Long-time Fixer customer Katie W. is a first-time homeowner. Her 1913 home is a joy, but when she experiences issues, she tells us how Fixer has been there for her every time. Katie explains why she loves Fixer and why she recommends it to friends and family, all the projects Fixer has helped her with, and how Fixer compares to other services.
Edgar has been working at Fixer almost since the beginning. In this spotlight, he tells us how his handyman experience began at the age of 10, what he’s learned from being at Fixer, and how being a dad has helped him understand what clients are going through.
Your spring cleaning is done, but why does your living space still feel tired? When there are projects all around you but you don’t have the time (or energy) to address them, that’s where Fixer steps in… and like magic, all is right with the world.
When we arrive at your property, we will a review the tasks on your list including those be done require our standard materials and which require us to run out to the store. We will review that with you, and then head out to shop before we start the labor. When we shop, we charge a fee of $64/hr pro- rated to the minute. Most shopping trips average just 30 minutes in length. Once we return, we’ll turn on our labor clock at $94/hr.
Skilled electricians, carpenters, painters, all-arounders - people who are knowledgeable, handy, and can fix our homes. They’re dying. Literally.
This frog got boiled slowly, but the fact is, it’s cooked now. Taken individually, each of the drivers behind the dwindling numbers of skilled workers make sense. As the years have slipped by the sum of the parts has created a silent emergency, a generation of ghosts.
Somewhere along the way, the promise of high salaried, upwardly mobile careers was offered at the mere completion of an undergraduate degree, making the trip to the hallowed halls of academia the presumptive default. The trades - slow to innovate compared to the lightning pace of technology, biotech, finance - were downgraded as paths for those who couldn’t “make it” in academia.
Vocational training in urban high schools has all but disappeared. Shop classes in high school have been dropped in favor of computer literacy classes, with the expectation that this prepares students for college entry. The lack of interest in the trades has been unwittingly aided by an industry that has held on to outmoded ideas including excluding women from the workforce and intentionally setting up gatekeepers to resist the addition of young tradespeople. Meanwhile, the latest figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the vast majority of high school graduates are attending college. But that leaves a huge portion, over a third, who have no plans for college, and haven’t been taught specific job skills. For those that do attend college, it’s far from a guarantee. Over 22% of college graduates remain unemployed, laden with heavy student loans.
For commercial builders and general contractors there simply aren’t enough skilled workers to go around. According to the National Association of Home Builders, a full 82% of home builders named this as their No. 1 issue in 2017 (up from just 13% in 2011).
For homeowners, this problem is even worse. While online aggregators such as Thumbtack, Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor have provided opportunities for independent contractors to list their services (for a fee) and receive consumer ratings, they still don’t offer a solution to the core problem. There simply are not enough professional, experienced workers to handle the demand. Nine out of ten of the homeowners I’ve spoken to have tried to get some small thing fixed, and found that they simply cannot get anyone to come out to their place to do the work. The lucky few who have found “a go to person” often go through several voicemails, weeks of waiting, and ultimately a day off work to get maintenance and handy work done in their homes.
How is there an acute shortage of skilled workers in the trades, combined with a dearth of career options for high school graduates?
In the words of Jacobim Mugatu, “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!”
There has to be a better way. There is a better way. Fixer is going to launch a trade school.
Here at Fixer, we set out to solve our customers’ problem of waiting weeks for “their guy” to show up to fix something. We quickly came to believe that this can only be done hand in hand with a comprehensive dedication to reshaping the way trade education is offered in our cities. We believe that the only way to attract bright young talent is to pair modern education with competitively paid employment.
So, we decided to start an in-house school, with a twist (it always has a twist doesn’t it?)
The Fixer trade school isn’t your grandpappy’s shop class. It isn’t spending two years in sawdust strewn shops under the impetuous gaze of a grizzled veteran. No, we’re building a technology enabled curriculum injected with practical experience. In addition to hard skills, we focus on mentoring respect, empathy, and exemplary customer service. We actively recruit men and women to join us on this path. And then, here’s the kicker, once a Fixer certifies on their first skill, we send them out into people’s homes to use the skill. This is paid, real-time, real-world training aligned to the needs of real-time, real-world customers.
Our Fixers - both the experienced veterans on board and those we train and certify - are employees, not gig economy workers. That’s important too. Sending a novice into someone’s home only works if they have support and can see a bigger vision. It only thrives in a team based atmosphere. Our new Fixers have centuries of skill backing them up, along with the guarantee of the entire organization. Layered on top of that is our technology. In addition to creating a customer experience that’s quick and convenient, we’ve built apps that let the more experienced Fixers evaluate, comment, and instruct the new Fixers while in the field.
Our novice level Fixers will be earning in weeks, debt-free, even though certifying in all of the fifteen or so different handyman disciplines will take several years. During that journey, we offer our Fixers ample opportunity to consistently succeed. And a the end of that journey, we’ll help our Fixers branch out: into their own specialized trades businesses, into the unions, or even to stay on to expand our growing footprint.
We’re decades away from solving our cities’ lack of skilled tradespeople. But...
The Fixer trade school is a start.
Fixer announces $4 million Series A Round
Today we announce our $4 million Series A round led by Founder Collective, the top-ranked seed investor (#11) on the Forbes Midas List. Participating investors include Impact Engine, Hyde Park Venture Partners, OATV as well as several private individuals.
Launched in May 2017 by GrubHub founder Mike Evans and several members of the early GrubHub team, Fixer has quickly grown to be the Chicago market leader in providing premier quality, on demand handyman services. Customers book a skilled, experienced Fixer for any kind of home maintenance issue - confirming the hourly rate, estimate, and date + time on mobile in seconds. The Fixer team jumps to action, handling a variety of tasks big or small, often in just one visit.
“Our phones are the remote controls for our lives,“ says Evans, “We can order a car, buy groceries, walk our dog with our phones these days, why not a skilled handyman service?”
Beyond the customer experience, Fixer has a defining mission:
We Fix Things. We Build People.
“We purposefully chartered as a public benefit corporation to increase the number of sustainable career paths for men and women in home repair trades.” Continues Evans, “It’s not enough to just provide a great service or disrupt a traditional industry with technology. We are leaning into a larger societal problem in that we need create skilled people to perform these jobs and with this funding we are uniquely positioned to do it.”
The funds will be used to launch Fixer’s market expansion plans while also establishing its first in-house training school, with a first class set to kick off in September. Jessica Droste Yagan, Managing Partner at Impact Engine believes, “Fixer is enabling upward economic mobility for individuals while also solving a real problem for homeowners and renters. We’re excited about the company’s potential to drive commercial value while improving the community.”
In addition to the current round, the company previously raised $1 million in private seed funding, bringing total capital raised to $5 million since inception.
Eric Paley, Managing Partner at Founder Collective, having led investments in billion-dollar startups, Uber, the Trade Desk, and Cruise, is confident on Fixer’s future growth. "When Grubhub first came onto the scene, using a mobile app to order Chow Mein seemed futuristic. Mike Evans and the Grubhub team made the practice routine and built a multi-billion dollar business. I have no doubt that with Fixer, this team has the blueprint necessary to build a consumer brand that creates trust with homeowners and develops the next generation of skilled tradespeople."
Here at Fixer HQ, we have learned by leaps and bounds in the last year - listening to our customers, to our employees, and articulating our overall vision. We are more than energetic about taking these next important steps in driving our fresh approach to home repair. Please join us in a big thank you and high five for being a part of our first year, and know that we are going to be pushing even harder to make your home repair “headache free” going forward.
Hello and Happy Fall!
Here at Fixer we are getting ready for cooler temperatures here in Chicago. We have made a point of making sure our doors and windows don’t have any drafts and have a fresh layer of weather stripping. Oh, and we made sure our air filters are ready to go. Here are some things we’d be happy to help with as the seasons change:
We can add insulation, install storm windows, plug cracks, check vents, and do a bunch of other things to make sure your home stays cozy.
HVAC system checks, and making sure your filters are up to the task
Cleaning or repairing your gutters and downspouts
Disconnect outside hoses and turn off outdoor water lines
Got another idea? We can handle it.
We are ready to help with all of your Fall and Winter Weatherization needs. Just schedule a Fixer and we'll take care of the rest. Here, we’ll make it extra easy for you:
A busy realtor’s office was getting ready to put a Southport condo on the market but first needed some help with maintenance and repairs. The condo owner noticed lint on the walls near the washer and dryer and thought the dryer was due for cleaning. The condo’s spacious rooftop deck also needed attention. There were loose boards around a built-in flower bed and dead flowers needed to be pulled and replaced.
I’d like to introduce myself! I’m Tracy Cupper, and I’m the People Person here at Fixer, and it’s absolutely my dream job. I love people! My job here is simple--find great people, provide them with a great job, empower them, and stay out of their way while they do their great work! To be honest, I wish that I could give everyone a job here, because it’s such a great place to work!
A recent visitor to the Fixer dispatch center remarked, “Everyone here is so nice, and you all work really well together.” We’re so glad that she noticed, because at Fixer, we are building a company with the employee as our priority. Our Fixers are talented people, and they care about our customers as much as they care about their craftsmanship. We’re so proud of the work that they do and the people that they are, and we want their work experience to be fantastic!
As part of our commitment to our employees, we use their direct feedback to form our policies and procedures. We have regular feedback meetings with our Fixers and our office team where we work together to problem solve any issues that they are experiencing, using a sophisticated operations approach teamed up with good ol’ fashioned pride in our work.
Why are we so passionate about making sure that our people are engaged and empowered? Because we know that our people are the experts--they know how to do the various jobs that our customers need them to do, and we respect the hours of training and experience that go into knowing how to meet all of those very different needs!
Right now, we are looking for experienced handymen and handywomen. That could mean that you work in the trades and have lots of construction and handy experience. That could mean that you work professionally in another arena, but you happen to do lots of handy work on your house or your friends’ or families’ houses. That could mean that you’re juggling several careers, and one of them is being an independent handyman when time allows. Either way, we have a stable, full-time handyman or handywoman job available for you that includes benefits! Let us find the customers, you just show up and provide the great handywork for our customers!
If you’re interested in coming to work with us as a Fixer, or as a licensed electrician or plumber, please apply here: https://fixer.com/careers. We’re looking forward to meeting you!
Here at Fixer, we are all about efficiency. We're going to say what everybody is thinking anyway: painting your walls can be a big job. When Fixers arrive for your paint job, they'll do their best to make sure that they have all the materials they need to get going quickly, but there are a few things you can do to help them go even faster. Just to be clear, all of this is completely optional - we are happy to complete the job from start to finish!
First Things First: Use Great Paint
One little-known fact about paint is that the higher the quality, the fewer the coats. Some people try to save a few bucks by buying a lower quality paint, but that often does not work out in the long run. With a lower grade paint more coats will be required, which obviously takes extra time.
The folks at your local paint store can help you select great paint - or you can leave it to us. Fixers love choosing great paint.
Next up, Prepare Your Space
Fixers will come prepared with tarps, tape, and anything else we need to make sure we don't leave a mess, but it is helpful if you can move your furniture away from the walls, and remove outlet covers before we arrive.
And Finally, Tape
This last step is super optional, especially if you have never taped a wall in preparation for a paint job. If you feel comfortable, applying tape can save us time, and save you money. Here is a video tutorial that may help.
That's it! As we said before, Fixers expect to do all of the above, but if you'd like to help them along we're happy for the help!
These days there is a tremendous amount of fervor around startups. Excitement abounds in the media and at the watercooler.
“Have you tried this new app? It’s awesome.”
“Did you hear how much company X raised? Can you believe it?”
“I’m thinking about starting a new company. It’s like Omaha Steaks but for dental floss.”
The thing is, any company needs to start by doing two things:
Building an app
Making sure the back end is ready to scale for huge numbers of customers
Wait, sorry. That’s not right. Let’s try again.
How to bootstrap a business:
Figure out how they can best be served
Since starting Fixer, as we have come across people who are in need of home repairs, we have done whatever we can to understand a homeowner’s thoughts as they consider fixing issues. There are numerous thoughts one has before deciding to call a service provider. People do interesting things like batching up a long “To Fix” list before acting, even if the first item on the list is super annoying to them. But far and away the things we hear most often are:
“Most handyman-like services don’t show up on time, and some don’t even show up at all.”
“I want someone who cares about quality to just fix this stuff.”
So much mental energy goes into finding someone good. This shouldn’t be as big a problem as it is. And yet.
The product is the people
After hearing enough potential customers list reliability and quality as the two main factors that they are looking for in a handyman, we had a realization:
Our product is our Fixers.
Delivering on our customers’ needs is not about creating flashy apps or newfangled business models. It is about hiring a team of excellent handymen/women/people, and outfitting them with everything they need to do great work. At the end of the day, our customers want to tick some important To Dos off their lists, and interfacing with our company is simply a means to an end. Enabling Fixers to do their best work has a direct impact on the quality of service that our customers will come to expect.
Choosing to enable Fixers to do great work has had a major impact on where we have focused our “Product” efforts. Take, for instance, the Tools and Materials that our Fixers use at each job. In our first few weeks, new Fixers would bring their own tools and a handful of materials to a customer’s door, but they would routinely run to their car for extra materials. This was quite inefficient, and our customers noticed the problem. “Why don’t you have the supplies you need?” was a question we heard.
So, we focused our efforts on creating the Standard Fixer Toolkit and Fixer Materials Bag by interviewing Fixers and working to elicit feedback on the most commonly used tools and materials. Each of the kits has around 30 items that are always with a Fixer when they arrive. We are now able to complete 80% of our jobs without leaving the customer’s home, and that number will improve as we continually tweak our toolkits and materials bags.
Beyond the direct benefits a customer reaps when a Fixer shows up at their door with the necessary tools and materials, they also benefit by working with a Fixer who is mentally ready-to-go. Customers can expect attentive and courteous service - your Fixer isn’t wondering whether they have their hacksaw in their bag. In our experience so far, customers notice the difference.
But seriously, what about an app?
Of course we are hard at work on the technical side of our Product. One day soon we will have an app that customers can use to call a Fixer to their location. And our Fixers will have their own app to communicate with customers and the dispatch center. For now, though, we are focused on asking fundamental questions about Fixing and building a Product that is truly what our customers want it to be, and by operating the business using analog methods we are learning about the user experience without making the necessary tradeoffs that come about when building software.
In true Lean Startup fashion, we have been successful in finding many ways to interact with customers that don’t require our own apps. As we are ready to codify the business rules we are making now as we learn, our customers will interface with more and more of our technologies. Until then, we are not solely focused on building for scale. We think our customers will experience a stronger series of Fixer Products in the long run because of this approach, and most importantly, our Fixers will earn our company the reputation that only they can.
Later this week, Zach will tell you more about our Fixers and how we ensure that we’re hiring the best, but for now rest assured that our plan is working. The reviews we receive are glowing, and we could not be more proud of our crew of Fixers.