Today we’d like to introduce you to Tamara Vrooman Lucas.
Tamara, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I have always been motivated by helping others. In high school and college, I spent so much of my time helping my friends work through their problems that I decided to get my undergraduate degree in psychology. Several years later, I moved to Athens, GA to get my Master’s Degree in Social Work. I worked in the service industry throughout my years of education, furthering my experiences of being in service to others, identifying and meeting other’s needs and learning about food and wine.
These early adulthood years set me up for the varied experiences that would come my way. I worked with troubled children and teens in residential settings in both Virginia and Georgia. I taught Elementary Special Ed in the Cobb County school system. I moved to Tuscany, Italy and helped run a historic bed and breakfast, taught English and started a non-profit to promote alternative wellness education programs. Upon returning to Atlanta, I stumbled into the world of fine wine and spirits distribution and worked as a sales rep and manager throughout the state for over 15 years. In the midst of my wine career, my family planted and established a vineyard and winery in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. I transitioned into a marketing and support role with the family winery and began to promote other high-quality vineyards from Virginia.
Managing these varied career paths, along with being a single mother of two boys was an ongoing challenge. I rarely had the time I needed to get my to-do list done and was always in need of an extra hand to help out around the house. I could not find a solution that was affordable and convenient and I began to realize that many people all around me were struggling with a very similar problem. I also realized that there were many people all around me that had extra time and flexibility and were likely happy to help out their neighbors with everyday tasks. The concept of My Panda was born!
My Panda App (Personal Assistant Next Door App) originally started as a small project serving only my neighborhood in Decatur. We hire people (Pandas) from the local community, screen and do complete background checks on them and then train them to provide help our Members with daily tasks. We developed a mobile app and designed a system to keep the Pandas close to home, encouraging time efficiencies and social accountability.
My business partner (an extremely busy attorney) also had the same needs as I did as a working single mom. We quickly realized that people throughout the country are struggling with solving the same problem as we were. We began to look at ways that we could provide services to more people throughout the metro Atlanta area, with our eyes on expansion throughout the country.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Every road has it’s share of bumps! I have the mindset that every challenge truly is a chance to learn. The struggle of balancing motherhood and a demanding career is probably the most challenging hurdle I face nearly every day. Being an entrepreneur allows me the flexibility to be present for my children, however, I spend many an evening on my computer until midnight getting caught up on work from the day.
Creating and running a start-up, we are faced with the traditional struggles that all start-ups face. Primarily, limited financial and personnel resources. We have been able to be creative, leaning on friends and family to help out. We are currently preparing to start raising funds from investors which is a steep learning curve but we have great resources to help us in this process. The city of Atlanta has many programs that are there to help new businesses launch, grow and overcome challenges.
Much like every other business in the world, we were faced with unique challenges when the COVID crisis hit. Many of our Personal Assistant services involved being in our member’s homes and working closely with others to solve problems. We were able to do a significant pivot and moved to providing mostly errand and shopping services, helping our members stay safe at home.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with My Panda App – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
My Panda uses mobile app technology to connect personal assistants to busy people to help them complete the everyday tasks that clutter up their to-do lists. The Personal Assistants Next Door (PANDAS) are residents from the local community with extra pockets of time who want to help their neighbors get things done.
So many families and busy individuals are feeling increasing amounts of time pressure, are overwhelmed by their to-do lists and struggling to find time to do the things they love. My Panda is the first on-demand personal assistant service that connects neighbors to get things done. Unlike other on-demand service apps, we hire and screen the Pandas and then will connect them directly with our members as they place requests. The member never has to spend time figuring out who they will hire, we simply take care of it for them. They enter into the app what they need, and a background checked Panda from their neighborhood will get it done.
The affordability of our services allows average income families the luxury of personalized help at their fingertips in an instant. The Pandas are involved in the community and help the company grow from within, keeping dollars in the local economy and strengthening community bonds. We pay our Pandas a liveable wage of at least $20/hour because we believe that all workers should be fairly compensated for their time and we respect our Panda’s time.
There are other apps out there that help people get things done, but we are proud that we are the only on-demand app that focuses on strengthening local communities. All our Pandas work within a local service grove of generally no more than 2-3 miles from their home, allowing us to leverage the unique nuances of each neighborhood, create efficiencies and increase the level of trust.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We are in the current cohort of the City of Atlanta’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEI). With the support of this program, we are currently preparing to raise funds so we can hire a staff, improve our app technology, expand our marketing reach and hire and provide services throughout metro Atlanta and in other key GA markets such as Savannah and Athens. We hope to hire 1000 Pandas in the coming year to support this growth. The opportunity of offering employment in these uncertain times is something we feel very passionate about. Our three year plan includes expansion into up to 10 other Southeast markets.
We know that many people throughout the country need the services that we provide. The ability to support your local economy and community while getting your to-do list done is something that resonates with so many. We are excited to share our unique concept with the world and can’t wait to see what the future holds!
- Pre-Paid Pick up and Delivery (restaurant or other local store) – $15
- Standard Home Services (Pet Service, Vacation Service, Trash to Curb etc) – $22
- Shopping and Delivery (COVID special pricing) – $25/hour
- Custom Requests (anything else on your to-do list) – $15/30 minutes
- Website: www.mypandaapp.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mypandaapp/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bookapanda
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/mypandaapp
Suggest a story: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.