Imagine you have an unfinished basement, with no tools or know-how to fix it up.
Or maybe you have a powder room that needs updating, a deck that needs building, or even some pictures that need hanging.
Did you know there’s a guy in Bradford West Gwillimbury who can do all these jobs for you?
Jason Farrugia is the owner of Handy Neighbour for Hire — and he is the handy neighbour.
“I did this kind of work on the side. Previously, I sold cars. I (had) just turned 39, about to turn 40. (I said), ‘I really don’t want to be a 40-year-old car salesman,’” he said.
With encouragement from his friends and family, Farrugia started Handy Neighbour for Hire nearly four years ago and never looked back.
“It just kind of snowballed. I do this full time, five days a week. I’m open five days a week, but sometimes I’m working six or seven. The venture’s paid off.”
Handy Neighbour is a one-man show — Farrugia is the only employee, which means he is very busy.
“I wear all the hats,” he said.
But he still found time to join the Bradford Board of Trade’s board of directors, assisting with the events committee, and is a Bradford Curling Club member, who is also the bar manager there.
“It’s a constant balance between home, work, extra activities. My downtime… there isn’t much. Sometimes my wife gets a little perturbed,” he said, with a laugh.
But all the activities “(help) me keep a good understanding of what’s happening in town,” he added, noting he gets plenty of referrals from the people he meets.
Farrugia said he is interested in eventually franchising or licensing the Handy Neighbour business and growing it with other people into markets around Simcoe County and York Region. He has already trademarked the logo.
But for now, when he gets referrals for work, he is building his brand around himself.
“As much as I’d love to have four of me … because I’m referred personally … they expect me to show up,” he said.
Farrugia took time out of his busy schedule to show me his work-in-progress basement he is in the process of finishing. There are beautiful floors, a spotless white countertop in front of a bar, a games area, and a bathroom near completion.
“I do this because I enjoy doing it,” he said.
Although Farrugia did not want to be a car salesman forever, he has transferred a lot of his skills from that trade into his current one.
“I was always good at talking. It’s listening to people and (understanding) what they want or need,” he said.
He also spent his childhood around handy family members.
“Being a teenager and working with my uncle when they’re building houses, or working with my grandfather puttering around the house. I’ve always been able to kind of just do it,” he said.
So the Handy Neighbour business was an easy fit.
“I didn’t want to use the name ‘handyman.’ Sometimes that has a double negative to some people,” he said, laughing. “It was fun to build the company from the vision.”
Farrugia does a lot of different types of work, including flooring, trim work, powder room upgrades, painting, and odd jobs such as changing furnace filters and hanging pictures.
“When Bradford was a hot commodity two years ago… I was constantly helping prep houses for sale,” he said.
Farrugia said there are no jobs he dislikes, but he stays away from certain types of work he does not understand or is not insured for, such as roofing, exterior siding, gutters, major electrical, and plumbing.
“I enjoy building decks and stuff. I have to recruit manpower,” he said. “Flooring (is great). It’s one constant job start to finish. Those are fun because there’s a lot of moving parts. (I can) make it all come to fruition for the homeowner.”
But, he added, some customers who may have spent too much time watching do-it-yourself home improvement shows or surfing Pinterest and Instagram require some education on what is realistic.
“Those shows should come with a disclaimer: It was 700 man-hours and it took so many weeks to finish,” he said.
Farrugia acknowledges there are a few other similar businesses in town, but he said he is happy how the community has embraced him.
“It’s hard to separate the person and the Handy Neighbour. I can’t go outside and not run into a customer or someone I know in town. If you live here and work here, there’s no way around it. That’s what comes with the territory,” he said, adding he likes knowing plenty of people in town.
“I can stay as busy as I physically want to. It’s a good problem to have.”