Cameron Ritchie’s business started with the goal of getting more youth into the job market.
He launched Homewurk in Grade 11, an online service that connects students with odd jobs in Fredericton. Now a first year engineering student at the University of New Brunswick, Ritchie’s business is booming, leasing office space, hiring administrative staff, and securing top clients.
In October, he was named Startup Canada’s young entrepreneur of the year.
Ritchie began by going pitch competitions around Atlantic Canada and the U.S. in high school and raised around $8,000 to kickstart the venture.
He started by recruiting students at Fredericton area high schools to join his network and develop an initial pool of about 100 employees. The community was quick to respond with interest in using the service.
“Some of the jobs even professional contractors think is too small to do, and they’ll reject it,” Ritchie said. “But it’s substantial enough for homeowners to say, ‘I need this done.’”
Homewurk aims to help high school and post-secondary students earn money towards their education. Jobs range from shoveling driveways and mowing lawns to car detailing, painting and moving.
“It gives those students a sense of entrepreneurship, they’re representing themselves, they take pride in their own work.”
“That’s when students can start learning about themselves,” Ritchie said.
During the first year of Homewurk he would spend all day working on the platform, on the phone with clients, and often out in the community doing odd jobs himself.
“I loved it because our clients, the people who supported the students, just all had huge hearts,” he said. “Sometimes they’d be really nice and give out students lunch, or they’re out in the heat and they’d give them popsicles.”
The business is moving towards an automated platform to pair students with jobs and determine prices, that will eventually be turned into an app. Homewurk generates revenue by taking a cut of the payment for each job.
It’s a system Ritchie compares to Airbnb and Kijiji. Homeowners post jobs and students can go onto the site and apply. Student employees have a profile which shows their rating and work experience to help homeowners select someone. The rating system allows for quality assurance as the business expands.
The company has a base of over 1,800 clients in the Fredericton area.
Homewurk is looking for student ambassadors to help expand in Saint John and Moncton before the end of the year. The platform already has hundreds of pre-sign ups in both cities.
Ritchie sees the business as a way to connect students from outside Fredericton to the new community.
“It’s widening the view and perspective of some of your students
Ritchie won the Atlantic Canada startup award in July, which allowed him to advance to the national competition.
He was on his way back from Halifax when he got a call from the CEO of Startup Canada who broke the news that he had won the national award.
“I was just shaking in excitement, I was so happy when I heard about it,” Ritchie said.
He received the award for young entrepreneur of the year in Ottawa on Oct. 18 at an event hosted by Startup Canada, and spent time with tops CEOs, industry leaders and entrepreneurs from CBC’s Dragon’s Den.
Ritchie told leaders he met about Homewurk to see what they thought of the idea.
“It’s always been the same response, no matter where I went: ‘It just makes sense,’” he said.