Hands up if your relationship with fundis is one characterised by disappointment and frustration. If you have a story to tell, this young woman’s business targets you.
Ann Nyakarura, 26, is the founder and CEO of TaskPap Services, an online start-up that for two years now, has been connecting service providers such as electricians, engineers, plumbers, painters and carpenters to clients.
Ann, the secondborn in a family five, grew up in Buruburu estate in the outskirts of Nairobi. After completing high school, she enrolled to study Journalism at Aviation College in Nairobi and after graduation, got her first job as a video editor and promptly moved out of her parents’ home.
“I got a good house, but it needed fixing here and there. Unfortunately, I had a very difficult time getting a fundi - it actually took me weeks to get one,” She explains.
This experience is what gave birth to TaskPap, a tech start-up that facilitates reliable, high-quality home services for customers. The service addresses three of the biggest customer challenges: delays, poor services and lack of price transparency, while simplifying the process of finding the right person for the job to completion of the service.
It is interesting, how your business came about…
The fact is that getting a fundi, and getting one that will deliver in time and do a good job is difficult. When I moved into my first house, I just couldn’t find an electrician; eventually, I ended up asking the caretaker to refer someone, unfortunately, he ended up doing a sloppy job since the repairs hardly lasted a month, forcing me to look for someone else to redo the job. It took a while, but I finally got someone qualified enough to do it - it was a frustrating lengthy search. TaskPap makes sourcing for services around the home stress-free; if you have a task that needs to be done, we will facilitate it for you pap!
Even better, we vet our service providers to ensure they’re credible. Once we vet them, we post their details on our website, www.taskpap.co.ke and promote their services. All a potential client is required to do is visit the site, identify a fundi, and then contact us.
We in turn get in touch with the fundi, who, accompanied by a representative from TaskPap, meets the client and quotes for the job. We require a 50 per cent down payment before commencing the project. After completion, the client settles the full bill.
What services do you offer?
We have an inclusive list, which includes electrical repairs and installations, air heating and conditioning services, painting, plumbing, carpentry, as well as project management.
How do you vet your service providers?
Besides scrutinising their qualifications, we also evaluate their work first hand by making site visits. We also ask for at least three referees who can shed light on the quality of services offered. It is only them that we post their details on our website.
How much capital did you invest in your business? Was your investment worth it?
I started with Sh45, 000. Most if it went into designing the website, which is the face of the business. We get most of our clients online via this website. Was it worth it? Business is unpredictable, while I can make Sh50, 000 in a day, I can take me a month to make the same amount. Even with the uncertainty however, the investment was worth it. I plough back my profits into growing the business as well as footing expenditure such as paying for office space.
What kind of client do you target, and how do you source for clients?
We serve an array of clients; from those that hold 8am to 5pm jobs, business owners, corporates and building and construction firms. Besides our website, through which clients can contact us, we also advertise our clients on Facebook and Twitter. I have greatly leveraged on building a strong online presence. I also depend on referrals - when you do a good job, satisfied customers will gladly market you.
How much do you charge for your services?
Rates differ depending on the type of job one wants done. There are those that attract hourly charges, as well as those that we charge a one-off fee, especially those that take days or even months to complete. For these ones, we get into a contract to ensure that both parties meet their end of the bargain.
Every business has setbacks, what have yours been?
My biggest challenge is how to please my customers while still depending on hired hands. This is difficult to achieve all the time because a fundi may pull out of the project in the middle of the assignment or fail to deliver in time. I also don’t have all the machines and equipment required for the various services we offer, which tends to eat into our profits because outsourcing is quite expensive. The other challenge is the often steep cost of materials to get the job done, especially when the client requests custom specifications.
Besides running TaskPap, what else do you do?
I am a video editor by profession, and often take up various freelance jobs. So far, I have worked with Fatrain Films, Ginger Ink films, Reel Productions, What’s Good Studios and BlueMoon Studios, a South African production house.
How does employment and being self-employed compare?
When I was employed, I would go home in the evening and forget about work, not giving it another thought until I clocked in the next morning. Being self-employed means never forgetting about work. I am constantly thinking about new opportunities to get more customers and grow my business. I of course worry about the cash flow too, but in spite of this, doing my own thing gives me great satisfaction.