big cities where clients would be looking for an additional service like this. Though Michigan doesn’t have big cities, it was easy to start up a branch here since this is where I am from.
I grew my teams in various cities through the “Toaster” Facebook community, which is a wide-ranging group of people who enjoy pop culture and keep up with The Morning Toast millennial morning show.
Can you talk to us more about the power of networking and how you’ve built your team?
From booking weddings and events to growing my team, Black Tie Kids has been built on networking. As business started to grow, I needed to start building a team. I began by reaching out to industry contacts, to see if they knew anyone who would be interested in working as Black Tie Kids staff members.
Within The Morning Toast, there are many Facebook sub-groups for all different topics (Trader Joe’s, Teachers, Nurses, etc). One of the main ways we connect is through our specific city subgroup. I reached out to the Socal Toasters, who I knew would be interested in making some extra money on the side, as living in a big city is expensive.
From here I began to reach out to Toasters in San Diego, San Francisco, and most recently New York. The Morning Toast Community has been essential (and will continue to be) in growing Black Tie Kids.
What are some of your go-to tips, tricks, or activities that you’d recommend for parents who are stuck at home with their children during this time?
Though I don’t have kids of my own, I believe that keeping a schedule with your kids is very important. To encourage this, crafts, outside time (socially distant from others), practicing letters, etc. can always be turned into a fun activity.
Many parents don’t love their children to have screen time, but now is the time to bend the rules a little bit. If kids have extra screen time during quarantine, it can give parents a bit of a break. Other fun activities can be kids’ yoga, baking, and building robots with toilet paper rolls. Pinterest is a great resource!
Gardening and tending to plants is a great way to teach kids responsibility, while also having fun and learning more about the process of how food gets to your home. Ali (Fedotowsky) Manno, former Bachelorette and TV host, wrote a great blog post on this. Black Tie Kids also provided childcare at her wedding in LA!
Ali has her kids pick all of the weeds in the driveway, and while they obviously don’t know that this is the least fun part of gardening, they have so much fun pulling out the weeds and taking care of watering the plants.
Most New York City families are in a small space together and not everyone has access to go outside regularly, so switching up the inside activities is important. If children are able to go to the park and run around a bit to get some of their energy out, this will benefit both kids and parents. Every night at 7pm, all of New York City opens their windows and cheers for all essential workers. This can be a good time maker in your child’s schedule. They can bath, have dinner, cheer, and then wind down a bit before bed. The cheer is something for kids to look forward to, as they can be loud and use their “outside voices” and get out all of their excess energy at the end of the day. It’s a way for them to give back to the essential workers out there and to also feel part of everything.
This can also be a time to prompt conversations for children to express how they’re feeling. Kids are missing their friends and the routine of school and having to see everyone in masks now can be frightening, so keeping the conversation open at home can be helpful.
Any advice for people who want to start their own business or project during this time?
Young entrepreneurs can use this downtime in many ways… to connect with others, to start a business, to take classes online. Now is the time for everyone to step back and ask themselves what they would like to do and how they can take advantage of this time at home. Starting a business right now would probably be difficult due to the economy, but this is also the time that you can begin your business plan or reach out to others to network virtually. If anyone reading this would like to connect, send me an email. I think that many of us entrepreneurs are in the mindset that we want to give back and help others in any way you can. Though everyone is busy with their own lives, we are all eager to give back. Now is the time to reach out and set up a virtual coffee date.
What tips do you have for other entrepreneurs?
It’s been amazing to have this little idea and watch it grow. Though I have many plans to grow, it’s still crazy to me that the idea sparked from a Shabbat dinner is now a multi-state business. I think this shows that you can find inspiration in anything you do. It’s important for all entrepreneurs to stay active with their goals and don’t give up. Now that I’m living back in New York City, I believe that things (most of the time) do happen for a reason. You’ll wind up where you’re supposed to be. Even though transitions are hard, things will work out as long as you keep going for it and don’t give up.
Any parting words?
This time is difficult for anyone who is engaged, but if you’re someone who’s been looking forward to your big day, the hashtag going around the wedding industry is #dontcancelpostpone. You still deserve your special day. Yes, it’s going to be tough that it will be a bit delayed, and some of your vendors might not be available, there is plenty of time to plan and still make this day the wedding day you’ve always dreamed of. Many couples now are choosing to elope, as they can find photographers and officiants who will perform their services from a safe distance. My friend’s sister recently was married via Instagram Live. Her whole family dressed up and watched through their phones/computers.
If you live in one of our service locations, and are in need of child care or pup care for your 2021 wedding feel free to fill out the contact page on our website for a quote/more information. Also, make sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook.