With an eight-month-old and a toddler, Kathryn Dunn was tired.
She was tired of turning to Google and ending up doom-scrolling every time she had a simple question about breastfeeding, or toddler tantrums, or infant sleep. So just eight months postpartum, Dunn began thinking about a better way for parents to learn about how to take care of their (very) young children.
“I knew that somebody needed to make a change,” Dunn said, “and I just knew it was me.”
Holly Springs-based The Nurtured Nest, which started as in-person parenting classes before the pandemic, now provides online, on-demand classes. The company is a semifinalist for one of NC IDEA’s $50K SEED grants.
Once a customer buys access to an asynchronous class, they can watch and rewatch videos whenever it is convenient for them—including during sleepless nights when they’re up with their kids.
Admittedly, Dunn said that before the pandemic she was horrified to consider the idea that effective parenting could ever be taught online. But the pandemic forced The Nurtured Nest to transition from in-person parenting classes, to a virtual preschool last year, and finally to on-demand classes this spring.
Now, Dunn said, she sees majority-virtual education as the future of her company, and parenting education in general.
“Being able to offer something that is segmented—you can sit down and watch a chunk each night, your spouse can watch it on their own time, you can watch it and get together and talk about it—there’s just so many options with it,” Dunn said. “And that’s what families need right now.”
Topics currently available for sale today include classes on labor and childbirth, nursing, picky eating, feeding solid food to infants and even one on introducing tech to toddlers.
If The Nurtured Nest is selected for the SEED grant, Dunn hopes to expand to 16 total on-demand courses, which will require resource-intensive videography and additional marketing in order to connect with local hospital partners. Brand awareness, she says, is a crucial element she hopes to develop in order to serve more families.
“It hurts my heart when somebody’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve never heard of you,’” Dunn said. “And I’m sure people reading this will say, ‘I wish I would have known.’ It just takes a lot of money to beat some of the big brands; a small business like ours can’t compete. We need the funding from someone like NC IDEA to expand.”
Dunn’s vision is that one day, parents will be able to buy courses for each year of a child’s life, from infancy to age 18, and access all the topics that might apply to them during that year—in the same on-demand model the company is using today.
The on-demand material would be complemented by a synchronous, virtual meeting with other classmates, led by a Nurtured Nest educator, where parents could discuss their challenges with others in similar situations.
Dunn’s goal is to give parents, especially middle-class parents who can’t afford other resources like doulas or nannies, a chance to combine the hard skills they learn in parenting classes with invaluable companionship and advice.
“My family, we’re middle class,” Dunn said. “We’re right here; there’s a huge subset of us. Here in the middle, we’re left to Dr. Google and social media. I just think we deserve more. Our country deserves more.”
NC IDEA will announce the winners of its SEED grants in mid-November.