Each week, Female CoFounder features a female founder in the community. Follow along each week and learn from different founders and their journeys.
FcF: Tell us about yourself?
Tamara: I have always been motivated by helping others. I studied psychology in college and then received my Master’s Degree in Social Work from UGA. I worked in the service industry throughout my schooling, furthering my experiences of being in service to others and identifying and meeting others’ needs.
I spent my early career working with troubled teens in residential settings and teaching Elementary Special Education. I then moved to Italy and helped run a historic bed and breakfast and taught English. Upon returning to Atlanta, I stumbled into the world of fine wine and spirits distribution and worked as a sales rep and manager for over 15 years. In the midst of my wine career, my family established a vineyard and winery in Virginia and I transitioned into a marketing role with the family winery.
Amanda and I met years ago through the wine world, she is a passionate wine collector and we participated in many of the same tasting events. She is an employment attorney and owns the largest plaintiff employment firm in the Southeast.
FcF: What is My Panda?
Tamara: My Panda (Personal Assistant Next Door App) originally started as a small project serving only my neighborhood in Decatur, GA. We hire people (PANDAs) from the local community, screen and do complete background checks on them and then train them to provide our Members help 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.
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 we 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.
FcF: How did you come up with My Panda ?
Tamara: Amanda and I were talking about the struggles we both had to get the help we needed to get things done. She was a successful, busy attorney and I was a working single mom. Neither of us had the time we needed to get our to-do lists done and we were always in need of an extra hand. There was no solution out there that was affordable and convenient and we began to realize that many people all around us were struggling with a very similar problem. We also realized that there were many people in our communities 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!
FcF: What were the first 3 steps you took after you knew you wanted to pursue this idea?
Tamara: First, I started to do customer discovery by talking with neighbors, co-workers, my kid’s friend’s moms etc. We did a trial run and offered up a “holiday helper” service in my neighborhood and were pleased that we had a great response and feedback from our first customers. We found that our idea was something that resonated with the community. Once it was confirmed that this sort of service was very much needed I set up an LLC and got the basic structure of the company in place and opened a bank account. Then, we started to explore what it would take to develop the technology we were envisioning. I interviewed several different app developers and then came up with a plan to start off with a web-based Beta product before investing in the full app development. We were in that Beta mode for just over a year before expanding and developing the app.
FcF: How did you meet your co-founder?
Tamara: Amanda and I met nearly 10 years ago at wine tasting events. I was selling wine to the retailers that she was buying from. We were both passionate and dedicated to learning as much as we could about fine wine and wine regions around the world. Most of these tastings tended to be full of men and we naturally gravitated towards each other since we were sometimes the only women in the room. We have the same enthusiasm for business and creative entrepreneurship ideas and when we came up with the idea for My Panda we realized it was a natural fit for us to work together to bring this to fruition!
FcF: Can you tell us more about how you have been able to build your team so far to run My Panda?
Tamara: As with any start-up, most of the work at the beginning was done by either Amanda or myself. Many of the Pandas that we hired at the beginning had a variety of skills (marketing, PR, design) and we hired them to help with individual projects. As we began development of the app and came up with plans for expansion we were fortunate to bring on our CPO, Josh Searcy. Josh had many of the skills that Amanda and I were lacking - primarily understanding the technology aspects of app development and the journey of a technology start-up. Once COVID hit we brought on additional team members to help us with hiring and some basic administrative tasks. We are currently looking to expand our team in the areas of customer and Panda support, marketing and technology.
FcF: What advice do you have for other women who have a start-up idea or side project idea?
Tamara: First, believe in yourself. You will always have doubts and often feel like you have no idea what you are doing. But there is always a first time you will do something and feelings of fear and doubt prove that you are pushing into a growth zone. Second, be sure to do a solid job of customer discovery to be sure you are solving a problem that really exists. You don’t want to spend a ton of resources on something that doesn’t need fixing. And finally, be prepared to work hard, make sacrifices and don’t give up. See every obstacle and problem as an opportunity to come up with a solution. If you keep moving forward you will succeed!
FcF: How can the Female CoFounder community help you?
Tamara: Having a solid support system of like-minded women is crucial. The ability to lean on other women who have been down a similar path is a vital ingredient to success.
FcF: How can people contact you?
Tamara: Visit our website www.MyPandaApp.com where you can find direct links to download the app and learn about our services. Or email me directly at email@example.com
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