LAKEVIEW — When Grubhub co-founder Mike Evans tried to get a rain barrel installed on his home last spring, what seemed like a simple task quickly became extremely irritating.
"It was just really annoying to try to get somebody to show up to do this job for me," said Evans, who lives on the North Side. "I was just trying to get a rain barrel installed, and it was a pain in the neck, so I started to think this was a larger problem."
Evans said trying to get a handyman to perform a job — especially a small job that wouldn't pay much — is a universally frustrating thing. So just like he did with ordering food through Grubhub in 2004, Evans tried to think of a way to make a common task simpler.
In May, he and a group of his colleagues at Grubhub, which is headquartered in Lakeview, came up with Fixer, and it quickly launched.
Fixer is a website that allows you to sign up and request a job, chat with the handyperson via text and charge a flat hourly rate of $80 regardless of the project. Fixers are often able to show up to a customer's door within 24 hours of the initial request.
"The reason we think there is a need for a new way to do this is because the typical experience of hiring a handyperson generally starts out with doing a search, finding a list of a bunch of people, calling them, then they don't call you back, and it can take a few days to get in touch with somebody just to describe the job," Evans said. "Not only is that a big pain in the neck, but it's often really hard to get someone to do jobs that are small."
Fixer's handypeople are able to perform all kinds of tasks, such as installing a toilet, mounting a TV, hanging a ceiling fan and pressure washing a deck.
Evans said he and his team brought Fixer from an idea to reality in about six weeks, which is incredibly quick for a startup like this.
"The thing is, we had worked together, and we'd all seen how a marketplace startup business can really work," Evans said. "The experiences we got from our initial interactions with customers was so positive that we knew we were onto something. So we decided to give it a full effort and get it going as fast as possible."
Not quite six months later, Evans said his fixers have completed about 1,000 jobs throughout the city of Chicago.
In addition to making ordering handy services simpler, Evans said one of the main goals of the company is to give people the opportunity to learn a trade and earn a good living. All of Fixer's handypeople are employees, not independent contractors, and they earn benefits through the company.
"All of us who started the company felt like the gig economy is not all it's cracked up to be in terms of providing a real living for people," Evans said. "If you come work at Fixer, we specifically have a training program to create very skilled individuals. We're trying very intentionally to create a career path for people who want to get into the trade."
Evans is optimistic about Fixer's success, but he said a big expansion isn't in the company's immediate future. Right now, he's focused on making sure it continues to work in the city.
"Our goal is to maybe hire another 30 full-time fixers by the end of the year and continue to expand the offering with the city before we start to think about other cities or even the suburbs," he said. "Right now, we're really focused on making sure this works well in a small area."