Since graduating from Jacksonville University in 1997 with a degree in management, Todd Pliss has worked as novelist, screenwriter, filmmaker and teacher.
While the Long Island, N.Y., native expects to continue pursuing his creative passions, Pliss has unexpectedly developed a niche:
Well, sort of.
Pliss’ 2½-year-old California company, Rent A Grandma, is an employment agency that matches clients with 45-and-older women who know how to do everything from run a household to tutoring children, among other skills. He says he developed the business concept while working as a tutor to children working on Hollywood movie and television sets.
Rent A Grandma specializes in placing caring women (but not necessarily grandmothers) with families as nannies, babysitters, in-home care providers, chefs, cooks and domestic staff. Each “grandma” is carefully screened and undergoes a background check, Pliss said.
"Grandmas have incredible patience, trust, knowledge, talent, and decades of experience," Pliss said. "Grandmas have always been the blue that holds families together, and currently with the world economy tanking, and so many things going wrong, it's time to bring grandmas back in a big way."
Pliss says business is steady and that he’s pitching a reality show focusing on his business. Rent A Grandma now has franchise opportunities and Pliss recently opened satellite offices in Texas and Virginia. And thanks national television and magazine publicity about Rent A Grandma, Pliss expanded the business; now, clients wanting to hire “grandmas” can do so nationwide and beyond by visiting Pliss’ website, www.rentagrandma.com.
Also, Pliss recently unveiled a “rent a grandpa” service for clients wanting help with home and automotive repair.
Here are links to broadcasts and articles about Rent A Grandma: ABC News, Fox News, National Public Radio, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur
TODD PLISS Q&A
Please describe your JU experience -- why you came to Jacksonville from New York, what you learned, and how you're applying it to your business.
My brother, Wayne, class of 1983, attended JU. I visited him down there in my senior year of high school. I thought the campus was nice -- the weather didn't hurt, either -- and spoke with students who were enthusiastic about their experiences and courses there. Many of the things I learned at JU, from business writing to marketing, have been very useful in my business career. A lot of business is “learn as you earn,” but it really helps to have that solid foundation.
How did you end up in California?
I moved to Los Angeles upon graduation in 1987. I had been there a few times beforehand and really liked it. I went back to school, earned my teaching credentials and worked as a "studio teacher" for a number of years with kids on movie and television sets. In California, minors always need a licensed set teacher to look after their safety and welfare and give them schooling. I also have been involved in filmmaking, including my award-winning film, “Execution at County Jail”.
What do you do day to day?
The days are too short. Running the agency, talking to potential franchisees, fielding questions from clients, and certainly working on the marketing aspect of it is a major concern. Trying to develop the brand.
What’s in the works for Rent A Grandma?
We filmed a "sizzle reel" last month for a Rent A Grandma reality show. One of the numerous producers who came to us is Oprah Winfrey’s former producer. It is currently being edited.