The Bevy Way

Female-founded Houston startup helps busy families do it all

Bevy co-founders and working moms Carissa Janeway (left) and Lynda Attaway wanted to create a service for helping busy families keep things moving smoothly. Photo courtesy of Bevy

So much to do and so little time? We feel you. In a 2018 Pew Research Center survey, 60 percent of U.S. adults said they sometimes felt too busy to enjoy life. Bevy, an organization company serving greater Houston, is helping the overwhelmed and active do it all.

"Bevy was actually born from our-real life experiences," explains Lynda Attaway, co-founder and CEO of Bevy.

As the former co-founder and chief strategy officer of Sunnova Energy, she led a complex schedule until the demands of doing it all got to her. While climbing the corporate ladder for 18 years, she would "do whatever it took and stay as late as it took," to succeed.

While trying to raise her three children and balance a large role, she soon realized that many of her male colleagues had a stay-at-home wife who managed the at-home projects that can take so much time.

"I finally came to the realization that I could not be everything to everybody, which is a very common kind of syndrome that we tend to have as women," she shares. "Something needed to change."

The power of an extra set of hands

Attaway's former employee, now Bevy co-founder and COO, Carissa Janeway, had a seven-month-old and another child on the way when she made a plan to leave their energy company. That's when Attaway approached her with the idea of becoming her at-home project manager.

Janeway spent 15 to 20 hours a week helping Attaway with tasks like project managing a bathroom renovation, organizing the children's wardrobe, sending flowers to her mother-in-law, and making sure the nanny got paid. The two women realized how much people could benefit from having an extra set of hands, and Attaway quit her corporate job in 2017. Together, they co-founded Bevy in 2019, an organizational service for individuals and families that specializes in project management.

"It started from ourselves, and not being able to see something out there that was scalable and had that community, local touch that could really help women and families enjoy the time that they have," says Attaway.

Unlike a virtual assistant or personal assisting service, the women feel Bevy offers a more sophisticated approach.

"We're able to provide an elevated white-glove service, almost like a concierge service, where we can completely absorb the entire project and the managing aspects of it because of the level of experience that we have," says Janeway.

The team at Bevy prizes itself as your go-to home project manager. From decluttering your children's playroom to taking on simple errands that never leave your to-do list — Attaway and Janeway pride themselves on a full suite of services. The company's offerings include home organization, planning family events, project management, room renovation, and packing for a move.

While some projects can be completed remotely, Attaway stresses that they are very much a "local" company serving the greater Houston-area.

COVID-19 demands have disproportionately impacted women in the workplace, and more than 2.2 million women had dropped out of the workforce as of October. According to the Washington Post, the percentage of women working in the U.S. is the lowest it's been since 1988. When the school year began, 865,000 women dropped out of the labor force, compared with 216,000 men. With many schools maintaining virtual learning, the brunt of education is continuing to fall on mothers.

Things like contacting the plumber, setting up your at-home office, virtual schooling, and planning your child's Zoom-accessible birthday party can stack up quickly in a global pandemic.

"How are you able to have the mental capacity to do that? [Even] before the pandemic, this service was needed," emphasizes Janeway.

During the summer, Bevy worked with one family to compile a curriculum of summer fun to entertain active children at a time where summer camps were closed.

"We put together activity kits for the kids. We were able to get them through a whole month of activities that were very family-friendly," explains Janeway. The kits included daily activities like a neighborhood scavenger hunt, rock painting, and baking bread as a family. The parents didn't have to do the "legwork" of planning or buying the items, she shares.

Something for everyone

Maybe you're not a parent or a woman to use Bevy. Maybe you're a busy startup founder, a hard-working CFO, or a healthcare worker on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.

"You don't have to have kids to have our service. You don't have to be married. Everybody needs a hand," Janeway explains.

Attaway, who is currently teaming up with several HR departments on ways to incorporate Bevy in benefit packages, says companies for years have supported employees with offer gym memberships and massages — why not give them time?

"Bevy is the gift of time... We're told to delegate at work. We're told that's how you get better and how you become managers, that you need to learn to delegate. Then, we're told to go home and do it all yourself," says Attaway. "This is a service where you can actually delegate at home, and on a broader base so that we can take on the complexity of it," she continues.

The team of project managers and assistants, called "Bevs," do home visits and phone consultations. Bevy features long-term subscriptions, where clientele would have a set number of hours to work with the Bevy team, as well as project-based options. Attaway and Janeway offer free consultations to assess the project needs and what the client is most looking for from their services.

When onboarding a new client, the Bevs call it a "deep dive," where they can do a virtual meeting or a socially-distanced, masked-on meeting. The team does "a lot of listening" before making a full list of things that need to happen for the client based on what they hear.

"We just start pouring out all the things that need to be done... we pull more and will encourage them to explore other areas," explains Attaway. As they tour client homes, they might point to areas where they feel the client may need some extra help. "We help them pull all the things that are kind of lying on their shoulders, and you start watching them kind of lift up," she says, regarding clients' demeanor.

The business of giving time

Trust is at the core of Bevy's client relationships, as the co-founders work out the best plan for each project.

"We're here to take care of you, [and] to help you. You deserve to have this taken care of for you," says Janeway. "We make sure they know that they're not alone — and they've felt so alone. Society has put so many expectations on our shoulders."

After the consultation, Bevy compiles a list of all the needs communicated and priorities to share with the client for their feedback. From there, they compose different package options for consideration. Clients can also set their own pace based on how quickly they need a project completed. At last, the Attaway and Janeway will assign a Bev from their team — or in some cases, themselves — to a client.

While the Bevs take on tasks like research and execution, they present clients with options for each project they take one. "Our goal is that our clients are in the decision-making seat," says Attaway.

When it comes to design and renovation, Janeway and Attaway both use their personal expertise to work on major home projects. Janeway, passionate about interior design, has loved providing her keen eye to a family's home to find solutions for making a room aesthetically-pleasing and purposeful. Attaway grew up in a hands-on family and has grown a savvy knowledge of construction.

One satisfaction of the job is watching clients' stress melt away. During a recent home visit, Attaway was faced with an overwhelmed client. As she broke down what tasks Bevy would take off her shoulders, the customer said she felt so much better being able to relay the tasks to her team. The stress was "falling off of her," she says, "that's why we do this."

"We do this because it changes people's lives," says Janeway, emphatically, as she recalls some of her favorite Bevy projects.

Packages at four hours of service at $360, but Bevy offers various discounts for the subscription service and larger package offerings.

The company that once ran on word-of-mouth is now venturing into Facebook advertisements and other forms of traditional marketing as they continue to build its customer base. In the future, Attaway and Janeway plan to create a digital platform and scale Bevy to cities across the country.

"We have a mission to help society and blow open the doors of how families manage homes," says Janeway.

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Building Houston

 
 

The SBA announced plans to open 20 new centers to serve female entrepreneurs — and one is coming to the Houston area. Photo via Getty Images

The Houston area is benefitting from national funding that will be dedicated to creating female-focused resource centers across the country.

The United States Small Business Administration announced grant funding to launch 20 new Women's Business Centers (WBC) across the country. The centers, which are slated to go into rural and underserved markets, will also be partnering with Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

With the funds from the grant and through a partnership with the Greater Houston Women's Chamber of Commerce, the new center will rise in Northeast Houston to serve the Montgomery, East Harris and Chambers' Counties.

"We are incredibly excited that an organization as prominent as the Greater Houston Women's Chamber of Commerce is joining the SBA team," says Tim Jeffcoat, director if the SBA in Houston. "We are looking forward to working with them to empower women-owned businesses in Houston to reach new heights of success."

These new efforts represent the largest expansion of the WBC program in its 30-year existence.

"We are thrilled to partner with the SBA in opening another Women's Business Center, providing resources and tools for our region's women-led organizations to launch and expand," says Suzan Deison, CEO, president and founder of the Greater Houston Women's Chamber of Commerce. "We are honored the SBA chose to partner with us to expand needed services in Montgomery, East Harris & Chambers' counties, especially during these challenging times."

The SBA has 136 centers open across the country, and each offers business counseling, training, networking, workshops, and more to area female entrepreneurs.

"Opening the doors to the new Women's Business Centers is crucial to the vitality of women-owned small business owners. This network expansion will provide female entrepreneurs with the resources they need to start, grow, and expand their businesses," says Associate Administrator for the Office of Entrepreneurial Development Allen Gutierrez. "We look forward to the continued success of the WBC program as it contributes to the overall health of our economy and creates jobs in their local communities."

According to the release, the timing of these new centers is especially important as entrepreneurs continue to be challenged amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Over the past several months, we have seen Women's Business Centers provide aid to our nation's innovative and determined entrepreneurs, allowing countless small business owners to pivot with confidence to stay afloat during the pandemic," says SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza. "Expanding the WBC program is part of this Administration's longstanding commitment to the success of female entrepreneurs and women-owned small businesses. Adding these new Women's Business Centers to the already existing network of centers across America will boost timely resources to our nation's female economic drivers, providing them with local training and counseling."

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