A little over two years ago, Patrick Brown was at the height of what many would have considered a dream career, but the Rhode Island native wanted more.
Brown was on a tour stop with AQUA, a water hologram-based performance he had founded in 2013, and he and his partners were working alongside well-known bands like The Chainsmokers and Phish, traveling regularly and performing in some of the nation’s top venues and biggest cities. He was at the top of the industry — and that, he said, was when he realized he needed a change.
“It was fast-paced and I was on the move, but there was no sense of community,” he said. “That was not the life I wanted for myself, so I left it behind.”
So in late 2016 Brown, who lives in Providence, closed up AQUA and returned home. That decision also led Brown to create Rent Sons, a small-business campaign that aims to connect people who need help with odd jobs and young people in the community who are trying to make a living. And the concept — and business — have continued to grow at a rapid rate.
Rent Sons was launched in May 2017, with Brown and business partner Taylor Davidson serving as the only two employees when it first began.
The way the business operates is simple: People seeking the service pay a flat-rate fee of $30 per hour for each son or daughter. A minimum service request of two hours is required, according to the company website, and those seeking a helping hand are asked to reach out two days in advance to allow for proper scheduling.
Rent Sons uses a community-based model to provide its services. Clients aren’t clients, but “neighbors,” and each employee is known as a “son” or a “daughter.” Those “kids” then help the person who rented them with a wide variety of tasks, ranging from landscaping and painting to moving or cleaning — virtually any job that doesn’t require professional certification to complete.
“Ideally, we want to be community-builders. In other words, the goal is to have neighbors helping neighbors in order to help create more interactive local communities,” Brown said.
Today, the business now includes more than 70 sons and daughters. It serves a wide demographic from nearly every Rhode Island community and, if all goes according to plan, Brown said the business will soon expand to serve the Greater Boston area as well.
For those working in the program, it’s not your everyday job. As a crew of five sons and daughters were working to repaint a private residence in Westerly two weeks ago. The couple who hired them are expecting a baby and sought help in repainting their house. All five laughed and joked with one another, challenging each other to “pick up the pace” and working together to learn new skills.
No day is the same, according to senior daughter Brenna Sullivan. The 22-year-old, who served as crew manager for the Westerly project, said she has learned numerous skills since joining the Rent Sons family and noted that every job is a new opportunity.
“Every day, we come to a different location to work on an entirely different type of job,” said Sullivan, a University of Rhode Island graduate who now lives in Westerly. “You never know exactly what you are getting into, but at the end of the day you get to help people at a cost that is affordable to them. We are making a difference.”
Crew member Angel Madera, of Providence, echoed her thoughts. When asked, he said his favorite aspect of the business is that Rent Sons has allowed him to use skills taught to him by his father and grandfather that would have otherwise gone to waste at this point in his career.
Madera said he was simply looking for a side job or two to put a little extra money in his pocket while planning for an upcoming trip when he stumbled upon Rent Sons. After speaking with those involved, he said he was excited to join the team and has had no regrets since.
“It’s been a great experience, better than I could ever have expected,” said Madera, who joked that although still in his 20s, he’s “the old man of the crew.”
The money is nice, the experience is great — but that’s not all Sullivan and Madera have gained by joining the Rent Sons team. Both said they have enjoyed aspects of Brown’s journaling program, too — a side venture designed to promote self-growth among employees by offering bonuses to those who take a proactive approach to better themselves.
“Each son or daughter is given a box as a ‘present’ when they become a new employee. Inside is a journal that reads ‘Your Journey Matters,’” Brown said. “Every 100 hours they work, there is a different topic we ask them to write about.”
Over the course of the 10-session journal concept, Brown said the workers will develop different sets of skills that allow them to improve their own lives, whether it be financial planning or communications, and rewards them for their effort with small bonuses like a $30 Airbnbcredit and more.
The concept, he said, is to help retain employees while also teaching them the skills they need to succeed wherever their life should take them.
Brown said he hopes to someday make his business a national model that could be used state-by-state and said as the business expands, he hopes community interactions will as well.
“As we look to grow this company, I want to make sure everyone is benefiting from this partnership. We are focused on building strong communities,” he said.
For more information, visit the company website at RentSons.com or the company’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/RentSons/, or call 844-937-7667 with any questions or to request services.