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Childcare is a breeze with Columbus-based Sitting Made Simple

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Babysitting is big business; just ask any parent who doles out hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars each month for childcare. You can also ask Amanda Knapp, founder of Sitting Made Simple (SMS), a Columbus-based babysitting service that is opening new locations nationwide as a franchisor.

Sitting Made Simple began 11 years ago out of what Knapp saw as a need in Columbus for reliable, trusted, and all-around great babysitters. But she never imagined the babysitting service that she started to make extra cash would blow up the way that it did. “To be honest, I think it’s kind of weird to think about, especially knowing 11 years later everything that was coming my way when, honestly, I was just so naive and not even thinking about what I was really doing at the time.”

Having grown up in Kansas the oldest of three kids in a two-working-parent home and the oldest of “like a million” cousins, Knapp had the opportunity to hone her childcare and household management skills. “Running a home and childcare was really just all I knew. So literally, the day after I graduated high school, I walked right into a nanny service,” she says. “And my first family, at 18 years old, was with a single father and five kids.” Although she had no college degree, Knapp was armed with a lifetime of valuable experience that would pay off in the long-run.

Today, her company is in nine cities, with Knapp at the helm of the franchise business and the Columbus location. Other locations include Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Indianapolis, Nashville and Raleigh— and Knapp says she hopes to soon close a deal for a new franchise location in Denver. The decision to franchise in 2015 wasn’t an easy one, but Knapp says it’s one of the best things she could have done.

Photos: Rebecca Tien

But not just anyone can open an SMS. Knapp is looking for franchise owners that “get it,” and that’s why nearly all of the owners have been formerly connected to SMS in some way. The Indianapolis owner was a Columbus mom who used the service and saw a need when she moved. Fort Worth’s owner used the babysitting service in Dallas, and wanted to bring the service to the neighboring area. Raleigh’s owners are sisters, one of whom was a sitter at the SMS Indianapolis location for several years. “We are all definitely in the know as to how the SMS experience works, for sure,” says Knapp, who personally and extensively trains every new owner.

How does SMS work for customers? Families join SMS by paying a $50 annual fee and a varying scheduling fee ($10, $15 or $25) based on the amount of notice they give the service. Members can log into their account from a mobile or desktop, pop in the dates they need childcare and then choose a sitter based on their availability. The SMS office takes it from there, with dedicated staff who manage all phone calls and emails to ensure every request is handled with a personal touch.

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Although technology has become a huge asset to the business, it has brought with it competition. “We are not an online business, specifically,” Knapp says. “There are a lot of those online sites where you are hoping your profile matches with somebody or you connect with somebody; we’ve never been set up that way.” Instead, Knapp or her franchise owners meet with every sitter in-person to ensure they are a good fit, and then they nurture the relationship, which Knapp says helps keep both sitters and families happy.

“[Technology] is a great thing to have. I mean, look, you need the convenience. You certainly need to be able to connect with. But the problem is, if you are not meeting and screening in person, there can be problems,” she says. “I see many of them for yoga. We hang out each semester. They’re required to touch base to talk about things that happened since the last time we updated. There are [sitters] who absolutely need to also feel safe and connected to what they’re doing.”

Although Knapp says she was surprised when babysitting apps and services started popping up left and right throughout the last decade, she is confident that SMS will achieve continued success if she stays the course. “When you see competition popping up, it really makes you understand what it is you have and what it is you need to do. And I really, to be honest with you, I stay in my own damn lane. I learned a long time ago that I could have been worried when businesses popped up. The problem is, it’s been years since all of them started and I’ve been here and I have not seen any change in [the volume] of our business,” she says. “I’m OK with other babysitting services being here; by all means, you know, we don’t keep everyone [who applies to be a sitter]. So you’ve got to have somewhere to push those folks over to.”

When you picture a babysitting service, you might imagine a group of teenage girls on their phones a la The Baby-Sitters Club, but Knapp’s hard- nosed approach to her business is quite the opposite. “This is not the cutesy business that everyone imagines,” she says. “This is a hard business to have. I know how to oversee thousands of sits in one city and still sleep every night. And, 11 years later, to still be in business and have a reputation we have here is something. I mean, it’s just smart business.”

To learn more, visit sittingmadesimple. com/columbus.

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Health & Fitness

The Great Outdoors (Are Always Open): An easy scavenger hunt to ease you into nature

Linda Lee Baird

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Quarantine. Isolation. Social distancing. The words defining our historic (and historically difficult) moment are all about solitude—and we’re bound to be using them for some time to come. But getting through these long days doesn’t mean we need to be inside. In fact, even under the “stay at home” orders currently in effect, getting out in the fresh air is still very much allowed. Spring goes on springing, and the time away from schools and the office gives us the opportunity to soak it in, observe, and enjoy the changes. 

For those who have been disconnected from nature for a few years, or never connected in the first place, here’s a beginner’s guide to the plants and animals you may see around our Metro Parks, woods, and rivers this spring. We went with common species—because it feels good to be able to check things off your list—but think of this as a starting point for paying a little more attention to the natural world around you. 

And if you are one of the many people who is suddenly leading a homeschool, you can use this as an educational scavenger hunt. My “class” will be taking this list up to Highbanks on the first warm April afternoon. 

Birds

Robin

My mom used to point out the “first robin of spring” as March turned to April every year—a sign that the season was changing and more birds would soon be joining their song in the trees.

Hawk

Look up! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s… actually a bird. Our flat lands and wide skies are an ideal combination to catch a hawk carefully circling in  the sky.  (Because this is an easy scavenger hunt, any bird of prey can check this box. We won’t tell). 

Warblers

The Ohio Division of Wildlife calls warblers, “one of the avian highlights of spring.” While there are several species that visit our state, the blue-winged, golden winged, and yellow all have bright yellow coloring that perhaps makes them easier to spot in the trees. ODW recommends Greenlawn Cemetery as a local spot to see them.

Animals

Deer

They’re everywhere in Ohio, but there’s still something magical about spotting one in the wild and looking into its tranquil eyes.

Butterflies

Yes, there are many different types of butterflies that live in Central Ohio and yes, they are most active later in the year, but the common painted lady starts fluttering around as early as April. If you find a butterfly of any species this early in the season, we’ll give you full credit. 

Frogs

Head down to the water and open your ears for that familiar croak. You’re likely to spot them chillin’ on the bank or the nearest lily pad, but it’s really fun if you get to watch them swim. 

Baby… anything

It’s spring, the season many species welcome their babies into the world. And if there’s anything cuter than an animal, it’s a baby animal. Ducklings, bunnies, birds nests; anywhere you can spot an animal family will let you tick this box. 

Plants

Fiddlehead ferns

One of the first signs that the earth is returning from winter is the emergence of fiddlehead ferns. Their distinctive spiral sticking up from the ground portends more plants to follow. (They are also supposed to be delicious when cooked, but since this is a scavenger hunt occurring in a public park, please leave them for the next visitor). 

Lilac

You’ll probably smell them before you see them. There’s a reason lilac is dried and used in aeromatics year round, but—lucky us—we’re quickly approaching the season to experience the real thing. Those small, purple buds that smell like absolute bliss? That’s lilac. 

Maple tree

Sure, it’s at its peak in the fall when the leaves turn gold and red, but can you identify a maple before it’s leaves are in full bloom and it’s not producing any syrup? Now’s your chance to find out. 

Fungus

Mushrooms count, but the best fungus in my opinion grows on old tree stumps and boasts beautiful stripes.

Feature photo by Rebecca Tien.

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Health & Fitness

COVID-19 Coverage: Expert tips for staying healthy during your stay-at home

Mitch Hooper

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It's been nine days since Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has placed the state under a shelter-in-place order. However long this will last is unknown, but Dr. Anup Kanodia has a suggestion: use this time for your own self-health.

Dr. Kanodia, an Akron-native, is the owner and head MD at KanodiaMD in Westerville. He did a fellowship of alternative, integrative medicine at Harvard University and went on to earn his Master's in Public Health. His practice focuses on integrating functional medicine with conventional medicine. In addition to owning his own private practice, he works part-time with addiction clinics and part-time with urgent care.

"What we're finding, in my practice, is that a lot of people want to know how do they help themselves in this time. What can they do beyond social distancing and hand washing?" Dr. Kanodia said.

To find ways to cope and grow through this situation, 614Now talked with Dr. Kanodia via Zoom. Here are some of his tips to finding happiness and peace during these stressful times.

1.) Get into a routine

Working, sleeping, living, and eating in the same place can make the days feel like they blur together. Dr. Kanodia says a daily routine can be exactly what you need to help create a separation of your work and personal life as they collide together at home.

"[It starts] with having a regular sleep schedule," Dr. Kanodia explained. "And then getting out of the house first thing in the morning; meaning go for a walk, or go get something. But if you're stuck inside the house all day long, that's going to ruin your mental health."

For folks working at home, he also suggests making your work space separate from your bedroom. Don't work in bed, he says, and try to work in a different room than your bedroom if possible.

2.) Sleep is crucial right now

Sleep is the time our body repairs itself making it a vital part of a healthy immune system. But with schedules out-of-order, the long hours inside can make falling asleep difficult. Things like exercise throughout your day can help at nighttime, and Dr. Kanodia suggests writing before bed if you are struggling to fall asleep as well as limiting blue light exposure.

If, on the other hand, you find yourself waking up much earlier than usual, he says to simply go about your day, but it's important not to take naps as they can throw off your sleep cycle.

3.) And so is staying physically active; better yet if you can safely get outdoors

He says that functional medicine is finding that there are even more benefits to the immune system and overall health of the body through doing outdoor activities and being in the sunlight.

"Walking out in nature is even more beneficial if you could. Sunlight, outdoor light, or daylight helps us make Vitamin D, helps us shutdown sleeping hormones, and helps with depression."

However, there is a limit to exercise. He warns that if you feel tired roughly two hours after a work-out, you might've overworked yourself. Be cautious as being overworked can lead to a lowered immune system.

4.) Continue social distancing, but use technology to stay connected and close with loved ones

Dr. Kamodia suggests folks use applications like FaceTime and Zoom to stay in-touch with their families and friends. KamodiaMD also offers video chats—both in groups or solo—for anyone with questions or struggling in this time.

He also suggests alternative ways to do this such as video games and online games. Additionally, forums and chats are great ways to stay connected, he says.

5.) Keep a positive outlook with healthy outlets

It's difficult to do so in times like these, but Dr. Kanodia says a positive outlook is vital right now. And having a positive attitude doesn't mean you are immune to the fears, rather, it's coming to terms with them, he says.

"We have to accept our fear, [being] overwhelmed, and anxiousness. [...] Stress and mindset are unmet expectations. If I have expectations of how long this will last, if I will get COVID-19, that I don't like working from home; any of these expectations make us more stressed. If I go with the flow, what's the best I can do with this one minute? And keep going down that path."

For this, he suggests finding hobbies that brought you joy when you were younger. For some it's adult coloring, for others it's sports.

"Figure out in the past what kept you calm. Whatever it is that is your stress reliever, now is a good time to do it."

For more information on Dr. Kanodia, or to download his free COVID-19, Cold, and Flu Top 3 Recommendations, visit kanodiamd.com.

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Style

Columbus native to appear on premiere of ‘Making the Cut’

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Series debuts tonight, March 27 on Amazon Prime

Kent State School of Fashion alumni, Joshua Hupper and Will Riddle, will both be featured contestants on the new series hosted and produced by fashion gurus, Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn. Hupper, a 2004 alumnus, and Riddle, a 2013 alumnus, both majored in fashion design and have had significant roles in the industry since graduating. They were two of just 12 contestants from all over the globe to be featured on the 10-episode series.

Since graduating in 2004 with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree, Hupper resides in Shanghai, China, where he founded the brand BABYGHOST, a successful e-commerce fashion brand based in China. His designs have been featured in Vogue and on runways around the world. His line features youthful, feminine ready-to-wear fashions for the “mischievous girl.” Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Hupper’s talents were shaped by his artistic upbringing and his past experiences in internships with Diane Von Furstenburg and Thakoon.

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