CINCINNATI -- Owning your own business isn’t easy. Work’s not provided for you – you have to go out and find it. And then there’s the paperwork.
Those are two reasons that Florence resident Kelley Shouse, a licensed plumber, likes a new app called Homee, which links people who need home repairs done, right now, with providers who can do the work -- right now.
How does it work?
Customers use the app to post the job they need done. It’s sent to a list of approved providers, and the first one to reply gets the job. Using a map the app provides, the customers can track the progress of the provider to their homes – it usually takes 30 minutes or less, co-founder David Theus said.
The provider takes a photo of the job before he starts it and after he finishes, which he uses the app to post. To pay for the job, Homee uses the customer’s credit card information on file to send money into the provider’s bank account, also on file.
Shouse did the first plumbing job for Homee after it opened in the Cincinnati market Dec. 15, and he’s done seven more since. He likes that the app shows the customer his picture before he arrives so that the customer’s more comfortable opening the door for him.
But he also likes the fact that Homee keeps track of the materials he uses and his time spent on the job, he said, which helps him prepare his taxes. He’s willing to work for lower than his usual rate, he said, because he doesn’t have to find the jobs himself.
“Every job I’ve done for them, I feel like the customers save money,” he said.
Cindy Mallien, a customer in St. Petersburg, Florida, likes that Hommee puts the providers on a meter as soon as they arrive at the jobsite, and turns off the meter whenever they leave. That way, she said, she doesn’t have to pay for their trips to the local hardware store for supplies.
She’s used Homee for three jobs, and it’s saved her a lot of cash and worry. It’s hard to find a contractor that will do the small jobs she needs done, she said.
“Most won’t respond to estimate requests at all,” she said. “The few who do treat you like a derelict vagabond for having the audacity to bother them with your project, or they are rip-off con men, who are all too eager to help themselves to your vulnerability.”
She’s already used Homee on three jobs, she said, and plans to on several more. The company’s saved her a lot of worry and time, she said, and given her “sheer delight in getting the ugliest, weirdest ceiling in all of Florida transformed into an honest-to-God work of art.”
“I want this company to succeed probably as much as the owners,” she said. “Homee has the chance to be the Lyft of home repairs.”
Whence cometh Homee?
Theus, the co-founder of Homee, perceived the need for Homee one weekend while renovating the master bath of his home in Florence. While wrestling with a shower fixture, he accidentally cracked a copper pipe, and needed a plumber.
But because it was a weekend, none were available.
For his co-founder, Doug Schaedler, the "Aha!" moment came when his home’s air conditioner quit, just as he was leaving on a business trip. His wife and kids would have paid anything to get it fixed immediately, Theus said.
In 2015, the two men, who had met when both worked for inno360, a Cincinnati cognitive intelligence platform for research and development, swapped their stories and looked into the market for home repair services. They found that it amounted to about half a trillion dollars.
Are there investors?
The company raised $1.35 million in seed funding in Florida, where Schaedler lives; much of that is from investors who are in the real estate market. Their connections helped the company get jobs from property management companies, from which about half the company’s business now comes, the rest being from residential customers.
Homee plans to raise another $1.5 million to $2 million soon, Theus said, to hire staff in other cities and to do marketing there. The company now has 12 full-time employees, including the founders, plus eight contract developers.
Managing the company’s already impressive growth.
Since the company launched in Tampa in July, it’s signed up more than 1,500 providers, and 20,000 people have downloaded the app. Theus declined to talk about revenue, but he said it took 90 days for the company to do its first 100 jobs, whereas now it’s doing 100 a week.
Homee makes money by taking a per-transaction fee, based on the percentage of the cost of labor and materials, Theus said.
The company’s in five Florida cities and Cincinnati now, Theus said, but it plans to be in 12-18 more markets by the end of this year. Eventually, it will add more services, such as snow removal and landscaping.
Almost everyone Theus tells about the business says two things, he said: “I wish I could have thought of that,” and “I could use it.”