Summer job now $13 million business

| Susan Klemond | November 4, 2010 | 0 Comments

PK Yang, right, plays with Vincent, left, and Luke Audette at their home in St. Paul. Yang works as a nanny for the two boys and their younger sister, Laurel. Photo by Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

In 2001, Joe Keeley and his college roommates came home tired each night from their summer jobs — the roommates from digging swimming pools and Keeley from swimming in a pool with kids he was caring for.

Before long, some of Keeley’s friends asked the then-University of St. Thomas sophomore to get them jobs like his. At the same time, parents he met wanted to know if students would nanny for their kids.

“I saw the supply of the students that I was going to school with and the demand of the families that I got to know and simply started connecting at that point,” said Keeley, a parishioner at Nativity of Our Lord who turned his informal service into a $13 million company called College Nannies and Tutors.

From his start in 2001 connecting 12 students with families, Keeley applied what he was learning at St. Thomas about entrepreneurship and Catholic social teaching to develop the foundation of his franchise business, which manages about 10,000 connections between childcare professionals and families nationwide.

With a goal of building stronger families, the company gives nannies and tutors professional experience as role models for children while their flexible, custom care gives parents peace of mind, he said. Now a father using the service himself, Keeley added that dependable child care also benefits marriages.

“We want the family to be as strong as possible,” he said. “We think that having a nanny or tutor that matches what their needs are can make them stronger.”

Keeley initially planned to put aside the nanny business and get a “real job” when he graduated. But, it continued to grow and he sought assistance from UST’s entrepreneurship program and soon switched majors, still figuring he would eventually get a full-time job.

Keeley took a course, team-taught by the entrepreneurship and Catholic studies departments, on blending entrepreneurship and Catholic social teaching. He studied church teaching on the importance of work while learning about good business practices.

“The pursuit of Catholic social teaching and your . . . business pursuits do not have to be mutually exclusive, and I think that that is the most important thing that I’ve learned,” Keeley said. “Those two things can and need to coexist together to create value out in the marketplace.”

When he graduated in 2003, Keeley decided to give his business a year, in part because of its potential to do good for families. He worked to transform his college business into a franchise, developing manuals and addressing liabilities.

“The goal that I had was if this works in Minneapolis-St. Paul, there’s no reason why it wouldn’t work in New York and San Diego and Houston and all these other cities,” he said. “If children can be happy and students can be as successful as their potential, that family’s going to be stronger.”

To find a good match, the company screens applicants and families, and also handles legal issues, payroll and other arrangement details while offering nannies and tutors professional development, workers compensation and liability insurance, he said.

CNT nannies aren’t required to be college students, Keeley said. Though 95 percent of nannies are women, increasing numbers of men are applying.

Reducing stress

As a new nanny who started caring for Tom and Sandy Audette’s three children in St. Paul several months ago, PK Yang said the service helped her get started. “Going through the agency really helped legitimize me as a nanny,” said the recent St. Cloud State University graduate.

A nanny helps parents and kids reduce the stress of child care, said Sandy Audette, who with her family attends Nativity of Our Lord. Because the couple works non-traditional hours, having Yang in their home provides flexibility.

“It helps me be a dad and at the same time take care of my work responsibilities,” Tom Audette said.

Nannies enable couples to take important time away together, Keeley said. “It keeps us connected in a very busy lifestyle because I believe the most important thing I can do for my kids is have a good marriage.”

Since starting as a UST student with a good idea, Keeley believes he’s developed a way to strengthen families as their needs continue to change.

“What does it look like 10 years from now? It becomes much, much more of a mainstream way to navigate childrearing, which is a process, and the needs are as different as families are different,” he said. “Being able to customize that solution for each family is rewarding.”

Want to know more?

For more information about College Nannies and Tutors, visit http://www.collegenannies.com.

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Category: Colleges and Careers