We had the good fortune of connecting with Tamara Lucas and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tamara, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Being a single, working mom, I am acutely aware of the struggle many of us have in trying to juggle it all. Throughout history, humans have lived in communities where they were surrounded by others who could support them. Today, most of us live more isolated lives away from extended family and our social support systems are strained. The adage of “it takes a village” resonates with us but few of us have that village to lean upon. It is a widespread problem with no affordable, convenient, trusted solution. The idea of connecting people to others who live right in their local community who have the time and desire to help seemed to be a logical solution. I knew that it was a solution that would help me, and the more people I talked to, I realized it was a solution that could help so many. Once we started to build My Panda and we saw the impact on our communities there was no going back!
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I am the most excited about how My Panda is able to help so many people. I have my Master’s degree in Social Work so helping others has always been my biggest professional goal. My Panda is unique in how we can target specific neighborhoods and using our convenient mobile app, connect our Pandas (Personal Assistants Next Door) to the people right in their community who need help with day to day tasks. Our members are able to get things off of their to-do list and onto ours, thus freeing up their time to do the things they love. At the same time, our Pandas are able to earn a liveable wage, doing things that they enjoy doing, according to their own schedule. Like any start-up, we have our struggles with finding the resources needed to grow and scale. Fortunately there are some amazing programs that we have been a part of that have been invaluable. The ATDC program through GA Tech has a fantastic education program that teaches the basics of starting a business, it is inexpensive and open to most anyone. The Emory Goizueta Business School’s Start:ME program is a comprehensive, competitive program that focuses on underserved communities within Atlanta. Here, we learned about many of the community programs and organizations available to help small businesses succeed and further strengthened our business model. We are also in the current cohort of the City of Atlanta’s Women Entrepreneurship Initiative. This is a 15 month program that takes all the participants through an extensive curriculum to set us up for success. There is an entrepreneurial eco-system here in Atlanta that is strong and vibrant and full of people who are here to help others. This community has been crucial to our success. This sense of community is vital to the My Panda business model. By helping those around them live a less stressful, more fulfilled life, our Pandas are able to contribute to making their world a better place, while making a little money while they are at it! Our members are able to delegate the things that they don’t have the time or desire to do, while knowing that they are providing work for others in their community. We are excited to continue to grow into other areas, helping more people along the way!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Oh, where to start?? I am a big foodie and wine and cocktail lover so we would definitely eat out as much as possible. Walking the beltline, starting at Krog St Market and finishing up at Ponce City Market is a quintessential Atlanta day. Ticonderoga Club would be the final destination on that day. I have lived in Decatur for the past 20 years and there is nothing like wandering around Oakhurst, grabbing an app and glass of wine at Steinbeck’s, then a craft margarita at Mezcalito’s and then strolling over to Downtown Decatur and hitting up a few of the classic restaurants (Brickstore, 246 and Leon’s). To burn off some more calories, the Downtown Decatur Cemetery is a beautiful place to explore. Your Dekalb Farmer’s Market is a surprisingly fun place to bring guests, nothing like it anywhere! My mother actually once had to buy an extra suitcase to transport home all the spices and herbs that she bought there!! To explore the natural world, my favorite places are Arabia Mountain (especially when the flowers are blooming) and Sweetwater Park, we pack a picnic and wear our bathing suits and frolic in the water on a hot day after working up a sweat hiking. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
We are extremely fortunate to be in the current cohort of women entrepreneurs in the City of Atlanta Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEI). This program, and it’s Executive Director, Monica Hooks, have played a crucial support role in our growth. The curriculum and resources of the program are specifically meant to help women owned businesses thrive. In addition to the structured program, the intangible benefit of having a community of strong, like minded women to grow with is immeasurable!
Viki Sears Christine Vrooman