It’s pretty safe to say that Grandparents play a very important role in the life of a young child. But what do you do if there are no biological ones available? Todd Pliss took that question to heart when he started Rent A Grandma.
GH: Where did inspiration for Rent a Grandma come from?
TP: I was working as a licensed studio teacher with kids on movie and tv sets, many of them are homeschooled and quite a few of them moved here from all over the country and other countries as well. Dad was often back home, working his regular job, they come out here for pilot season for a few months or to work on something specific so I’d hear a lot of complaints from mothers that they couldn’t find any good help with their other kids if their other on was on set or if they had to run around to auditions, they couldn’t be in two places at once. Sometimes they’d hire 19, or 20-year-old nannies and they were total flakes, more often than not. So that was the inspiration, who’s responsible?
GH: What’s your marketing strategy?
TP: We haven’t had to do a ton of marketing because we get so much attention from all over the world. Fox News did a national story about us and the phone didn’t stop ringing for three weeks. We did Shark Tank, Tokyo TV, Russian TV, we were featured in Italy, Portugal, I saw interviews for British TV. Literally, there’s been dozens and dozens. We just released our mobile app which is stirring up a lot of attention, we do some advertising but not a lot, it’s really word of mouth.
GH: What would your goals be for Rent a Grandma this year?
TP: I want to keep growing it, we have people from all over the place, Canada, the United States, and that includes small towns. We have a ton of Grandmas, but we want more and not just in major cities, but the smaller communities too; throughout Canada and England, and all over the place.
GH: How do you distinguish yourself against other online caregiving companies?
TS: Other online companies hire 18 years and up. For us, you don’t have to be a Grandma, but you have to be mature, at least in your 40s. We make sure there’s a certain level of maturity, most people that come to us, they were teachers, nurses, some of them voluntarily retired and got bored, some were laid off from their jobs and had to retire against their will. So there’s a lot of wonderful people out there who still want to work. We differentiate ourselves by saying our women are mature, they aren’t gonna text or tweet while watching your kids, they aren’t gonna meet some guy and run away to Florida. We are different because of the maturity and life experience.
GH: Is there a vetting process for your caregivers?
TS: Yes, we have interviews, we have a company that does fortune 500 background checks for those companies. We have an application, they have to be checked against the federal sex offender and criminal background checks.
GH: What’s been an unexpected challenge for Rent A Grandma?
TS: The main challenge has been having enough Grandmas. We have people coming to us from all over the world, so having enough people. In LA, New York, Dallas, Florida, of course, we have plenty of people always, but if someone is in a town in Minnesota with 5,000 people we may not be able to help them. That’s why we’re doing everything online, and trying to open up the market as much as we can. So that’s been the challenge, trying to help everybody that wants help.
GH: What are some of the benefits of having an older caregiver?
TS: They’re more mature in life. A lot of these women, they’ve already had their kids, they’re more stable, they’ve had careers, there’s a big maturity level and a lot of them can cook. Not that everyone is looking for cooking, they just have more skills and are more patient. A lot have their own grandkids, so they’re used to dealing with young children, if a child has a meltdown or a tantrum, they can handle it. They’re not looking to go back to college if you’re looking to hire a 19/20-year-old, they’re just not as stable, they don’t have that life experience and there’s nothing wrong with that, we were all 19 and 20 at one point. It’s a big maturity level, the average age of our grandmas is about 60/61. They’re active, they train horses, they surf, they hike all over the world, so they’re certainly not sitting in any rocking chairs.
GH: What would you consider to be Rent A Grandma’s greatest success so far?
TP: I’ve heard a lot of stories that are really heartwarming. We’ve had grandmas that work with special needs kids, I’ve had mothers on the phone literally crying to me over past frustrations, and people appreciate it so much. People say even the name brings a smile to their face. I think the goodwill and the fact that a lot of these women were frustrated because they couldn’t find any work. It’s very difficult the older you get, so it’s opening the market to all the people and parents especially really appreciate it. We get people who’s grandparents live on the other side of the country or have passed away, so we’ve had people who hire grandmas for the grandma experience. Just to have a grandma take you to the park when you’re five or six years old, because a lot of people can’t have that. I think the response has been the best thing. All the attention we’ve gotten has been nice, but in the end, it’s really the stories of help that we enjoy hearing.