Home shopping network: These companies come to you
PHOTOS BY JEN FARIELLO
What if you were really wealthy– catered to, coddled, spared many of life's little miseries simply because you could afford to have someone else do what you'd rather not.
Alas, you're not wealthy at all.
The good news is you don't have to be rich to get companies to come to you. While most doctors have given up house calls, many businesses are just getting started offering in-home services. Recently, at least seven Charlottesville businesses have sprung up– and they're heading in your direction.
From pooper-scoopering to shredding documents to preparing meals, these enterprising entrepreneurs prove that if you buy it, they will come. Right to your door. Or your car. Or toward the yard grenades your dog has left behind.
Bruce Jones of Busy-bee.biz
Owner: Bruce Jones
800-314-5070, 760-1484, busy-bee.biz
Maintaining a car can throw a wrench into a busy schedule. A simple oil change can require dropping off your vehicle, finding a ride to work and then figuring out a way back again.
Not anymore, thanks to Bruce Jones, who started Busy-bee in June 2004.
"It's a huge time-saver," says Jones, who recommends that customers get an oil change every 3,000-5,000 miles.
To make that chore painless, Jones– or one of his two employees– will come to your home or office, change your oil and filter, top off your fluids, and adjust your tire air pressure– all for a flat fee of $30.
Jones reports response to the new biz has been strong. With more than seven viscosities of oil and more than 50 oil filters in stock, Jones says he can handle "basically every vehicle" and usually requires just one day's notice. And appointments can be made online.
Kevin Martin of KMX
Stop dumpster-divers from grabbing secrets
Company: KMX Mobile Security Shredding
Owner: Kevin Martin
Those pesky identity thieves are ruining everything! No longer can you clean house by stuffing your papers into a garbage bag and depositing them by the curb or at the dump. Oh, no, vigilance is required, and not just vigilance– shredding! Yup, every single page of paper with your personal information on it should be destroyed. That includes bank statements, bills, even those ubiquitous credit card offers we're all flooded with. Heaps and heaps of paper.
Fortunately, Kevin Martin started KMX Shredding back in June 2004 to provide onsite document destruction for homes and businesses.
Martin's industrial shredder can handle up to 1,500 pounds of paper an hour, he says, meaning "what would take a person eight hours to shred at the office we can shred in 30 minutes." And that, he explains, "is where the cost savings is."
Martin charges a flat fee of $35 for up to 175 pounds; beyond that, it's an additional 20 cents per pound.
A new federal law requiring businesses to shred confidential documents went into effect in early June, and Martin says it's been a boon for his business, which operates from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday. Appointments should be made several days in advance by email.
Barclay Mullins of PODS
Clean it up, clear it out
Company: Portable Storage on Demand (P.O.D.S.)
Owners: Barclay and Wesley Mullins
Everyone has stuff, and some of us have way too much of it. When it comes time to paint, do home repairs, or even move, that stuff gets in the way in a big way.
Not a problem, thanks to Portable Storage on Demand, a franchise whose Richmond representative has his eye on Charlottesville.
"It's amazing to watch the numbers keep increasing," says Barclay Mullins, 26, who co-owns and operates a PODS franchise with his older brother Wesley.
When the brothers (and their Louisiana-based dad who's a doctor) started their PODS franchise, they had only 50 POD units– essentially 8'X12 or 8'X16' movable storage sheds– and one truck. Three years later, the business Mullins calls a cross between U-Haul and a storage warehouse boasts 1,000 PODS and seven trucks.
"Our typical customers are redoing floors, remodeling or renovating the house," says Mullins. "Maybe there's fire or water damage. If they're selling, they can use it for de-cluttering and making the house show better. It makes the customer have a nicer house."
And because there are PODS franchises in nearly every large U.S. city, the company is also an alternative to traditional moving companies.
"The majority of our customers are happy," he says. "We don't damage things often," and unlike traditional moving companies who can be up to two weeks or more late with nary an apology, Mullins says, "We're on time for the most part."
Susan and Jacob D'Aniello of Doody Calls
Company: Doody Calls
Owners: Susan and Jacob D'Aniello
It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it. Fortunately, that someone no longer needs to be you thanks to UVA grads Jacob and Susan D'Aniello who started pooper scooping business Doody Calls three years ago in Northern Virginia and opened a Charlottesville office in March.
Considering that 40 percent of U.S. households have a dog– with that number even higher in Charlottesville– Doody Calls has its work cut out.
In fact, in addition to the Charlottesville and Northern Virginia locations, the D'Aniellos have opened franchises in Maryland, Washington D.C., and Boston, and D'Aniello says they're going nationwide.
"There's not a city in America where people like picking up dog poop," he laughs.
Equipped with rakes, shovels, and bags, a Doody Calls scooper arrives at your home or business at specified intervals– once or twice a week is typical. D'Aniello says they'll coordinate schedules with other lawn services so that your mowers can enjoy a clean-shoed experience.
And though the job isn't one most people dream of as children, D'Aniello says patrolling yards has its charms– including making many new four-legged friends.
"We have low turnover," he says.
To have your yard cleared of yard grenades, check doodycalls.com.
We listed the wrong number for Doody Calls in our print publication. It has been corrected in this online edition–editor.
Henry Weinschenk of Prontowash
Stop and shop (and wash)
Owner: Henry Weinschenk
Too busy to wash your car? Perhaps. Too busy to check out the latest sale at J. Crew? Perhaps not?
If this applies to you, then Prontowash– a mobile car washing business at Fashion Square Mall– may be just the ticket.
The company is already international– and particularly popular in South America. Henry Weinschenk, owner of Express Car Wash on 29 North, says he knew a good thing when he saw it and realized there was nothing like it in Virginia.
He purchased a franchise and placed five mobile units– which he calls "eggies," thanks to their shape– in an area of the Fashion Square Parking lot between J.C. Penney and Belk.
Busy shoppers drive up, leave their car with the Prontowashers, do their shopping, and come back to a sparkling ride– cleaned without any water!
In fact, it was Weinschenk's difficulties during the drought in 2003 that led him to see the potential of Prontowash, which uses a special lotion for everything from exterior washing to shampooing carpets and seats.
No appointment is necessary, and prices range from $19.50 for an exterior wash up to $125 for a full detailing.
Lawless Barrientos and Teresa Johnson of My Cooking Secret
Company: My Cooking Secret
Owners: Teresa Johnson and Lawless Barrientos
466- 9762, Mycookingsecret.com, info@mycookingsecret
Hosting a dinner party can be a daunting undertaking, and indeed many would-be hosts and hostesses choose to have their affairs catered to avoid the exhausting prep and clean-up that cooking for a large number entails. But for those who love the idea of impressing guests with their culinary prowess without spending hours shopping and chopping, My Cooking Secret could be the answer.
"All the time-consuming meal preparation has been done for you," says Teresa Johnson, who started the business with Lawless Barrientos this past spring.
Each month there's a new menu featuring gourmet delicacies such as pork filets with a dark cherry sauce, or pan-fried tuna with black bean salsa– as well as side dishes and more casual family fare such as grilled Dixie chicken with lime butter. When an order is placed, Johnson and Barrientos get to work so that at the appointed time, all the ingredients– and directions on how to prepare them– are ready for drop-off (or pick-up).
Johnson says the service is ideal for parties, but is also convenient for busy families looking to spend more time enjoying their meals and less time frantically preparing them.
The minimum cost for a family entree (serving six) is about $15, with the gourmet selections (serving four) ranging up to $60. Johnson says orders should be made at least 48 hours in advance, and there's a $10 fee for delivery.
and Client Debbie Patashnik and Michelle Bushrow, owner of Pilates 4 U
Company: Pilates 4 U
Owner: Michelle Bushrow
Helping busy people stay in shape is the name of the game for Michelle Bushrow, who started her traveling Pilates business two years ago after working as a personal trainer for 13 years. Bushrow discovered Pilates– an offshoot of yoga that works deep muscles– eight years ago. But as a self-described "cardio queen," she didn't get serious about it until four years ago, when she made it the primary focus of her own strength training workouts.
These days Bushrow brings Pilates to homes and businesses all over town. She offers individual Pilates sessions for between $40 and $50 an hour, but the bread and butter of her business is group classes, which can be taught at a home or office and cost $12-$14 per person.
Companies have responded enthusiastically, she says, since the workout means employees "don't have to leave their workplace, and they minimize travel time." Plus, "They don't sweat profusely, so they can go right back to work."
Her typical client is someone whose schedule conflicts with classes at the gym, but Bushrow says Pilates is perfect for everyone from novices to athletes.
And for those with injuries, Bushrow points out she's gone through advanced Pilates training so she knows what– and what not– to do.
"A lot of doctors," she says, "recommend that people with back problems and pain do Pilates.