You deserve a night out. The idea isn’t that radical, but the execution can sometimes be tricky. Cue Project Playdate, a lifesaver business and your Totally Awesome pick for NYC’s best drop-off childcare program. From pajama parties to zoo trips, Project Playdate specializes in truly unique (and fun!) childcare experiences. The mastermind behind it all is Amanda Raposo, who recognized that NYC-area parents were in need of some quality time but didn’t know where to turn for quality childcare. Amanda recently took the time to give us the scoop on the origins of Project Playdate, her experience starting a business, and more.

Red Tricycle: Congratulations on being voted “Most Awesome” by your community! What do think your customers value most about your business?

Amanda Raposo: Project Playdate is most valued by its true commitment to the community. At every drop off event, we make sure that our kids are having a blast under careful and qualified supervision. We are equally as committed to offering parents an opportunity (and a reason), day or night, to have some time off. We work with the best playspaces, attractions and nannies in NYC, showcasing fellow businesses and top talent to our valued customers. Most importantly, we are a non-profit organization with a mission to help at-risk mothers and their children. Each playdate doubles as a drop off site for donated family goods and proceeds are dedicated to providing career building and educational sponsorships. This is all accomplished through a premier child care service and an unwavering commitment to serve and connect families across the spectrum of need.

RT: What inspired you to start your business?

AR: Through volunteer work as a freshman in at NYU’s School of Social Work, I was exposed to the complex challenges faced by young mothers in poverty. Having always loved working with children, I was deeply moved by these families and felt that something more needed to be done to help them. So, I rallied a group of ambitious young women from NYU and Columbia to figure something out. We knew that we needed to get creative about how to raise funds. We thought, ‘who cares most about families with needs?’ Families with means! So we launched our first “parents’ night out” drop off pajama party at the beloved Playgarden in Tribeca. When parents kept asking for us to come back I realized that we might have a business on our hands. How amazing would it be if we could expand this idea so that our social impact could scale without ever being dependent on donations? So, sure enough, this little fundraiser transformed into a city-wide social enterprise that so many families now know as Project Playdate.

RT: Any advice for new business owners just getting started?

AR: Here it is: Those that you might consider competitors might turn out to be your greatest allies. Having this perspective in business is one of the sole reasons why I’ve been able to expand Project Playdate successfully.

For example, many might assume that Project Playdate is in direct competition with babysitter agencies or any other child care institution. Instead, I chose to reach out to businesses in my market to see how we might work together. Turns out, by partnering with UrbanSitter and College Nannies, we are able to encourage family-sitter connections at our events which nurtures relationships for private care. The same goes for the beautiful playspaces, like Kidville, Citibabes, and Playgarden, that we are able to showcase through our playdates. This encourages membership or birthday parties at their locations. In exchange, our partners are happy to let their own networks know about Project Playdate which makes all the difference for a start up in need of exposure and validity.

RT: What is your proudest moment as a business owner?

AR: I am constantly humbled by moments that make me proud in this business. From the whole hearted excitement on the faces of kids arriving to their pajama party to parents and partners going above and beyond to help families in need, it is amazing to see the type of happiness that can be created by bringing a community together. Of course, I am proud to win this award which helps me see that our hard work is not going unnoticed. This empowers me to keep pushing forward so that Project Playdate can serve more families and make an even greater commitment to changing the world!

RT: Is there a special offer you’d like to include for Red Tricycle readers?

AR: First timers to Project Playdate can receive 15% off their first purchase with the code “redtri”

Intrigued by Project Playdate? Find them on Facebook and Twitter!