Business fine-tunes the practice of finding a nanny

The company College Nannies & Tutors created a matching system for nannies and families.

Communications senior Molly Larson has been babysitting as long as she can remember, taking jobs through friends and family. But last summer she decided to find a nanny job on her own through Craigslist – a decision that left her unemployed midsummer when the family reneged on the agreement.

“They decided they couldn’t afford it,” she said. “And, it was the mom’s first time back to work after having the kids, which was hard for her.”

Hoping to land another nanny job, Larson looked to College Nannies & Tutors, a service that matches families and nannies – privatizing a once word-of-mouth-driven industry.

Industry evolving

The business, based in Wayzata, was founded by 27-year-old president and CEO Joe Keeley. Keeley, who graduated from the University of St. Thomas in 2003, said he got the idea for the College Nannies & Tutors after being a male nanny – or “manny” as he called it – for a family with three children during college.

Keeley said he was such a good match with the family he worked for – something he realized didn’t need to be based on luck, but rather a placement system.

“There needed to be a better way of (hiring nannies) for all parties involved,” he said. “It was by luck and by chance. Whether you are the girl down the street or the family down the street, it is hard to find each other.”

Keeley said matching nannies to families is much like matchmaking in dating because ultimately “you want a good fit.”

The company screens both potential nannies and family for compatibility and performs background checks on all potential hires. They also handle all financial transactions between nannies and families.

Bobete Berno, director of marketing and sales for College Nannies & Tutors, said the company can offer the peace of mind that a Craigslist posting can’t.

The murder of University student Katherine Olson in October – who was killed after responding to a Craigslist ad – still makes an impression on some.

“When you have something in the news like the Craigslist murder, security and safety becomes an issue,” she said.

Child psychology senior Val Drake said she has been a nanny for families since high school, but decided to use College Nannies & Tutors because of scheduling and safety.

“They get to know you personally and get to know the experience you have, ages you’ve worked with and your interests,” she said.

College Nannies & Tutors is a legitimate employer and taxes are taken out of paychecks, unlike an under-the-table nanny job, Larson said.

While some may see the money withheld for tax purposes as a disadvantage, Larson said she sees it differently.

“If the government sees $400 checks deposited every other week, they are going to know you didn’t pay taxes,” she said.

Not all have given up on the old-fashioned way

But getting taxes taken out is one of the reasons Molly Rusk, a genetic cell biology and development junior, doesn’t go through an agency to find nanny jobs.

Rusk, who works 10 hours per week with an 11-month-old boy, said she heard about the job through a friend who works with the boy’s mother.

“The one thing that is nice about the way I am doing it now is because they say the money you are making per hour and that is what you make,” she said.

Avisia Whiteman, a mother of two from the Highland Park area, is currently advertising for a nanny using Craigslist and said she has had nothing but success using the Web site.

“(Craigslist) is becoming one of the few places to reach people for free and a diverse audience for free,” she said.

Using an agency can be expensive, and although they offer to file tax paper work, it can be filed by the family individually, Whiteman said.

“I end up paying the agency for what Craigslist is doing, instead of giving the money to the nannies themselves,” she said. “I would rather pay the nanny than the agency.”

College Nannies & Tutors argues they provide more than just a nanny, but rather a role model, Berno said.

Although College Nannies & Tutors already serves more than 70 territories in 15 states, Keeley said he hopes to expand the business to 250 locations internationally in the next five to 10 years.

Ultimately, Keeley said his goal is to provide more than someone who “shows up, makes a pizza and plops the kids in front of the TV.”

“(College Nannies & Tutors) is commercializing and sophisticating this cottage industry,” he said.