Tonya Bruin recalls meeting a mother in need at an expo a few years ago. Bruin was there shopping her Ottawa-based odd-jobs services company, To-Do Done, to prospective clients, when she met the woman and her child, who moved with the help of a wheelchair.
As her daughter grew, the mother could no longer lift both her and the wheelchair up the steps into their home, and the woman said that ramps were out of her budget.
Bruin says the story stuck with her.
“I’ve always wanted to create a mechanism where, for people like that, we can just say, ‘We’ll take care of it. When can we come?’” she says.
Now, three years into her business, Bruin says To-Do Done is in a position to do something. She’s recently launched the What If Fund: one per cent of To-Do Done’s revenues will go towards funding projects of up to $10,000 for homeowners in need. Ramps for wheelchair access, some emergency renovations or a quick fix that makes life a little easier: anything that will keep families from asking “what if.”
“Our company is mature enough now and we can put away the one per cent for people who need it,” Bruin says.
To-Do Done aims to be the go-to service for odd jobs and renos in the home. Bruin says she was inspired years ago by 1-800-Got-Junk to build a comparable brand for homeowners in need of quick fixes, but who lack the time or tools to take care of it themselves.
As a working professional with a family, Bruin says finding contractors to take on maintenance requests was “impossible,” as they’d often ignore calls or not bother with small-scale jobs.
“I kept thinking, ‘There’s a business opportunity here.’”
Today, Bruin says To-Do Done makes roughly $1 million in revenue each year and is growing 20 per cent annually. She has a team, including electricians, plumbers and painters, that gets as big as 15 people in the busy summer months.
While the services are geared towards homeowners, Bruin says the company is finding a great deal of success in the commercial market. Businesses such as Lululemon, Bridgehead, Bulk Barn and the National Gallery of Canada all use To-Do Done.
“They’re in the same boat as home owners,” Bruin says of her commercial clients.
“They just want to run the business. They don’t have time to mess around with people who don’t call them back.”
To-Do Done got its start sharing space with Windmill Developments on Sparks Street, where it would do maintenance and fixes for the developer’s tenants. Just last week the company moved into its own home on Bronson Avenue, near Chinatown.
The What If Fund will be a continual project for To-Do Done, Bruin says. Whenever the fund is full, and the company either receives an application or finds a deserving homeowner to help, a team will be ready to deploy.
The right candidates for What If aren’t necessarily the most impoverished of Ottawa residents, where government programs after often targeted. Bruin says this is aimed at families and homeowners who are getting by, but have little recourse when a sudden crisis leads to a difficult decision.
“Like you’ve lost your job and then your pipes burst. Just a culmination of a bunch of different things that create a personal and financial crisis, and then where do you look?,” Bruin says.
“I know the needs are out there.”