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VOL. 39 | NO. 27 | Friday, July 3, 2015

All-male nanny service eyeing Midstate

By Joe Morris

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Brandon

Mary Poppins he’s not. No flying umbrellas, no Oscar-winning musical numbers.

But as a caregiver, Jon Ericksen would rank himself right up there with any nanny in the business.

“Two nieces grew up in the house with me, I have worked with kids a lot in all my jobs, so I knew this was something that I would be very interested in,” says Ericksen, one of the men working for MyManny, a Tennessee-based, all-male nanny agency.

“I saw a post on my school’s job board, and since it was a field I was curious about getting into, I applied.”

Ericksen is one of many “mannies” who have been placed by MyManny, which began as NYC Mannies in 2013. Co-Founder John Brandon, a Chattanooga native and McCallie School grad, has brought his company back to the South in hopes of growing it throughout Tennessee, including Middle Tennessee, and eventually the region.

At the company’s core is the notion that quality non-parental childcare can be provided by men, who can also act as a positive male role model, Brandon says.

“My father died when I was a kid, and I realized the need for kids like me to have those role models,” he explains. “In the past two years we’ve helped more than 100 families find male caregivers.”

While in New York, Brandon had been working as an opera singer, but vocal problems sidelined him for a while in 2012. That’s when he began looking into being a live-in caregiver. He’d done that in college, and so his experience got him work fairly quickly. At that point he realized that there were other young men out there who had child-care backgrounds.

“Other families were asking the mother of ‘my’ family where they could find someone like me,” Brandon says. “I went to my roommate at the time, who was finishing up a degree, and we talked about focusing a business on male caregivers, building up a database of young guys with degrees and experience with kids.

“We were the first all-male nanny agency when we opened, and that hook really got a lot of people excited.”

One advocate is Caroline Williams, who had read an article about the service and whose husband also attended McCallie. She has three children, ages 9, 7 and 5, and was open to the idea of introducing another positive male influence into their lives.

“We didn’t want someone who would just be a babysitter, but who could act as a mentor,” Williams says. “My boys had been to camp and talked a lot about their counselors, and so we wanted an additional experience like that for them.

“We wanted someone who could come in once a week so my husband and I could have a date night, and then maybe some weekend time as well. We looked at a lot of resumes, and were very impressed. The quality and caliber of these people is unreal.

“We wound up with Jon [Ericksen], who’s studying to be a marine biologist. My oldest son is very into that right now, so it’s just been a perfect fit.”

Ericksen sends the praise right back, saying that the family has been wonderful to work with, and that he’s gotten very attached to the children.

“The experience has been great; we goof around but interact really well together,” he says. “It’s worked out really well while I’ve been finishing school, and it’s a very accommodating kind of job if you enjoy being around children and nice families.”

The family-interaction aspect is what also brought in Mike Byrd, who now is MyManny’s director of communications. He’d been working in Spring Hill with the Dawson McAllister Network, and MyManny sounded like a natural opportunity.

“When I was working on the Hope Line [a national helpline network], I would talk with a lot of young people, and I found that I could develop relationships with them pretty well,” Byrd says. “I wanted to find another position where I could build on that.”

As it turned out, his first Manny assignment was with a 6-month-old boy, which didn’t involve a lot of talking.

“I’d never spent a lot of time with infants or toddlers, but I really embraced it,” Byrd says. “I’m now married and hope to someday be a dad, so I saw this as good preliminary training.

“I still get pictures of the little guy, and have told his parents that I am open to babysitting on occasion.”

For now, he and Brandon are working on marketing the business on college campuses, and ensuring that a very rigorous vetting process is followed. As a placement service, MyManny isn’t involved in the hiring, as the family does that, but it does check references and run an extensive background check.

“We go through a lot, because these guys are going to be caring for people’s kids and so we want to be super careful about everyone we talk to,” Byrd says. “The word is out, though, and the people we are hearing from are really outstanding.”

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