Personal concierge

Is a personal concierge worth the price?

Our city correspondent tries getting by with a little help from My Stewards
Our city correspondent tries getting by with a little help from My Stewards

I’ve often fantasized, as many busy lawyers do, about having my own personal assistant: someone to pick up my dry-cleaning, run my errands and generally be the Andy Sachs to my Miranda Priestly. Alas, I haven’t reached that level of diva status quite yet, so outsourcing the mundane tasks of my day-to-day life remained but a mere pipe dream. That is, until I learned about the glamorous world of personal concierge services.

“We’re the company to call to look after all your needs and help you simplify your life,” says Christina Sutherland, co-founder of Toronto concierge service My Stewards. Like a genie that charges, My Stewards caters to clients’ every whim. They’ll organize your move. They’ll sit in your house and wait for your couch to be delivered. They’ll even help you pick out your couch in the first place. So long as it’s legal, they’ve got you covered.

So when My Stewards offered me a two-week trial, I jumped at the chance to test drive these services. First, I created an online account with my contact and credit card information (My Stewards pays for expenses upfront, then invoices you). When I wanted their help, I could use an online request form, or contact Christina directly by phone or email. I mostly emailed her because I like a personal touch, but not too personal. Over two weeks, we exchanged over 75 emails (or roughly the same number the average lawyer receives in an hour).

For my first request, I asked Christina to help me host a dinner party. My boyfriend and I had wanted to have friends over for months, but with our busy schedules (I’m in-house at BlackRock, he’s a lawyer at Osler), it was difficult to find the time. Also, while I like the idea of hosting, my shameful history of failed Pinterest experiments is undeniable; I’m no Martha Stewart. Thank goodness for my genie.

I told Christina the date and that we wanted to serve Middle Eastern food, and she took care of the rest. She sent out e-vites to our 10-person guest list of law school friends and work colleagues, kept track of the RSVPs and worked with a catering company to develop a menu of lemon chicken, couscous salad and roasted eggplant that was both delicious and within our budget. And since it’s not a party without a signature cocktail, Christina suggested a crowd-pleasing rosewater pomegranate spiked lemonade to complement our Middle Eastern feast.

Despite some last-minute anxiety on my part (will the food be tasty? will there be enough? oh God, what have I done?), the night was a huge success. Christina hand-delivered all of the supplies an hour before the event, and offered for someone on her team to stay and help serve. I was tempted, but I knew I would never hear the end of that from my friends, who were already teasing me about “calling my people” to schedule coffee dates. Instead, Christina brought oven-safe dishes with instructions for quick reheating.

I also used this trial as an opportunity to tackle a few other lingering projects, like finding a shoe storage solution for our apartment. She also helped me find the perfect birthday gift for my mid-century-modern-loving best friend — a cool vintage decanter.

Although a personal concierge might remain aspirational for most lawyers (myself included), it’s pretty handy if you can swing it. Plus, with all those mundane tasks taken care of, you can focus on the important things this winter — like kicking back in front of the fire with your own signature cocktail.

How to choose a personal concierge

By Nina Ya-Haqqi

Once you’ve decided you want the help (and can afford it) you’ve still got to pick the right concierge for you. Here’s our guide to five of Toronto’s best.

For green machines: Lifestyles Plus $
Want to “go green” but have no idea where to start? These guys stick mostly to local and eco-friendly products and services. Go home, non-biodegradable materials! 

For parents: My Stewards $$
The folks at My Stewards will lend a hand with occasional child and pet care. Outsourcing litter box and diaper duty? Doesn’t get much better than that. 

For the jet-set: Modern Concierge $$
These are the experts in planning dream vacations. They’ll select hotels, find flights and create customized itineraries. You’re still in charge of remembering your passport. 

For the flexible: Quintessentially Lifestyle $–$$$
With Quintessentially Lifestyle, you tell them your interests and they customize the service. They’re membership only, so you can’t take them home unless you’re ready for commitment. 

For the fancy: Unlimited Personal Services $$$
Let’s be real: you want a personal concierge so you can feel like a celebrity. Well, Unlimited has catered to the likes of Elton John and Robert Herjavec of Dragons’ Den. Get your rose-tinted glasses ready.