In 1984 Annie Davis founded Ballard-based Annie’s Nannies; that same year, Seattle Mayor Charles Royer started the Mayor’s Small Business Award, giving honors to small area businesses for their contributions to Seattle’s economy.
Unrelated then, these two happenings would result in an exciting change for Davis: 25 years later she and her daughter Suzanne Royer McCone received the Mayor’s Small Business Award for Annie’s Nannies, currently located at 2236 N.W. 58th St.
According to the Seattle’s Office of Economic Development, the Mayor’s Small Business Award honors small businesses and the diversity and excellence they bring to Seattle’s economy. And for 25 years, Annie’s Nannies has done just that.
“Who would have known that the same year I started my business, he started the award and 25 years later we win it,” said Davis, who had not known that her first husband Royer had started the award.
Davis had been working with at-risk teenagers in Seattle Public Schools and pursuing a master’s degree when it was brought to her attention that there were no nanny agencies in the Pacific Northwest.
There was the traditional au-pair role, but Davis had something different in mind.
“Of course there was Mary Poppins, but that was more of an English thing for well-to-do families,” said Davis. “So I decided to start the business. I had no idea what I was doing. I borrowed $1,500 from my husband John and put an ad in the paper for nannies and one for families and started putting people together.”
Today, Ballard-based Annie’s Nannies has roughly 500 nannies (and “mannies”) out in the greater Puget Sound area, said Davis.
“We have two clients basically,” Davis said. “We have the families and the nannies. It is a putting-together and after 25 years you get a pretty good feel for it. It is quite gratifying when you make that perfect match.”
Annie’s Nannies conducts interviews, reference checks, and background services to find the right match for nannies and families. They help out with anything from four-hour date-night care to years of full-time service and have recently branched into other areas of household staffing as well.
“To have existed this long says a lot about our reputation,” said Amanda Payne, the company’s nanny interviewer. “Also, we are really good match-makers, and we don’t want to waste anyone’s time. If they are coming to us for this service, time is very important. They could just go on Craigslist, but that would take a lot of time.”
This female-run business has a high level of integrity and care for the families and for the nannies, Davis said.
“We are women speaking to women who are hiring women to take care of their children, so it is very female-centric,” she said.
Annie’s Nannies requires a minimum of one year of professional child-care experience and three references. However, a lot of families are looking for experience above and beyond that, such as background with a particular age group or a degree in early childhood education, said Payne.
Susan Ripley, temporary coordinator, said she speaks with 50 people a day and places between 50 and 100 nannies a week. Even in these tough economic times, Annie’s Nannies has been able to stay strong despite being in a luxury business.
“When the economy is down, luxury is the first to go,” said company President Royer McCone. “We have been through several recessions, several downturns; the dot-com [bubble], 9/11 and this recession, but we have been through all of it and stayed true to our ethics”. This commitment to workplace dynamics is clear to the employees as well.
“The most important thing is finding jobs for people; we have found jobs for thousands of people,” said Royer McCone.
“I love the people I work with,” said Ripley. “It is a very small office and we know each other very well. When I first interviewed, they said they think of each other as roommates and it is like that. I feel like I see them more often than I see my husband most of the time.”
Since their workplace dynamic is strong and they have a solid client base, Davis hopes the next step will be to get corporate backup for Annie’s Nannies.
“You have to change with the times,” said Davis. “You have to grow. You can’t rest on your laurels.”