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, 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. I look forward to finding ways to make SmartSitting better and better every day and enjoy every interaction with the families and babysitters in our network.
Kirstyn Van Patten, Client Director
From an early age, I had a love of all things artistic. Whether it be putting on a play in my garage or choreographing dance routines to movie soundtracks with my younger sister, I loved expressing myself through new and varied artistic avenues. I went on to study Art History at CSU Long Beach for my Bachelor’s Degree. There, I was inspired to start traveling the globe when an art historical tour of Greece was offered by one of my professors. The travel bug in me was awoken and I set out to discover the art and cultures of the world.
Following my time in Paris, I received my Master’s Degree in Art History at Brooklyn College. I spent a year as a SmartSitter with an amazing family in the city who embraced my love of art. We spent countless hours creating, imagining, and talking about art. A life-long bond was created with my SmartFamily during that time and I still see them quite often. Then, I spent a year as an artist’s assistant for the Learning Through Art program with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. We worked in several 3rd grade classes teaching technique, creating works, and talking to the children about art. I also worked at The Museum of Modern Art where I was able to see world-renowned exhibitions and get an insider’s take of their education programs. Each of these experiences fostered a growing passion for arts education that carries over into all my pursuits.
Emily Palmer, Director of Temporary Placements
In 2011, I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelors of Music degree in Voice Performance from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ. There I had the opportunity to perform with large-scale orchestras at venues such as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. I also took a wide range of psychology courses with a focus on early childhood development.
Upon graduating, I sought experiences that combined my love of music and children. I found several families and made worthwhile connections I still hold dear today. I have a special place in my heart for three little ones I’ve worked with both as a regular sitter and full-time nanny off and on for over 8 years now; they’re a big part of what propels my passion for childcare.
I became a certified Music Together teacher and moved to New York in early 2013 to join the SmartSitting network as a nanny. After working full-time with an adorable toddler for a year, I transitioned to my current capacity as Director of Temporary Placements. I am very pleased to forge sitter and family connections here at SmartSitting. I know firsthand just how rewarding these relationships can be and feel so lucky to be in a role that creates and sustains them.
Outside of work, I volunteer at Carnegie Hall, primarily in the Resnick Education Wing, which coordinates children’s performances. I also assist The Laurie Berkner Band at Two Tomatoes Records and contribute to an indie music blog entitled “Turn The Record Over.” My other interests include writing, knitting, baking (the team can attest to it!), improv, yoga, chocolate and coffee.
Cajsa Landin, Director of Recruitment
Born and raised in a small town in Sweden, I first moved to America at 11 and have moved back and forth between the two countries ever since. I received my Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology with a focus on Early Childhood, from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, with additional studies at both the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and the Université Stendhal in Grenoble, France. I first moved to New York for an internship with the Mental Health Association of Westchester in 2006 and, though I’ve left the city many times since, from that day I knew I’d always return.
I have worked in childcare since I myself was a child, babysitting and eventually working in preschools and daycare since I was 15. I have worked as a nanny and babysitter in New York off and on for the past six years and love being a part of children’s day-to-day lives. Their imagination, curiosity, and joy continue to amaze me. The opportunity to be a positive influence and to help shape a child’s life is a blessing and an immense responsibility for which I am perpetually grateful, and I hope to spend the remainder of my career in some way involved with children and their families.
Besides my work in childcare, I have spent my time freelancing as a translator, working as a character developer and writer at an animation studio, and creating a wine travel TV show with my sister. When not working, I above all love to travel, to write, and to enjoy New York.
Leah Smith, Recruiter
I’m a graduate of the University of Redlands with a BA in French. In college, I started my childcare career as a volunteer in the oncology department of the Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital. That experience taught me that imaginary play is not only fun, but a necessary component to the health and well being of children. After seeing the impact that my work made on the patients, I was hooked on working with children, and have now spent over six years working as a childcare professional.
As a nanny, camp counselor, and after school facilitator, I’ve been able to combine my multiple interests. From teaching animal welfare classes to children at the SPCA, to developing curriculum for the after school programs at the Boys and Girls Club, to teaching French to a toddler in New York, I’ve had a myriad of opportunities with children.
While I still continue to nanny part-time, I also work as a Recruiter for SmartSitting. With my years of experience working with families in New York, and my background in developing curriculum and facilitating enrichment programs, I have a special eye for knowing what qualities would make an amazing SmartSitter, and I am very happy to recruit and welcome all of the marvelously talented SmartSitters into our network.