|The owner of a window cleaning business was impressed with Sher's work ethic and hired him as a salesperson.|
Guelph student connecting homeowners with ‘the best’ contractors: When University of Guelph student Dylan Sher was in high school he got caught between irate homeowners and his boss, a fly-by-night window-washing contractor, and it inspired him to start his own contracting service. "I was faced with a valid problem, which is mistrust in the home service industry and I sought to fix it," said Dylan Sher. "I had the means and the ability at the time to go and look after it so that is what I did."
Sher (pictured) is the founder of Fixopolis an online service that connects homeowners with contractors in their community. "We feel that we really encompass a sophisticated way to find contractors," he said. "It is not so much a listing service or one of the many other ways to find contractors online. We knew right away that we had to find a new way of presenting ourselves."
The Fixopolis website has many of the same features as established online contractor listing services but what sets them apart is their quoting engine. "What the quoting engine actually does is it understands the scope of the project from the homeowner's perspective and packages it up into a nice, what we call, job shadow, which we send to the contractors," Sher said. "It has all the job specifications lined up so the contractor can go and quote on this job accordingly."
People looking for contractors fill out an online form on the Fixopolis website then wait for the contractors to contact them. "Homeowners like it because it is free and gets them in contact with the best contractors and it is a relatively easy process," Sher said. "Once you take three minutes out of your day to fill out the form you start getting phone calls back as opposed to making phone calls to all the people you might want." They follow up with homeowners to rate contractors. Reviews posted on the site are limited to clients that have interacted with listed contractors thereby eliminating false reviews from being posted.
Sher was born in Richmond Hill. He started his first business when he was 10, shoveling driveways. "Any business you start when you are 10-years-old is going to be by mistake," he said. "People thought it was cute and asked for my phone number. That kind of got me into the feeling of the whole thing. It was such a cool feeling."
As he grew so did the business. "Eventually, when I was a teenager I got a snow blower and a lawnmower and had a little landscaping business in the neighbourhood," he said. "The whole Fixopolis journey started as a spinoff from that."
The owner of a window cleaning business was impressed with Sher's work ethic and hired him as a salesperson. "He was kind of my mentor and he was a really smart guy because he paid me on commission," Sher said. "He would take me to the door with him and who is going to say no to a little kid. I got the experience and confidence that I brought back to my own business clearing driveways."
Sher worked his way up to sales manager and hired his friends to work on commission but what he didn't know was his boss was cutting corners and the quality of work was suffering. "We were out of the loop and had no way of hearing the feedback from clients," he said. "I had no way of knowing about the complaints until it all started to catch up with everyone. I thought, if I can't trust the company how can I expect people to trust us when we knock on their door?"
When the owner fled to California Sher decided to start Fixopolis. "I was in Grade 10 when all of this went down," he said. He sought advice from other contractors and business people and by the time he was 17 he had secured $100,000 in seed money to launch the business. "We used that money to build the platform, incorporate and pay for advertisement," he said. "Fixopolis became an entity in February 2012. The GTA is our main service area and we are just opening up Hamilton and Guelph as we speak. As soon as we have a minimum of five contractors per category in our back end to open up those categories then we will do them."
He hopes to see the service grow well beyond Southern Ontario. "I see Fixopolis as a driving force in the industry and I want to make it happen whether it be across Canada, North America and so on and so forth," he said. Sher is in the second year of a five-year agri-business program at the University of Guelph and hopes to have his own farming operation some day. "People ask me why I am developing an app and a website when I want to get into agriculture and I think they are going to be one in the same in the future, really," he said. "Agriculture is my passion and where I want to end up as a career. If an opportunity presents itself in the future where I can come up with some sort of web-based farming idea, I will take it."