Last year, a startup called ManServants launched, promising to give women what they really want: a man for hire to anticipate their needs and pamper them.
CEO and cofounder Josephine Wai Lin tells Business Insider that her service “started as a joke and it became way too real.”
Last fall, ManServants launched in San Francisco, and then in Los Angeles. Most recently, the very real startup launched in New York City. Soon, Lin says it will expand to Las Vegas.
When might you need a ManServant? Any time, really. ManServants gives a few examples on their website: bachelorette parties, girls’ nights out, and a pool party needing a cabana boy, just to name a few. Wai Lin says ManServants have been hired for a few gay weddings, too.
We were curious about the service, so we decided to round up some friends and try it for ourselves.
Wai Lin and her cofounder Dalal Khajah were working in advertising last year before ManServants launched. The two were trying to hire a 'hot male assistant' for one of their girlfriends' birthdays. After failing to find what they were looking for on Craigslist and TaskRabbit ('There was no handsome help available on TaskRabbit,' Wai Lin recalls), they turned to a stripping agency for help.
After the botched attempt to hire a stripper to perform menial office duties, Wai Lin and Khajah's coworkers started asking the two women to help them find and hire more of these men for their bachelorette parties in lieu of actual strippers. So last year, Wai Lin and Khajah quit their jobs to bootstrap ManServants.
ManServants are 'not just handsome,' Wai Lin tells us. 'They're very multi-dimensional, multi-talented. He can't just be good to look at. He has to be hilarious and entertaining as well.'
There are only about 12 ManServants per city, Wai Lin tells us. She says the number of ManServants is intentionally small, because she's more interested in recruiting a small number of high-quality ManServants. 'It's harder than you'd think to find a man who's both easy on the eyes and then witty, charming, emotionally intelligent and a gentleman,' she tells us.
To recruit new ManServants, the company sends its 'cutie collector' to local bars and restaurants. This recruiter hands out business cards to potential ManServants that say, 'I'm not hitting on you, but we could use a charming gentleman like yourself.' ManServants also has a director of talent who's a former model with lots of industry connections.
This isn't an escort service -- it's a chance to be waited on hand and foot, to be pampered, the startup insists. Common requests for ManServant duties include hair braiding, serving drinks, assisting with Instagram photoshoots, painting nails, and fanning customers with either a banana leaf or an actual fan.
Wai Lin says the main criticism she receives about ManServants doesn't usually come from women -- it's from people who hear the name of the service and assume ManServants is a way for women to boss guys around.
When you hear the term ManServant, Wai Lin says, you think of women dominating and men being submissive. But, she says, 'that's actually just because of gender dynamics that it doesn't work like that. We say he'll do anything to make your dreams come true with a tuxedo on, and what women ask for is hair braiding.'
Wai Lin says ManServants considers itself a feminist startup because they have created an experience that's designed specifically to cater to women's needs.
OK, enough about the company. What's it like to hire one of these ManServants for yourself? We had to try it out. After you enter in some information about the kind of event you're hosting, you're given the chance to name your ManServant. You can call him anything you want, from Fabio to Ryan Gosling. After much debate, we named our ManServant Alejandro.
This part felt a little weird to me -- assigning a name to another human you're hiring? What about their real name? You're not allowed to know your ManServant's real identity, the startup's cofounders told TechCrunch last year. 'Women can sometimes get hung up on one of our guys so we have to protect the men,' Wai Lin said.
ManServants customers also must agree to the company's Acceptable Behaviour Policy, which indicates among other things that interactions with your ManServant remain non-sexual.
Right now, Wai Lin says, she's getting lots of requests from women for ManServants who can braid hair. Lots of women are also requesting man buns, lumbersexual men, and 'darker gentlemen,' she says. 'I think because of Kardashian trends.'
ManServants are rigorously tested and vetted before they get hired. Besides an online test, they also go through scenario and roleplaying training and interact with women in real life (IRL), who then rate each ManServant. Here's just one of the questions potential ManServants take as part of an online training test.
Each ManServant costs $125 an hour. ManServant pay is based on a graduated wage, starting at $50 an hour and going up to $80 based on feedback and the number of events each ManServant completes. Right now, ManServants are contractors, though Wai Lin says the company is switching them over to W2 employees in the coming months.
Our ManServant showed up just on time. Here's 'Alejandro.' He always wears a tuxedo with a ManServants-branded ascot, and travels with a fan and a parasol.
Right now, ManServants is only serving Brooklyn and Manhattan, but 'Alejandro' made the trek out to Queens to come cater to me and my friends. He introduced himself -- complete with a fictional backstory -- and immediately launched into helping out around my apartment, serving us snacks. Most ManServants, like 'Alejandro,' are working actors, models, and comedians, Wai Lin told us.
I had expected ManServants to be an awkward experience -- I can't say I'm used to being waited on hand and foot, and I felt really weird about hiring someone to do that for me -- but my friends and I later agreed it was anything but. ManServants are trained to anticipate their clients' needs, Wai Lin told us.
'Alejandro' immediately made himself comfortable in my cramped kitchen, and wasted no time preparing drinks for us (my friend and I supplied the booze). True to ManServants' word, I didn't lift a finger for the entire hour 'Alejandro' was at my place.
'Alejandro' entertained us with dramatic readings of our horoscopes. There wasn't an awkward moment the entire time 'Alejandro' was over -- he did his best to keep us entertained.
Then, we went for a delightful walk around my neighbourhood. As 'Alejandro' held his parasol over me and my friends, we definitely got some questionable looks from my neighbours.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.