CHICAGO, Ill. — COVID-19 rocked small businesses. Mom-and-pop contractors were hit especially hard. Now, an app is helping them connect with customers in a new way.
Working with his hands has been a welcome change for Steve Banyamin.
“Four years ago, I was working for a fortune 15 company doing B2B sales,” he said. “I just hustled. I’d be putting 55, 60 hours of work a week and it’s stressful.”
These days, he runs his own contracting business.
“You see me now, sweating, I’m swinging hammers, it’s dusty, but it’s a different type of mental stress. I’m much happier now,” said Banyamin.
Most of his work comes from word of mouth, but that can leave some holes in his schedule. When he doesn’t work, he doesn’t get paid.
“There was a gap in between where I was kind of like, 'Oh man, what am I going to do? I’ve got no job lined up and the bills aren’t going away,'” said Banyamin.
The pandemic exacerbated that uncertainty.
Unemployment in the construction industry spiked during the pandemic, from 5.5% in February 2020, to more than 16% by April. It continued to hover around 10% through the beginning of this year.
But now he has some help via a new app called ChoreRelief. It connects contractors with potential clients.
“So, you set up an account and as soon as an opportunity comes in and fits your criteria, your skillset, as well as the service area you would like to perform service at, we notify you immediately. All you have to do is open the app,” said Tarik Khribech, the founder of Chore Relief. “And then just send them what is a fair bid, and if they accept your offer, congratulations."
It’s just one of the companies Khribech has started since he emigrated to the US from Morocco.
“Growing up as a kid, I was always the hustler. If I have something and you like it, I’m happy to sell it for a profit,” said Khribech. “I buy something, I flip it, I sell it. You call me in the middle of the night. You see me walking down the middle of the street with the brand-new sneakers my brother just sent me from America and you give me a price for it, I’ll go home barefoot.”
Now, he wants to give a boost to contractors like Banyamin who are hustling to earn a living.
“A lot of the people don’t have the budget or the marketing experience, but you know what they all have in common? They have smartphones. So that’s when the idea came, let’s build an ecosystem that empowers these small mom and pop shops, small businesses,” said Khribech.
That ecosystem is helping Banyamin and other contractors like him to build and sustain their business.
“Because of ChoreRelief and some of the other apps that I use, business is plentiful. So, it’s never the case where I don’t know how I’m going to make that money. It’s more about, 'Oh man, I hope I have enough people to help,'” said Banyamin.