Erin Krex spends a fair portion of her time trying to track down Alice from "
(Not the real one. That's actress
, 86 and reportedly living happily in San Antonio.)
Krex is more interested in finding Alice's real-word likeness — the full-time child wrangler, chef and housekeeper who dispenses wit and wisdom and still, as Krex puts it, "finds time to date Sam the butcher."
"She's out there," Krex says. "Alice exists. But she's not cheap."
Krex, 34, is the founder and president of First Class Care, a Northbrook-based agency that connects families with nannies, housekeepers, personal chefs and other domestic helpers who keep mom and dad and their charges from being plowed under by the daily demands of work and school and laundry and swim lessons and all the rest.
Trained as a graphic designer, Krex was in search of a qualified nanny for her son, Parker, now 7, when her idea was born. She and her husband, Steve, found the process frustrating and fruitless, especially when the woman they settled on almost burned down their house.
"I knew there had to be a better way."
She launched First Class Care in 2006 as a way to unearth (and screen) the best and brightest nannies and place them with equally wonderful families. Today, her company also offers year-round training seminars in everything from laundry ("You'd be surprised how much there is to learn about doing laundry properly") to potty training to caring for children with special needs.
"I derive a lot of satisfaction from helping others," Krex says.
Q: What's the secret to your success?
Of course now it won't be a secret, but my husband, Steve, is the secret to my success. He's incredibly supportive and helps out 200 percent with the business, home and family. He cooks dinner every single day. I could not keep it all together without him.
Q: What's your greatest possession?
Q: What's the best lesson you learned from your father or mother?
A: My father taught me to have a solid work ethic. I learned from my mother to follow my passion and do the kind of work that makes me happy.
Q: What's your biggest mistake?
A: My biggest mistake — but I'm learning — is to try to do everything myself. I'm not unlike a lot of entrepreneurs who are guilty of the same thing, but at the end of the day it's better to let someone else pick up the slack so that I can focus on what I'm really good at and where I'm truly needed.
Q: What was the biggest surprise about running your own business?
A: Early on, I thought being an business owner would allow me to come and go as I pleased — for vacations, doctors appointments, parent/teacher conferences and other personal commitments.
Those conferences and school plays, too, are sacrosanct, so I get to those, but I rarely leave for a full day or full week for that matter. We are a customer service business that requires 24/7 support.
Q: Which side gets cheated more often: Personal or professional?
A: Definitely personal. I often work seven days a week, but even during those times I make sure to squeeze in moments for my family.
Q: If I only knew then ...
A: I would have networked a lot more in the beginning. Networking with other entrepreneurs has been amazing for my business and personal life.
Q: What did you want to be at age 13?
A: When I was 13 I wanted to be an artist. I loved to be draw and paint. I followed this passion by going to school to become a graphic designer.
Q: What's the one thing your mother never told you?
A: My mother never told me how hard it is to do it all. She made it seem so easy!
Learn more about First Class Care at