Sometime between Boeing asking the last Seattleite to turn the lights off on their way out of town, and a little software company named Microsoft moving to Redmond, Annie Davis had an idea. With two grown children of her own, and a grandbaby on the way, she sensed a need for a better way to match qualified nannies with parents needing childcare. “I’m going to start a nanny placement agency!” she told her husband and children. “That’s great,” they said. “Did you remember to buy more milk at the store?”
With this kind of wild encouragement, Annie’s Nannies was founded in 1984 in a spare bedroom of the house Annie still shares with her husband, John. Finding she had a knack for the people and listening skills necessary in creating good family/nanny matches, the business enjoyed a steady start. Her daughter, Suzanne McCone (nee Royer), became the first hire while still pregnant with Gabriella, the family’s first grandchild. This situation worked well not only for Suzanne, who gained family-friendly employment at an important time, but also for Annie, who saw in Gabriella a first-rate market researcher and talent scout. “I always figured if Gabriella took to a nanny we were interviewing, that was a good sign,” remembers Annie.
As business grew, so did the staff, and in 1999 the company expanded into a new location in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. In serving the employees of many of the region’s largest companies, Annie’s Nannies has evolved with area families through the Dotcom Crash of 2001, the devastating pall of Sept. 11 and the most recent Great Recession. Feeling so closely tied in with their clients and nannies, Annie created her annual economic indicator – the ANI Index, a tongue-in-cheek and unscientific but surprisingly accurate reflection of the local economy.
Along with the economy and changes in how families structure themselves, the job of placing nannies has changed too. “First and foremost, this is a business about human relationships, so it’s fun to look back to when we first started and still used a typewriter! Everything we did was on paper, mostly two corkboards with 3×5 cards pegged to them — Nannies on one board, clients on the other,” Annie remembers.
Suzanne has been largely responsible for bringing technology to bear in helping the company keep up with demand and find the best matches between clients and household staff. In 2010 they won a small business technology grant from Microsoft. “Our clients are fully plugged in,” notes Suzanne, “so it’s really critical that we are too, and easy to get a hold of.” The year before, they were honored with the Mayor’s Small Business Award for their contributions to Seattle’s diverse economy.
In response to people’s increasingly busy lives, Annie’s Nannies began placing temporary and on-call nannies in 1997, and added a household staffing category in 2002. Developing these new areas in their tested and collaborative fashion has made Annie’s Nannies a model for nanny and household staffing agencies nationwide. “Even though the world has changed a lot,” Annie says, “what we do still boils down to the art of matchmaking, with a little science thrown in.”
Now, nearly 30 years and thousands of nanny placements later, Annie’s Nannies proudly continues its tradition of valuing the uniqueness of every family and finding the best matches possible.