March 13, 2018

ToDoolie startup to connect students and homeowners

Three Wayne State students are ready to help homeowners complete their to-do lists — while securing flexible job opportunities and extra income for their peers — via their startup company, ToDoolie.

ToDoolie — developed and led by WSU students Sergio Rodriguez, Jose Romo-Puerta and Armando Arteaga (pictured) — seeks to create a commission-free marketplace where homeowners can hire local students for hourly tasks such as yard work, household maintenance or more skilled tasks like web development. The company is currently seeking support to develop a mobile app via Kickstarter.

Rodriguez, a biomedical engineering graduate student who serves as ToDoolie’s CEO, said the idea was born from personal need. As an undergraduate student, Rodriguez began working in his community to earn tuition money. Doing so allowed him to set his own rates and schedule.

“I think anyone who’s been a student can attest to having to make the decision between avoiding debt and earning good grades. There really aren’t enough hours in the day to do both,” he said. “Having the flexibility to set my own rates and schedule allowed me the extra leverage necessary to earn some money and still have time to maintain good grades and be involved on campus.”  

That idea resonated with many — ToDoolie was named the second-place winner of Optimize Wayne’s first social innovation challenge in May 2017 and has also been fostered by TechTown’s DTX Launch Detroit program and the global tech startup accelerator Startup Boost Detroit. The group also works with local mentors, including Justin Wedes, Amanda Lewan, Kyle Bazzy, Amanda Hassan and Paul Riser.

A pilot was conducted last summer in Detroit and Grosse Pointe to assess interest. Through ToDoolie, 40 homeowners connected with students, who completed a total of 270 hours of labor for a combined revenue of $4,000. Roughly 35 percent of homeowners used ToDoolie on a weekly basis. Romo-Puerta, a junior majoring in marketing who serves as ToDoolie’s CMO, said following this pilot that ToDoolie paused to focus more on customer discovery.

“We learned firsthand what the relationship between the student and homeowners looks like, and what their unique needs are. We had extremely limited resources, but we found ways to learn a lot with very little,” said Romo-Puerta. “Doing so really prepared us to have the understanding necessary to remove ourselves as the middlemen from the day-to-day operations, which will allow ToDoolie to grow and serve more people in more places.”

Beyond connecting homeowners with students who can help them with everyday tasks, ToDoolie provides a stepping stone for future employment opportunities and instills users with a strong understanding of accountability, time management and responsibility. ToDoolie’s founders envision it as a first bullet point on many resumes.

“One of the things I love most about ToDoolie as a student is that it helps quantify how many hours I’ve put into a task,” Romo-Puerta said. “At this point in my career, I don’t have a lot of references or traditional job experience. Through ToDoolie, the homeowners that I’ve worked with can vouch for my work ethic and character.”

Once developed, the app will create a searchable database so homeowners and students alike can identify opportunities that meet their desired location, price and skill level. Students and homeowners will be able to track hours, communicate and exchange payment via the app as well. Arteaga, a senior majoring in computer science who serves as ToDoolie’s CTO, said that all students will be required to have a valid student email to sign up and all participants will be vetted to ensure safety. If funded, the beta version of the ToDoolie app will be available to serve Detroit in August.  

“Wayne State is a community that supports its students and encourages ambitious endeavors,” said Rodriguez. “It’s inspiring to see how supportive your peers can be and to imagine all the places entrepreneurs can go.”

To learn more about ToDoolie, visit their website. Their Kickstarter campaign ends at 8 p.m. on March 22.