Thirsty Muse local thriving Outsourcing company helps busy consumers do errands as a on call personal assistant

Friday, March 28th, 2008

Companies and individuals have thriving businesses serving needs of busy consumers

Gillian Shaw

Christina Wong (left) of personal services company Thirsty Muse has saved the day more than once for Burnaby’s Elide Centanni. Photograph by : Ward Perrin, Vancouver Sun

Corinne Stadel’s business, Sensational Suppers, takes care of grocery shopping and food preparation for customers. Photograph by : Steve Bosch, Vancouver Sun

When Elide Centanni has to get from her job in Burnaby to pick up a cheque for her husband’s business and get it to a bank before closing, she doesn’t worry about battling rush hour.

Instead she calls up her personal concierge, who copes with the traffic headaches and gets to the bank in time, all while Centanni is still at work.

At a dinner party when the special dessert she has ordered is in Vancouver and she’s busy setting the table at her home in Burnaby, there’s no panic.

Her concierge from Thirsty Muse, a company headquartered in Burnaby and offering service in cities across Canada, is at the door dessert in hand before the guests arrive.

And when a colleague faced hours of lineups to get a passport, a personal assistant stood in line, calling in the passport applicant when there was only 20 minutes left to get to the head of the lineup.

“I use them all the time, I love them, I don’t think I could live without them,” Centanni says of her on-call personal assistants at Thirsty Muse who answer her every request — from taking her car in for an oil change to filling her daughter’s Advent calendar with gifts and treats, to researching a shopping buy at Bloomingdale’s.

“I don’t know what I would do without them, they are my saving grace, every time I have something that is going to cause great stress in my life, I think Thirsty Muse.”

Outsource your life: It’s a growing and lucrative field for companies and individuals that are stepping in to fulfil the every need of today’s time-strapped consumer. The practice has moved from the corporate boardroom to the consumer’s kitchen and beyond.

At a time when people are finding there are just not enough hours in the day, they are buying more time by outsourcing everything from making dinner to balancing the bank account.

“What we set out to do was to teach the world to delegate the tasks we are never going to talk about during our deathbed conversations,” said Jason Rawn, co-founder and president of Thirsty Muse. “People say I can take care of that stuff myself.

“But the fact is no one cares, the fact is those tasks take you away from things that really matter — from projects at work, from families — it allows you to delegate those tasks that do not require your time, your energy or your love and care to a group of personal assistants right across Canada.”

Thirsty Muse is capitalizing on a shift that is seeing us go back to the days when taking care of a home and family were so labour intensive that even full-time homemakers might be expected to farm out certain tasks to helpers — whether it was having the cleaner deliver starched shirts or having someone come in to help beat the rugs for spring cleaning.

With the Internet levelling the global playing field, outsourcing is provided by everyone from virtual assistants overseas to the dog walker down the street.

It’s a burgeoning sector of the economy that is seeing traditional service providers like security companies morphing into all-around concierge offerings and new companies emerging to meet demand for services as diverse as driving kids to soccer practice or stocking the family fridge.

Such services are being seen as corporate perks and can be included in packages delivered by companies anxious to attract and retain employees who are struggling with the work-life balance dilemma.

We take a look at some of the services geared to helping you outsource your life.

Corinne Stadel could be her own best customer. The owner of the meal preparation service Sensational Suppers in North Vancouver, she juggles family life with a full-time job as a service manager at a car dealership plus running her own business.

While she offers customers a way to outsource meal making, she has her own system of outsourcing home tasks.

“I have a lady who comes in and cleans twice a month,” she said.

“Now she is bottling wine for me. I don’t have time, nobody has time — you have to outsource, otherwise you stay home.”

Sensational Suppers offers different options for farming out kitchen cooking chores, including one in which customers assemble meals at the store to take home and another where the meals are made and delivered or available for pick up.

“We do all the shopping and the prep work, they come in and put it all together to take home,” Stadel said.

“You could do 12 meals easily in two hours.”

Full meals at Sensational Suppers, a franchise operation on the Web at, range from $28 to $30 for six-portion meals with half-meal portions $17 to $19.

Susan Woodhouse takes the personal chef service right into the home. She works part-time at the University Women’s Club and in response to a request from a club member whose daughter was looking for help with meals, now also spends time as a personal cook and shopper.

“I didn’t actually set out to do this particular type of work,” she said. “She basically wanted somebody to come in and make some home-cooked meals in her house.

“She chooses what she wants to have made and I go out and shop for ingredients. I come back and cook it for her; put it in containers so it is all ready when she and her family come home.”

Woodhouse usually spends about a day every two weeks shopping and filling the larder and freezer and she is constantly turning down offers for more work.

By the time she leaves, entrees are in the fridge or freezer for dinner, fruit is chopped up for fruit salad, veggies are prepared for later reheating and cookies and muffins are freshly baked.

Like Stadel, Woodhouse, a busy mom who juggles different part-time work, could probably use some outsourcing help herself.

“I’m not a gourmet cook, I’m just the mom in the kitchen making casseroles,” she said.

© The Vancouver Sun 2008


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