Read the full article as published The Skimm by on September 30, 2023
Mother knows best, right? Well, some families are giving that new meaning — by hiring “bonus” moms for their college kids. That includes Mindy Horwitz of mindyKnows, a concierge service that helps students at four colleges and universities. To learn more, we spoke to Horwitz and director of marketing Shari Brooks…
Q: When did you first realize there was a need for a “moms for hire” business?
Horwitz: [In 2018], my son [started school] at a local college in St. Louis, and I joined the parent Facebook page. I would see all the things that the out-of-town parents needed. [The next year], we launched mindyKnows.
Q: What sorts of things are you asked to help with?
Horwitz: Parents often want to celebrate their children’s special occasions — birthdays, finishing a test, getting into a sorority, having a big game — or send them treats … but searching the internet for local resources is hard, because there’s so many options … We’re local parents, and we’ve raised our kids here … so the biggest thing that we do is to provide advice for the parents … We’ll [also] put together special packages and deliver them … [But] last week, I got a text from a mom who was on a flight to Mexico when she found out her son needed to have his appendix removed. She felt so helpless … but she knew she had me, and I was able to help answer some questions for her.
Brooks: Mindy’s like a jack of all trades. She’s gotten everything from ‘My grad student’s moving into an apartment, and we just found out there’s bed bugs’ … to ‘My kids are home for the holiday, and we see the weather at school is below freezing — can you start their car a couple times so the battery doesn’t die?’ She’s even helped new graduates sell their cars … When that phone rings, you never know what the request is going to be.
Q: Is there anything you won’t do?
Horwitz: Our favorite thing is to be able to say yes. We’re problem solvers … [But] we don’t iron sheets … We don’t really go into dorms, and we don’t take students to appointments.
Q: College is where many students learn to be independent. Do you ever worry you’re somehow limiting that growth?
Brooks: We’re not trying to step in, stunt their independence, and infantilize them. We realize they’re off to college, they’re likely 18 [years] or older — they should be independent. What we’re trying to do is fill in any holes on behalf of the parents when needed, because they’re far away and they can’t, for whatever reason, be helpful.
Horwitz: Our students are independent thinkers, and they navigate their own college experiences. We’re really there for the parents … We think of ourselves like an extended family [member], so they have support when they need it.
Q: College is already expensive for many students, and this is obviously an added cost. Why do parents find it so valuable?
Brooks: Peace of mind is priceless. If you can have someone that’s a local mom, who’s on the ground [and] there to help you when you need it, that’s well worth the spend. My daughter started school during the pandemic in St. Louis, and I’m in New York. I can’t tell you how challenging it was to not be nearby. I’m not a helicopter or snowplow parent, but knowing there was someone like Mindy who could be of help, I don’t think you can put any value on that.
Psst, this interview has been edited for length and clarity.