When Elke Keeley and Noga Edelstein, working parents and colleagues at Yahoo!7, compared notes about their shared experiences juggling home, family and work, they were flabbergasted by the process. They were both using domestic services to help them keep on top of their household maintenance, but were frustrated by the amount of time it took to find reputable service providers – in truth a little counter-productive for busy people wanting to just get stuff done around the house. They needed something – or someone – to help them simply take the hassle out of daily chores.
Finding the solution
From this, UrbanOutsource was born. In essence, UrbanOutsource offers tools for busy people to “take back” their lives, by making time for customers to get to their priorities, leaving the tasks that must be done to an outsourced party. It’s a one-stop-shop for domestic chores. It’s as simple as choosing a service via their online menu, receiving a quote (generated in minutes), and then booking and paying.
The service allows customers to find pre-screened (no more scrolling through hundreds of “online reviews”) gardeners, handymen and cleaners, without any of the hassle of comparison
The service allows customers to find pre-screened (no more scrolling through hundreds of “online reviews”) gardeners, handymen and cleaners, without any of the hassle of comparison. The security of the system also means that by booking online, you won’t have to rummage for cash payment once the job is complete – another win for domestic efficiency! It takes the frustration of out of home maintenance – it’s as easy as ordering Thai food! The service has grown in popularity since its launch in 2013, and is now out of beta phase with its new site, http://urbanoutsource.com.au, offering a sleeker look and more robust booking platform.
Elke and Noga have developed a stringent background assets check system on all suppliers signed up with UrbanOutsource. “Our customers are trusting us with whom they let into their homes, and we take this very seriously. To date we’ve only approved 20% of all applications submitted for joining the Sydney network” says Noga.
Champions of Time Management: Get it done, make time for fun
They also practice what they preach. They are both champions of time management, and allow time for work, play and family. Elke says she is conscious of her time, and knows that there is time to focus on her work, personal life and her family. It’s an important creed to live by, particularly from a co-founder whose company tagline is “Get it done. Make time for fun.”
Elke also knows that you can’t do everything at once, but is quick to point out her tip for staying on top of a full schedule: “If something needs to get done, take steps to deal with it straight away!.” So how do two working parents and co-owners of a thriving business keep their lives in order? Simple: Elke and Noga work part of the working week from their respective homes on the Northern Beaches (Elke) and the Eastern Suburbs (Noga), and then the rest of the week from their centralised office space in the Sydney CBD. Their office gives them the opportunity to meet their providers and suppliers in person, a part of the process they pride themselves on, an important element of their service and their business model. It also helps that they are both in the same life stage (both are mums to children 5 years old and under), and understand each other’s frustrations balancing home, career and social lives.
UrbanOutsource offers tools for busy people to “take back” their lives, by making time for customers to get to their priorities … It’s a one-stop-shop for domestic chores that need doing.
Defining the target market
It’s a far cry from where Elke though the business would be when they first started. Developing the company’s target market took 12 months of research and fine-tuning. Elke says that after doing initial market research, they thought that UrbanOutsource would be targeted at busy working mothers in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, but found that their client base was much wider than that, and now includes any kind of busy person, from all areas of Sydney, with or without families, some even without partners or families under their immediate care.
In some ways, Elke notes jokingly, UrbanOutsource also helps the “domestically challenged”. In general, the average UrbanOutsource customer is aged 25-45, is internet-savvy enough for online purchasing, and lives in an urban or suburban environment. Now, UrbanOutsource’s most popular services are cleaning and gardening, with exit cleaning (the cleaning done before vacating rental properties) also being very popular. They now obtain repeat customers because of their outstanding facilitation process.
Elke speaks fondly of a certain customer who used UrbanOutsource suppliers to assist with her relocation preparations. This involved an End of Lease clean, a garden clean up and a handyman to repair odds and ends to her old property in preparation for her first home inspection – all of which was done within a week from her first booking request. It took the time and more importantly the stress out of the moving process, and allowed this customer to focus on settling herself and her children into their new home. The customer gave UrbanOutsource rave reviews, and she has since become a regular cleaning service customer!
The challenges of keeping house
Despite all its obvious wins, the business is not without its challenges. Elke talks of the challenge of managing expectations, for example understanding what “clean” means to various clients. Elke and Noga have since developed an itemised checklist for their suppliers, so that each supplier/provider on the job knows exactly what’s expected, and saves everyone the back-and-forth time to clarify the brief. Efficiency is key for UrbanOutsource, but not at the expense of quality service. Not that you’ll ever see this from the customer side, though, as it works seamlessly behind the scenes to ensure a smooth, fast service.
As the business grows in it’s customer base, so will their reach. Future plans include an app to access their services on the go, as well as opening their market up nationally. They are now in the process of expanding into Melbourne. Category development is also on cards, as they plan to move into areas such as childcare and food preparation. But as busy, successful people know, it takes time, effort and hard work to achieve a certain level of success, but this is something Elke, Noga and UrbanOutsource are ready for.
All images courtesy of UrbanOutsource