In a year filled with the uncertainty of quarantine, COVID-19, and financial insecurity, Pat Brown decided to open his business in Chattanooga. But Rent Sons is more than just a business to Mr. Brown, who started his company in Rhode Island and always planned on moving south to Tennessee. In spite of the difficulties, Mr. Brown said, he wouldn't have it any other way.
"I started Rent Sons because I learned so much from the odd jobs I did growing up," he said. "I formed relationships with the people who hired me and they became my mentors. It really changed my life and made me who I am. And I feel like kids don't have a lot of that these days, there's a huge lack of mentorship. So I wanted to create a model where other young adult lives have the ability to be transformed."
Because of Coronavirus, Mr. Brown said his business had a bigger impact much sooner than expected.
"We launched in the worst time in history to launch a business," he acknowledged about his moving and work-for-hire company. "But we were already committed and we went for it, and it was awesome to get to help so many people from the beginning."
As uncertainty grew in April, the unemployment rate hit nearly 15 percent and many who found themselves suddenly out of work were waiting on unemployment checks to start coming in, Mr. Brown realized his burgeoning business could make an immediate difference.
So, he quickly hired as many as he could who needed work most and donated his services to the elderly, the immune compromised, or others at higher risk and greater susceptibility to the virus.
"We raised $10,000 in donations and we personally matched $3,000," he said. "We paid out of our own pocket to get new contract hires work, plus help people with errand runs ... and that will continue to be our big push: To offer opportunities for work and mentorship."
Since the beginning, Mr. Brown said Chattanooga was his goal for a second location and home base for his Rhode Island-founded company. And when he realized what the cost of growth looked like, he knew he needed a partnership to get there.
It was then that he found Capacity Capital, a Chattanooga-based investment fund dedicated to eliminating barriers to small and mid-sized local business growth.
"Capacity is a southeast leaning fund, and Chattanooga was already his goal, with additional expansion into Charleston and other southern cities," said Capacity Capital co-founder and CEO Jonathan Bragdon. "We love being able to assist Pat and his team so they can provide the necessary backing to make this vision a reality."
Once the financial barrier to business growth was solved, Mr. Brown said, he was able to grow his team and create new opportunities to help others.
"That’s the core of what this business is about,” he said.
“Helping small, promising companies who can grow profitably and also intend for the business to positively contribute to their local community is our mission at Capacity, so it was a natural fit,” Mr. Bragdon agreed. “I want to prove that there is incredible value in these companies that not only can be financially successful, but are invested in strengthening and supporting the communities they operate in.”
So what can Rent Sons do? Just about anything within reason, Mr. Brown said.
Moving, exterior home painting, junk removal, power washing and errand delivery are just some of the many services Rent Sons provides.
Locally, Bo Thomas joined the team as the Chattanooga-area community manager. And the connection to the new company could not have come at a better time, he said.
"I first heard about Rent Sons when I was several months married and washing windows for True Shine Window Washers,” Mr. Thomas said. “I ... had worked several jobs including with Branch Technology pioneering robotic 3D printing. However, due to financial hardship in the company I was laid off and had to find something new and temporary. I had a friend who recommended me to the CEO Pat Brown to open the Chattanooga branch and as one conversation led to another, here I am.”
And Mr. Thomas sees plenty of potential, even in the midst of 2020’s unpredictability.
“We offer great pay, flexible schedules and lots of opportunity to grow in homeowner as well as life skills,” Mr. Thomas said. “So many young adults get stuck in jobs that they don't love and they don't have the space to figure out what they really want to do and what their passions are. Through Rent Sons, we hope to give them those opportunities and the mentorship to realize those goals.”
Hopefully, Mr. Brown said, next year the "sons" (and daughters) will be able to resume focus on the other impactful side of the business: Creating relationships that go beyond the services provided.
"We want to stay for coffee — just not during COVID," Mr. Brown said. "Hopefully, that will change soon. But until then, we're still here to help."