They say if you want to play on the stock market, your hunches are as important as the stats. For example, when Starbucks first started to alter the urban landscape, it was clear the hyper-aggressive marketing of a hip franchise serving up an irresistible combo of caffeine, sugar and fat is as addictive as McDonald’s is to kiddies.
I was in one of those Starbucks to meet the owner of the year-old Fixin’ Vixens “handygal” service after I was hit with the same hunch. Every time I passed the white van parked on Terminal Avenue, with the ladder on the top and the girly silhouette on the side I thought: now there’s a business with potential. Just the ticket for the booming demographic of single women homeowners who are leery about calling a handyman to their condo. But after meeting Yolanda Ricketts, the self-described “customer service gal” decked out in an official Fixin’ Vixen uniform, I started to see light at the end of the tunnel where handymen are hoovered into the city’s hungry construction industry. Could this be the beginning of the end of my handyman hunt?
“Handygal” is how Ricketts refers to the extremely capable female employees who do everything “outside the wall.” For example, they will change a bathroom faucet but won’t re-route the plumbing; they will replace a light fixture but won’t rework the breaker box.
What will they do? Everything an experienced handyman would do, says Ricketts: replace old bathroom tile, paint walls, fix the broken stuff, put together Ikea furniture and take all those DIY projects that we’d rather were GAPI (Get Another Person Instead) projects.
Just then her cellphone rings. “She’s my employee,” she says softly into the phone (as I eavesdrop). “She’s been working real hard so I think she deserves a spa treatment.” Clearly not your usual handyman banter.
The challenge for this young venture is competing with unrealistically low rates. Anybody with a truck, some tools and a phone number could call himself a handyman and work at rock-bottom, cash-only rates, so the Vixens must constantly explain the need for fair wages to keep skilled handygals happy and dependable.
Some people get it; some balk at it, says Ricketts, but it’s obviously not hurting business: the Fixin’ Vixens are hopping busy and adding handygals steadily to keep pace with the home-improvement boom. More info at 604-809-4FIX or fixinvixens.com.
Carlyn Yandle is a Vancouver journalist with her own room-planning business, Home Reworks (www.homereworks.com). She dwells on urban-home issues every Thursday in Metro.