Dara Epstein, Executive Director
In 2005, I graduated from New York University with a Bachelor of Music degree and a solid liberal arts education. Throughout my four years as an NYU student, I held long-term babysitting positions for several wonderful families – including an intensive summer when I lived in the Hamptons and babysat for ten different families. After graduating from NYU, I moved to Rome for a year, studied 19th century Bel Canto opera technique in Naples, and – of course – babysat for two incredible families.
Prior to moving back to New York, I spent the entire summer searching for a babysitting position. After talking with over three hundred families and interviewing with about forty, I finally decided on a most incredible family – a family that ultimately inspired the development of SmartSitting and helped shape the company we are today.
In 2014, in conjunction with the Tory Burch Foundation, I graduated from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. This was an invaluable opportunity to work with 32 other female-owned businesses, learn and grow from each other, and join the larger 10,000 Small Businesses community.
Because of my remarkable experiences babysitting in New York and beyond, I have a profound understanding of the needs of parents – New York City parents in particular – and of babysitters. This asset is invaluable in helping both sides shape expectations, navigate the family-caregiver relationship, and create a positive and happy work-life balance for everyone. I look forward to playing “matchmaker” with many families and babysitters for years to come!
Suzie Zeldin, Director of Operations
I am a New York University graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and American Literature. Ever since I can remember, I have had a fondness for organization, coordination and imaginative play. As a child growing up in Brooklyn, I ran a “Friends Forever” club (with weekly meetings and dues!) and put on plays in my parents’ garage. I always had a project (or five) to work on and the energy to do them all. Luckily, not much has changed!
After convincing my family that it would be a crying shame to ship me off to law school, I buried myself in case files and documents at Constantine-Cannon, a litigation firm that taught me to cross my t’s and dot my i’s in every which way possible. A year later, I became an Account Executive at DDB Worldwide and Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, where I worked on major advertising campaigns for clients such as Subaru of America, Mohegan Sun, Avon and Wyndham Hotels and Resorts. Finding ways to impress our clients by going above and beyond expectations always excited me, but my passion for small business eventually won out and I left to pursue my own venture – my indie-pop band, The Narrative.
Though my band is doing well and keeps me busy (our music has been placed on MTV and Nickelodeon and we have just recently performed on the 2011 Vans Warped Tour) I joined SmartSitting because I was so impressed with the company and felt I could use my corporate advertising background to help bring the business to the next level. The opportunity to work with Lauren, Dara, and Lindsay has been life changing and I cannot envision a future without SmartSitting in it! I’m looking forward to finding ways to make SmartSitting better and better every day and enjoy every interaction with the families and babysitters in our network.
Lindsay Cohen, Director of Recruitment
I am a graduate of Bowling Green State University in Ohio, where I majored in International Studies and Spanish. A week after graduating, I jumped on the chance to move to the city and take advantage of exciting job opportunities. I could not be more comfortable with the fast-paced city lifestyle and I find working with SmartSitting to be an absolute pleasure.
After moving to NYC, I fulfilled a year of service with AmeriCorps, leading my own group of first-graders in an after school arts program. The program, much like SmartSitting, emphasizes the importance of keeping children engaged and learning as much as possible. I have officially declared this my mission in the real world and I enjoy meeting great, new SmartSitters who share this passion. In the future, I hope to attend graduate school to explore further careers in youth-centered organizations.
Through babysitting, tutoring, and volunteering with Big Brothers, Big Sisters, I have gained experience all across the board, from infants to teenagers, and from special needs to multiples. I even traveled to Mexico to volunteer with both toddlers and retirees, dealing with language and cultural differences. I feel that every experience has been positive; I see children learning and growing and I can’t help but notice that I have grown tremendously as well. I used to be the neighborhood babysitter and local lifeguard, but now I am also a group teacher, mentor, international volunteer, and SmartSitter / Director! I can’t exclude my many years as a barista either, because I certainly owe a lot of my energy to coffee!
When I am not working, I dabble in photography, watch documentaries, venture about the city as a “culinary tourist,” or simply curl up with my two cats. At some point, (possibly with motivation from the kids I work with and the amazing, talented SmartSitters I meet) I hope to pick up a lot more of the unique hobbies I once started, such as learning hula hoop tricks or putting an artistic touch on old furniture!
Lauren Kay, Founder
I graduated Magna Cum Laude from Brown in 2011, where I spent my time concentrating in American Civilization with a focus on American youth culture and gender relations. When I wasn’t busy studying for classes or managing SmartSitting, I could be found working on Brown Television shows, participating in entrepreneurship clubs, and designing student classes on relationships, entrepreneurship, and ‘mean girls’.
I attended the Parsippany New Jersey public schools from kindergarten until eighth grade, and spent my high school years at Newark Academy in Livingston, NJ. I am the youngest of four, the only girl, and the first of my siblings to attend college. My oldest brother works as a DJ, my middle brother as a free spirit, and my youngest brother attends a live-in program for adults with autism and related developmental disorders. My various life experiences have taught me to understand varied learning styles and abilities and have led me to truly value the efforts of those invested in the education, health and well-being of children of all circumstances.
I began working as a tutor six years ago, and had the good fortune to work with Lu (then 10), my tutee-turned-mentee-turned-little sister. Getting to see Lu grow up has easily been the most rewarding experience I have ever had. Lu introduced me to Taylor Swift and Glee, and in return I have done my best to help lead her through the ups and downs of middle (and now high!) school – providing what assistance I could with homework, friendships, and following her passions and dreams. My relationship with Lu epitomizes why I wake up every day filled with the desire to bring about positive change in the individual lives of families and children across NYC.