Just as Uber gives nearly anyone with a car a chance to become a driver for a hire, a new local startup aims to give those with spare time a chance to make a buck by being a helpful neighbor.
Naborforce launched last month in Shockoe Bottom to connect aging Richmonders to its network of helpers, or “nabors,” who provide on-demand assistance with non-medical tasks such as errands, transportation, help around the home and social engagement.
The web-based venture was born from an idea founder Paige Wilson had while caring for her ailing mother. Wilson, who had been managing director with investment banking firm SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, was trying to balance her full-time job and her mother’s needs, while being recently widowed and raising her daughter.
She noticed her mother also needed help with daily activities beyond what her home health aides didn’t assist with, things for which her mother didn’t necessarily want to ask for help.
“I could tell my mother felt like she was a burden,” Wilson said. “I didn’t like that she felt that way.”
After her mother’s passing, Wilson thought about ways to help elderly people and enable them to stay in their own homes longer rather than move into nursing homes.
She thought about the elderly who may not want to ask, or do not have friends and family around to help with running errands to doctor’s appointments and grocery stores, cooking or sharing a meal, or to take out the trash and unload the dishwasher.
“I had a great career and I loved it but I kept thinking, ‘This is my legacy to the world? Raising capital for large corporations?’’’ Wilson said. “So about a year ago, I started research into alternative ways to serve our senior population and their families.”
The company had a soft launch last month, offering hourly pricing with a one-hour minimum, which Wilson said sets Naborforce apart from more traditional home health services with higher minimums. Weekday rates are $25 per hour, while evening/weekend rates are $30. Monthly subscriptions and packages of hours can be purchased as well, with the latter ideal for someone recovering from surgery.
Wilson would not say what percentage of the fee is paid to the nabors.
Wilson served as a nabor during the first couple of weeks. For example, she drove a client’s sister, who was sick, to a doctor’s appointment, then to a grocery store and a McDonald’s drive-thru, as the client missed the experience of simple socialization.
“If you just need groceries, you can have it delivered,” Wilson said. “But we take people shopping because they miss walking up and down the aisle. I was delighted to see her happy as she walked the aisles.”
Since its launch, Wilson said one client was helped with setting up a Facebook account; a nabor introduced another to podcasts.
Wilson has signed up 20 nabors and is vetting another 20 or so. All nabors have undergone background checks, reference checks and in-depth interviews.
Naborforce’s freelancers have included people looking to earn extra income with flexible schedules, such as school teachers, a speech therapist, a college professor, an opera singer, and several empty nesters and young retirees.
“There are so many people in the community looking to be connected and do something with purpose,” Wilson said. “Our growth rate in bookings has been strong and exceeded our initial expectations.”
Clients are scattered throughout the Richmond area and Wilson aims to continue expansion throughout the region. She’s also exploring creating a mobile app for Naborforce.
The self-funded venture is based in the Startup Virginia building in Shockoe Bottom, where Wilson said she spent the summer handling the branding, legal and technical aspects of starting up.