Blake Connoy: Today's Notable Young Entrepreneur
06 FEBRUARY 2015, TORONTO, ON
Toronto, 6th February 2015: Today's Notabe Young Entrepreneur is Helpling.com Founder Blake Connoy, who's two-year plan is to become Canada’s most well-recognized and trusted name in home services. Here's what inspired his career path and what advice he would share with other young professionals...
Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
My team and I make your life a bit easier! Through www.Helpling.com, you can find on-demand high quality home cleaners with just a few clicks. For a flat rate of $25/hour (inclusive of all taxes), all you have to do is enter your location, select the date and time, and pay securely online.
Primarily, I am focused on assessing the quality and safety of our cleaning partners. We rigorously evaluate potential cleaners on more than just their cleaning ability. In fact, we personally meet and get to know every one of our cleaning partners during the two interviews, criminal background check, two reference checks, and orientation session we conduct. I’m also constantly tracking the customer ratings of our cleaning partners as our service depends on only listing the best cleaners.
Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
After years of advising companies as a consultant, I went to business school for some new experiences. While there I reflected on the things I wanted most from my next job: organization-wide scope, fast paced and dynamic culture, and a product/service that made peoples’ lives better. Everyone suggested I look into entrepreneurship and when I heard www.Helpling.com was coming to Canada, I knew it was the perfect fit – especially since my mother raised me to be a meticulous home cleaner!
What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
We’re redefining an industry. Helpling brings a lot of credibility and safety to your home by legalizing the largely "under-the-table" cleaning industry, all while our cleaning partners earn nearly twice the minimum wage. I love that we’re offering both cleaners and customers better opportunities than they have previously had access to.
The biggest challenge has been gaining the public’s trust. It takes a lot to let a stranger into your home. So we spend a lot of time getting to know our cleaning partners, to the extent that we would happily have them clean our own homes.
What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
You mean aside from when my unbelievably supportive spouse wakes up in the middle of the night to ask me when I’ll be coming to bed?
Where do you see yourself in five years?
That seems so far away. I’d like to be leading Canada’s most well-recognized and trusted name in home services. But that’s actually more of a two-year goal. (Remember, I want fast-paced!)
What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
My hubris has strained some of my professional relationships. Heck, even my parents mockingly gave me a t-shirt that read, “I might be wrong, but I doubt it.” Thankfully, their honest feedback and a few other humbling experiences have taught me the importance of spending more time listening and less time trying to assert myself as knowing more about a topic.
What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?Nope. Success is about understanding who matters to you and making the time to do what you need to do to make him/her/them happy.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
I made a career change during the global financial crisis to pursue my interests in social impact. I left the security of employment with Deloitte without any job opportunities lined up. Four months and 80+ informational interviews later, I had started my own successful independent consultancy (before merging with one of my clients a year later).
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Everything is about people. It’s so easy to let people slip away, but if you make the effort to stay connected to your network (even just a few times a year), you will have more support, information and resources than you could hope to achieve on your own. Maintain your relationships over the years.
Where is your favourite place to wine/ dine in your city and why?
My spouse and I love Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria in Toronto’s Annex. It’s local to us and has it all – delicious food, limited-to-no lines, reasonable prices, and a passionate owner.
When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
Volunteering. I’m not very good with “me” time. I tend to spend my non-work/family time making my community stronger. I can’t say it any better than George Bernard Shaw: “I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.”
Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?
Wherever my spouse would like to go. Most people can’t relate, but I don’t derive much utility from travelling. I’m a very big fan of the “staycation.”
If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. Attending a “symphony” was one of my first experiences when I moved to Toronto. Carmina Burana was the featured performance and it was so balanced and powerful.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
I’ve really enjoyed launching Helpling and I’m excited to expand across Canada. If I wasn’t doing what I’m doing, I’m pretty sure I’d be leading another start-up with ambitious growth goals!
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
I suppose you could say that I’m cause agnostic. Everything from social services, to healthcare and the environment, is important. However, I tend to support organizations that build the capacity of other non-profits… United Way Toronto, Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance, Engineers Without Borders, Evergreen Brick Works, etc.
What to you is notable?
Details matter. There’s a lot of vision and passion out there. What makes the difference is whether it’s grounded in the details.
Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
Nothing beats BlackBerry Hub for messaging, but I love Google Now on Android and want a Moto360… I suppose it’s only a matter of time before I make the switch.
Helpling is the leading online marketplace for home services outside the U.S. On the website or via app, customers can book a vetted and insured cleaner and gain back free time within a couple of clicks. For self-employed cleaners, the online service makes it easier than ever to access new clients and to manage when and where they want to work. As the first marketplace in Europe, Helpling mediates various household services from a single source, e.g. window cleaning, furniture assembly or painting work.
Helpling was founded by Benedikt Franke, Philip Huffmann and Rocket Internet in January 2014. Since then the company has raised 56.5 million Euros from investors such as Mangrove Capital Partners, Phenomen Ventures, Point Nine Capital, Lukasz Gadowski, Lakestar and Kite Ventures. Helpling is active in 9 countries in 3 continents: Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Singapore, UAE and UK.