This story was originally published in the April/May 2015 issue of Chattanooga Magazine.
Summer is a time when kids need a trustworthy friend, mentor, tutor, coach, or a combination of all of the above. One Chattanooga company seeks to be Chattanooga’s most trusted name in childcare.
My Manny, founded by Chattanooga native and McCallie graduate John Brandon, is a service that matches intelligent, trustworthy, and responsible young men with families in need of a caregiver who can also double as a positive male role model for their children.
Brandon was inspired to create the unique company by his own early life experience. “My own father passed away when I was pretty young, leaving my mom in search of other guys who would be able to teach me all the things that he wouldn’t be able to,” says Brandon. “My mom was great, I am glad she recognized the importance of having strong men in my life as well.”
Years later, Brandon translated this experience to help make a difference in the lives of other children. While attending Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, he was called as a last-minute babysitter by a lawyer who frequented the restaurant where he worked. Because he made such a lasting impression, the family invited Brandon to become a live-in caregiver for their sons while he finished college.
“All of a sudden, I was a live-in manny and would never have expected it,” says Brandon. “It ended up being a neat way to make money, utilize skills, and make a meaningful impact on kids’ lives.” Several years later after moving to New York to pursue a career as an opera singer, Brandon ran into some health problems and decided to take a break from singing. Remembering his positive experience as a manny in New Jersey, he posted a profile on a caregiving website and was immediately contacted by several interested families.
“Many of the families were specifically in search of a guy who could be a strong male role model for their children,” says Brandon. “They wanted someone who could play sports with them, help with homework, and really just be an active presence in their lives.”
Brandon began working for a family in NYC with three sons in 2013 and then another family on the Upper East Side later that year. As he became more involved in the social circle, other families began asking Brandon how they could get their own mannies. At the time, there were not many options. He quickly recognized the need for more mannies in the city and collaborated with a friend who was working on his degree in entrepreneurship. Together they created a website and NYC Mannies was born. In the first month, they received some local press and had gained a few clients, but they were really thrust into the spotlight when David Brandt from CNN gave Brandon a call to let him know he was interested in doing a story.
“We blew up after that,” says Brandon. “The story was on CNN International and we received a ton of press all over the world, which was funny as we were still only working in NYC and dealing with a very specific clientele.” A few months later, NYC Mannies was featured on Good Morning America. Again though, this national press was almost for nothing, as the company only had a basic website, very little startup capital, and wasn’t able to handle clients outside of New York City.
This prompted Brandon to move back to Chattanooga last year and rebrand the company as MyManny, with the goal of making it a tool that could be used by families all over the country in search of male caregivers. They plan on targeting one city at a time, starting in Chattanooga and then branching out to surrounding cities like Atlanta, Nashville and Birmingham. Rather than just focusing on providing families with live-in mannies, the company will also match families with babysitters, tutors or any other type of childcare.
“Being based in Chattanooga is definitely an advantage right now, as it gives the company a really personal feel,” explains Brandon. “We work closely with both the applicants and the families to make sure every match will be a good fit.”
Brandon certainly understands that matching families with responsible and trustworthy young men is of utmost importance. That’s why the selection process to become a manny is quite rigorous. Applicants must create an online profile and provide references, along with their childcare experience. Once MyManny staff members have approved a profile, the applicant is interviewed and his references are checked before he is eligible to be matched with a family. Once a match is made, the applicant undergoes a final background check for additional safety before he even interviews with the family.
“There are definitely precautions in place to make sure we never have a problem with a match,” explains Brandon. Already a number of quality applicants have signed up and been approved and are now only waiting to be matched with a family. Brandon believes families in Chattanooga will appreciate the opportunity to enrich the lives of their children as MyManny develops a reputation for excellence and trust.
“I often find that people are at first confused by the term manny and I would love to be able to redefine the term,” says Brandon. “A manny is just a guy who wants to be a good influence and make a difference in a kid’s life. I know there are single moms here, or just busy parents who need a trusted caregiver.”
Visit www.mymanny.com for more information.