I'm a 'dad for hire.' I've assembled furniture, given car-loan advice, and even attended a parent-teacher conference.
- Retired NYC businessman and father of three Jeff Yablon launched Rent-a-Dad in 2018.
- He offers services like assembling furniture, providing tech support, and giving car-loan guidance.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Jeff Yablon, the 62-year-old founder of Rent-a-Dad in New York City. It has been edited for length and clarity.
Rent-a-Dad was born in New York City during the summer of 2018. From its infancy, it was more than just something to keep me busy in my retirement — it was a passion project fueled by my desire to continue to feel as useful as I had during my days as a COO-for-hire, when startups would enlist me to come in and manage back-office operations.
After I sold that business in 2017, I went through a period of both soul-searching and researching for a few years to find something new that would not only excite me but also allow me to continue to help people in some form or another.
As the dad of three now-grown sons, being a parent is one of the things that has always made me happy.
Then one day it hit me
By lending a hand and offering my services through a business like Rent-a-Dad, I could satisfy my personal need to feel useful while putting my existing skill set to work by helping people in a very different way than I had before. Because whether it's a startup or a college freshman living on her own for the first time, everyone has too much stuff on their plate.
In New York, oftentimes people look to outsource some of those things, and who better to trust to hand it over to than a dad?
That's where I come in. For $80 an hour, if you live in Manhattan or certain parts of Brooklyn or Queens, you can hire me to do the kind of stuff typically reserved for dear old Dad.
Over the nearly 4 years I've been in business, I've pretty much seen and done it all
However, the most common job I'm tasked with is assembling or rebuilding furniture.
One year, Wayfair put a dresser on clearance the week before Christmas and I kid you not, five separate clients bought it and all hired me the same week to put it together. There's also one particular Ikea bed I've been tasked with rebuilding so many times for so many different people, I've nicknamed it "Frankenbed." It's gotten to the point where I'll walk into someone's apartment and throw my hands up like, "Oh no, not that piece again!" but like a dad, I get to work and get the job done.
My favorite type of work is the backend, tech-type stuff I did in my former business
I like how I feel when I'm working on jobs like that and how I'm able to use that particular part of my background. Need help editing a report or adding graphics, fine-tuning a resume, or tweaking a formula of your spreadsheets? Look no further, I'm your guy.
I've also been hired to help people buy, lease, or simply brainstorm high-tickets items like a first car, apartment, and even a diamond engagement ring.
One of the more out-of-the-box jobs I've had took place in fall 2019
A high-school senior from Brooklyn hired me to accompany him to his parent-teacher conference. The boy explained his parents were strict and since his grades were suffering, he was afraid to bring them to school for the meeting. But he really wanted to attend so he could get the guidance and direction he needed from his teachers to improve his grades. He wanted someone there for moral support and to ask the kinds of questions a parent would and get the feedback he needed. So that's what I did.
I never actually said I was his dad, but I guess since I showed up with him to a parent-teacher conference, it was assumed. That was interesting because we look nothing alike and happen to be two different races. If anyone at school had any doubts about me being his dad, they kept it to themselves, though.
We still keep in touch from time to time. He managed to get the guidance he needed and his grades went up and now he's in college. He told me that eventually he confessed to his parents that he brought me to school.
The truth is, no matter what the job is, if I help someone out and manage to take something off their plate, I feel good about it.
People often ask who my typical client is, but I really don't have an 'average' client
It's all over the map — both men and women hire me, and their ages run anywhere from 20 to 70 years old. There's one thing they all have in common, though.
For many of the tasks I'm hired for, my clients could probably pick up the phone or go online and hire some random guy to do the job, but they've all come to Rent-a-Dad for the feeling that comes along with it.
As a dad, I'm not just going to walk into your apartment and just do the task and leave. I'm going to place my hand on your shoulder and let you know you're in good hands and that I'm here to take care of whatever it is you need done.
You see, it's the sizzle not the steak I'm selling. The sizzle is the dad element. Anyone (well, almost anyone) can put Ikea furniture together, but can they do it like a dad? That's the real question.
It's also one of the reasons I haven't scaled my business and remain the sole dad for hire at the moment.
I believe the business has legs if I choose to pursue it
The way I run it right now isn't a long-term business plan, but at the moment, I'm not looking for that.
I'm at a point in my life where I don't have to make a fortune right now. I work around 25 hours a week, and that's how busy I want to be. Believe it or not, it's exhausting work, both physically and intellectually, and I'm pretty much maxed out after four hours a day.
If I wanted to hire a bunch of guys to just perform tasks I could, but that's not what I want and that's not why people choose to do business with me. I want people to walk away feeling validated and feeling that there are no dumb questions. The whole experience has to be warm, genuine, and filled with compassion, and that's a level of training that's tough to quantify or qualify.
I like to think I model myself after the kind of dad I was and wished I had more of an opportunity to be to my three sons who were between the ages of five and 12 when their mother and I got divorced.
In a way, Rent a Dad is kind of a do-over for me on a personal level, so at the end of the day, it not only satisfies my client's needs — it satisfies me on so many different levels.
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