Working together at Yahoo7, then Head of Communications Elke Keeley and then General Counsel Noga Edelstein would often share war stories on life as a working mum.
Both pursuing busy careers while raising young children, they knew the value of their precious time and how frustrating it was to have such time eaten up by general household chores and maintenance.
But they also found outsourcing such tasks just as time-consuming, particularly in attempting to find excellent, trusted cleaners and gardeners.
So when the pair decided to launch a business together, they knew exactly what problem they wanted to solve – the need for busy professionals to take back control of their lives at home.
In 2014, they left their corporate careers to launch UrbanYou (formerly UrbanOutsource), an online platform enabling customers to book household services online, accessing a trusted supply of pre-vetted service providers, available immediately.
“We were quite senior in our careers and felt like we were losing control at home,” says Keeley. “We realised there had to be a better way. So we looked at what was available internationally in the on-demand space and realised that if you can buy goods online, like books, you should be able to also buy services in the same way.”
They made convenience and urgency a key priority of the platform they built, with 60% of bookings now completed within a three day window. From their own experience they knew that when you need help, you want it immediately – not next month or even next week.
They also knew suppliers offered through the platform needed to be trusted, quality service providers – the type of people you’d recommend to your own friends and family. “It’s a service people are experiencing in their home so trust is critical,” Edelstein says. “We understand that. We are the customer. So all suppliers have to be strictly vetted (including with police checks). We meet them, they’re service tested and only those with the highest ratings remain on the platform. Only around 10% of people who apply to be included are accepted.” Those suppliers see it as an opportunity to build their own businesses -- enabling them to work flexibly and according to their needs.
UrbanYou now has over 250 suppliers in the Sydney area, offering a range of services such as general cleaning, spring cleaning, exit cleaning, gardening and carpet steam cleaning, and will be expanding into Melbourne in the next couple of months.
Our publisher Angela Priestley tests out the service:
Chaos at home has taken on a whole new meaning for my family and I in 2016.
We welcomed a new addition at the beginning of the year, as well as another business in March when I acquired Women's Agenda.
We've completely given up on finding time for ourselves (it'll come back one day, we know) and are now content to just find half a metre of free space in our home that's not covered in the two year-old's Lego.
So I was very happy to give UrbanYou a test run for Women's Agenda AND get my rather neglected home cleaned at the same time last week.
I was even happier to see that the whole booking process was very, very easy. You simply decided on the service you need – cleaning, gardening or carpet cleaning – offer some details about your home (number of bedrooms, bathrooms etc), tick off on any added extras (such as garage or oven cleaning) set up your account, share your preferred service time and book. I requested my clean for the next day, because the situation was desperate.
Our cleaner rocked up five minutes ahead of schedule (which he very nicely apologised for), took a tour of our messy little home and then returned to his car to collect his own cleaning supplies and get started. With a baby on one arm and a laptop on the other, I simply left him to it, requesting that he shut the door behind him when he was done.
Now, normally I wouldn't leave the house to a stranger (although there's not a whole lot one would want to take from ours) but knowing he'd been vetted and approved by the UrbanYou team left me feeling confident all would be ok. I've been personally getting in and out of the cars of strangers now for almost two years through Uber.
I'd actually forgotten I'd requested the service on my way home later that afternoon, until I opened the front door to be pleasantly surprised by the site of an actual, clean home. The floors had been cleaned, the toys put aside, the beds made, the kitchen tidied and the bathrooms scrubbed.
That evening I followed up by booking a gardener to spend two hours clearing out the weeds in our backyard. Within forty eight hours, he was in our neglected garden, letting me know what he was doing, sharing some advice and offering to take the green waste away.
For some time-poor families, it's not always the cost of the service that's the issue -- although UrbanYou is very affordable at $80 for a two-bedroom house -- but rather the research to find a suitable person to do the job, or trusting that an agency is paying its staff fairly and ethically. That takes time and energy. And then there's the waiting around for someone to call you back, requesting a quote, and eventually booking in a service two weeks later than you actually want it competed.
UrbanYou eliminates these issues, and even takes care of the payment (pay online with your CC), meaning there's no awkward cash exchange or 7am trips to the ATM to pay the cleaner because you forgot to get cash out in advance.
This is a great service started by two local, female entrepreneurs who understand what customers want, because they’re such customers themselves. I've already recommended it to family and friends, and feel just that little bit less stressed knowing there’s help available when I need it.
Want to take control of your own home? Test out the service for yourself with our exclusive Woman’s Agenda special:
$30 OFF any cleaning or gardening service.
Simply visit www.urbanyou.com.au and enter coupon code WAURBAN for your discount to be instantly applied. Enjoy!