South City

Mobile Mommy provides vetted on-demand babysitters with a side of tech

For many, babysitting a short-term gig. For Ashley Gladney, she's turned that old fashioned model into a business thriving in South Memphis with low overhead and a host of clients.

For business owner Ashley Gladney, a dream deferred became a dream realized quite by accident.


The accident occurred when Gladney, 31, happened to see a flyer outlining a new program, Faith and Finances. The program was sponsored by Advance Memphis, an initiative that began in 1999 to bring economic growth to the 38126 zip code area in South Memphis.


“I actually moved in the (South City) neighborhood in 2015 and I saw flyers in my apartment complex,” she said. “The Faith and Finance (class) was all about getting a wrap on finances and offered a program to give you a chance to save money for your business, house or a car.”


Faith and Finances, according to the website, is a 12-week course empowering participants to track income, expenses, develop budgets and avoid debt, along with emergency planning,


Two years later, in 2016, Gladney, came up with the concept of the mobile babysitter and decided to launch her business in May of that year.


“Actually, I’ve been going to homes of people for 16 years,” she said, adding that as a high school student she babysat for Memphis Grizzlies player Lorenzen Wright.


The brainchild of Gladney, Mobile Mommy offers sitters with equipment and marketing, said Gladney. The babysitters and independent contractors who travel to clients’ homes with nanny cams and body cams provided by Mobile Mommy.

Ashley Gladney started her business in 2016 and now has 9 part-time employees.  

“I’ve always liked babysitting.  It was something I enjoyed. My mom was a babysitter, but she was wasn’t mobile.  I took that concept and created something,” Gladney said.


As old school babysitting practices took a backseat to high tech approaches, Gladney has utilized modern-day tools. Gladney offers a website where potential clients can book fully-vetted babysitters all online.


Additional tech features include a body cam that is attached on the shoulder of the sitter and the nanny cam that sits in the corner of the room where most of the activity is occurring.  Parents, using an app from their cell phones, can access the goings-on in the room and see the child’s face from the body cam.


Gladney credits her introduction to Advance Memphis for her success. In addition to the Faith and Finances course, she is also a graduate of the LAUNCH accelerator for neighborhood entrepreneurs.


After Gladney finished the Faith and Finances course, she enrolled in the 10-week LAUNCH program with Advance Memphis. Bryce Stout, graduate development coordinator, said the program helps to develop business ideas with the students as well as offer constructive feedback.


“We help to develop their business…taking your idea that includes knowing yourself, your customer, marketing pricing, costs, profit and loss,” he said.


Stout said the LAUNCH program began in the spring of 2014 with eight graduating students. Since that time, it has grown to 54 graduates.


“Out of 54 graduates, 29 have started their own businesses and 16 are in the planning stages,” said Stout, adding that out of the 29 entrepreneurs, about 80 percent are still in business.


With the success of the program, Advance Memphis has expanded its target area to include ZIP 38106 in addition to 38126, so now the nonprofit located at 769 Vance Avenue serves all of South Memphis.


Mobile Mommy client and busy mom Keisha Burnett, 41, a health professional and doctoral student, has used the service since July 2016. She said it is essential to her household.


“We had been trying to find a consistent babysitter on a regular basis for our four-year-old son with special needs, said Burnett, whose family lives in Tipton County, which is an hour’s drive from her household in Memphis.

The larger camera serves as a nanny cam that parents can access via an app on their phone. The smaller camera is a body worn camera that babysitters can wear on request of the clients. 

Burnett teaches clinical laboratory sciences at University of Tennessee Health Science Center, while her husband works long hours at Estes Trucking Company. Burnett has a four-year-old son with cerebral palsy, delayed speech with fine motor skills issues.


“When I met her, there was something about her that let me know that my son was going to be safe,” Burnett said of Gladney.


In addition, Burnett’s son must be taken to speech and occupational therapy, which is possible because of Mobile Mommy’s supervision.


“If it wasn’t for Mobile Mommy, I don’t think that I would be able to finish school.  On Saturdays, I can go to the library and just study or we can go to dinner and a movie”.


Burnett cites reasonable fees as another drawing point. “The price is affordable.”


The range of prices begin at $18 an hour for one child to $24 an hour for four or more children with a four-hour minimum, Gladney said. Also, returning customers, who employ the service at least five days a week, can negotiate lower rates.


Sitters are trained in CPR/First Aid and must have a high school diploma, at least five years of experience and submit to a background check and drug testing.


Part time employee Jean Ray, 75, a retired nurse, began her employment in October.


“We go to the same church,” Ray said of Gladney. “She announced that she was starting a business and she approached me to see if I was interested.”

Expanding the Mobile Mommy platform to Nashville or Dallas could be next for the Memphis-based business.

A divorced mother of a 50-year daughter, Ray has two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren and works to supplement her retirement income.


 Currently, she babysits for a couple who has an eight-year-old daughter with developmental issues and an infant daughter on an as needed basis, which is mostly weekends.


“I like the children I’m involved with and the family I get to serve,” said Ray, adding that she ocassionally prepares meals for the child also. “I’m that caregiver for that child and whatever the child needs.”


With a total of nine part-time employees, Gladney averaged about $10,000 in revenue last year over eight months. However, the numbers can only increase because she doesn’t have much overhead. 


“My brother loaned me $1,000 to start my company,” she said. “I had no overhead so I used the money for marketing and buying nanny cams and bodycams.”


Although the journey to business ownership began when Gladney started babysitting as a teenager, the game changer was finding herself pregnant during her senior year at Ridgeway High School.


“I had a lot of family support during my pregnancy and I was able to graduate and my son was born after graduation during the summer,” Gladney said of her son, who’s 13.


After graduation, Gladney, the youngest of three siblings, eventually moved from the home of her parents near Germantown to subsidized housing in South Memphis, which was a drastic change from the middle class life out east where her father worked for the railroad for 37 years and her mother worked in the home.


A determined Gladney enrolled at Southwest Community College and obtained an associate degree and eventually enrolled at Baptist College of Health Sciences with a degree in HealthCare. After a three years of working as a buyer in the purchasing department at Methodist Hospital and a year as a revenue specialist, where she processed dental insurance claims at University of Tennessee Dental School, Gladney was ready to do her own thing.


Gladney’s long-term goals include expanding to other cities such as Dallas and Nashville “It’s a possibility that it’s going to happen,” she said, adding that she has not set a specific date for Mobile Mommy spinoffs.


Although none of her clients are from South City in the 38126 zip code where Gladney resides, she sees her accomplishments as a plus to the community.


“I moved from a rural area of the City of Germantown to South Memphis and it’s like the opposite," Gladney said. “It means that it can be done.”

Read more articles by Thelma Balfour.

Thelma Balfour has been a freelance writer for USA Today and Newsweek. She also worked as a reporter for The Commercial Appeal, the daily newspaper in Memphis. She is the author of two books, Black Sun Signs: An African American Guide to the Zodiac and Black Love Signs.