TaskmeBringing people together who want to support each other
Can a digital platform free us from the shame of having to ask for support from our neighbors? In Israel, the Taskme start-up unites people who want to help each other with daily chores and earn a bit of money on the side. Read More
- issue #04
- Chapter 3
- by Mika Azguri
When Mika Azguri suddenly found herself without a job, she realized how difficult it is to be in need. And how the shame we feel in asking for support could make the situation even worse. So she came up with the idea for Taskme, a platform for people who want to help each other with daily chores and earn a bit of money on the side.
It all started three years ago. After great promise went unfulfilled in the form of a job in a start-up company, I was left without a few months’ pay and the abyss of “what comes next”. I was also a single mother after a break-up. My motivation to get out and look for a job had hit a low point and I lacked a sense of self-worth. I felt like I was shut out of the game. Every day seemed like a struggle to survive. For obvious reasons, I couldn’t take my friends up on their invitations to go out for coffee. And even driving my son to the beach was a financial stretch because he would probably want an ice cream once we were there. Simple things that we usually don’t think about.
Clearly something had to change. My mind was working overtime: What can I do to make enough money for tomorrow? In this mental turmoil, there was one thought I clung to like a lifeline: Whatever I did had to be simple and immediate. Focusing on the simple somehow got me thinking about all the daily chores we have to do around the house, and the work that goes into managing our families every day. So I sent an email out to the parents from my son’s kindergarten that went something like:
Between jobs, (politically correct for “unemployed”) and offering my help with household and family chores. I would be happy to take the dog for a walk, organize closets, help with cooking and parties, cleaning, laundry, ironing and more.
Feedback was immediate. Mothers were the first to respond. They needed my help organizing closets before giving birth, picking up packages from the post office, dropping the kids off at grandma’s house, cleaning the house, buying gifts, or babysitting a group of kids during the last week of summer vacation. One of the mothers once referred to my efforts as a start-up, and I clung to those words as well.
I worked in this “business” for around three months. Then I found a job as a sales and marketing manager in a real estate company and was drawn back into the hectic pace of life and bank overdrafts. Two years later, though, I revived the idea. I cut back my hours to part time, and launched my start-up: Taskme.
A digital Platform to replace flyers
Taskme is basically a website that helps people find someone to take over some of their daily chores and errands. The idea is simple: First, we have the people who need help with a specific task and are willing to pay for help. I call them the askers. And then there are people willing to take on the task to earn a bit of money – the taskers. These two parties live near each other, but are not aware that they could help each other out. So I bring them together.
We started our pilot in Herzeliya, my home city in central Israel, in December 2015. Askers can publish help requests including time, place, and the level of urgency. The taskers then apply for the job by posting their profile, which includes their personal background and feedback from other customers. I talk to each of them – asker and tasker – personally to get to know them and understand exactly what they want out of the transaction.
Then I send the asker a list of potential taskers. Today two to three taskers apply to each request on average. The chores people most often want help with are cleaning, babysitting, cooking and organizing closets. We then determine a price based on the average market price, or I ask the tasker to make an offer.
A retired grandma from our community offers her cooking services.
To make Taskme most effective, I wanted askers and taskers to be just a click away, so I chose a digital platform. People are busy and need help as soon as possible when something comes up. Nevertheless, we have also hung flyers on trees around the neighborhood and put them in mailboxes to get people who don’t use digitals channels involved. These include the elderly, like a retired grandma from our community who offers her cooking services.
So far people have been really enthusiastic about the idea and service we provide. They think it really fills a need, and lots have sent us ideas for how to optimize and improve the service. We have also had tasks that were never completed, but I know that is part of the learning process.
“We’re all giving and receiving help”
When I present Taskme to accelerators and others, one of the questions that often pops up is: What community are you talking about?
I have thought about it a lot and here is my conclusion: Not so long ago, human beings lived in tribes or large, extended families. Whenever we needed help, all we had to do was ask. Today there are no tribes and our extended families are scattered. The local community is slowly becoming the natural, intuitive address we turn to for help and support. The school, the neighborhood playground, and the local community center are the places the members of a community meet. Some we know well, and others only to nod good morning to. Some we only recognize in passing, while we might help others carry their shopping bags up the stairs.
Looking back, when I turned to the parents at my son’s kindergarten, I think they responded quickly and easily for two reasons: First, they knew me and I knew them. Knowing each other gave us a sense of confidence. I was in need, and was only able to speak openly about it to this one group of mothers I had spent time with. In their presence, my sense of shame disappeared, and their concerns or hesitations disappeared in my presence. So they opened the intimate space of their home, family and kids up to me. We were willing to surrender and open up to help each other. Second, we were in the same place and we all needed help. We were all caught up in the crazy race of daily life, just trying to make ends meet. I felt that offering “help for help” would allow me and those who asked for my help to feel good.
I think people like to help. And knowing someone encourages us to help them. Taskme offers an opportunity to reach out for help as equals. We are all used to being on just one side of the equation; either we give or we need. But on Taskme, both parties are in need – one needs help and the other needs additional income. I think the idea of being equal no matter if you are a tasker or an asker builds new connections between people, and adds a new layer of community relationships.
What’s more, part of Taskme’s contribution to the community is the money in circulation. Money stays in the community and the members of a given community are given a way to improve their economic situation – as I did, for example – instead of relying on social services.
So what have I learned from Taskme? Sometimes, the people right in front of us are wearing an “everything’s fine” mask just to protect themselves, even if they really, really need help. Help is not really about the money or daily chores; it is about being there for someone else. That is why at Taskme we say we are all giving and receiving help no matter whether we’re an asker or a tasker.