Making It

AT YOUR SERVICE: Ken Lartey and his wife, Afi, have started four companies that provide personalized assistance.
AT YOUR SERVICE: Ken Lartey and his wife, Afi, have started four companies that provide personalized assistance. (Copyright Keith Barraclough)
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By Katherine Shaver
Sunday, June 1, 2008

WHEN SOME WASHINGTONIANS get their tummies tucked or their faces lifted, they call Ken and Afi Lartey's company for the full after-treatment. For $3,000 per 24 hours, a nurse will drive plastic surgery patients to and from the hospital, see them through recovery and pick up prescriptions or groceries. For an additional fee, one of the Larteys' other companies will drop off the dry cleaning and find a nanny to watch the children.

What the Larteys started nine years ago as a home health care company for the elderly has snowballed into three other areas: recovery care for plastic surgery patients, transportation for the elderly and disabled, and concierge services for the well-to-do. They bill themselves as one-stop shopping for personal care.

"Whatever people's needs are, they just have to let us know," says Ken, 43, who lives in Ashburn with Afi, 39, and their two sons, ages 5 and 8. The couple had met as family friends growing up in Ghana before Afi, then 9, moved to Alexandria. They reconnected in 1996, when Ken came to the United States to study at George Mason University.

By then, Afi was working as a home health aide. When an elderly Fairfax County woman whom she took care of for three years died, the woman's family gave Afi and another home health aide each $5,000 as a thank-you gift.

Ken and Afi used the money to launch Advanced Senior Care Services in 1999, starting with three clients and two other home health aides. A few years ago, Ken says, they began receiving phone calls from people of all ages wanting a nurse to help them recover from plastic surgery in the privacy of their homes or a hotel. The resulting company, Nu-Me, started in 2006.

Donna Boone says she hired a Nu-Me nurse to help her recover from non-cosmetic surgery in November. When the nurse wasn't at her bedside, Boone says, she was preparing food, cleaning her house or doing her laundry.

"They treat you like you're in a fine resort," says Boone, 42, who owns a swim school in Ashburn. "Whatever I needed to have done, she did."

Last year, the Larteys launched Legacy Concierge, handling the mundane tasks of the good life, whether it be clinching a reservation for clients at a hot new restaurant, taking their BMWs for a tuneup or staffing their next gala.

The concierge fees -- $65 per hour -- cater to households with incomes over $200,000. That might sound expensive, Ken says, but many of their customers are busy CEOs with no time for daily chores.

"They pay us to do something for $65 while they work on making $65 million," Ken says.

Last year, the Larteys combined the four companies under Legacy Concierge's management with an office in McLean. The umbrella company employs about 55 nurses, nursing assistants and concierges.

Ken says Nu-Me and Advanced Senior Care brought in $1.62 million in gross revenue last year, with about $450,000 in profit, while the transportation company, Access-Ride, made about $28,000 in profit. Legacy Concierge grossed $124,000, but because Legacy saved costs by using administrative staff from the other companies, Ken says, it was almost pure profit.

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