Small Business Spring Up in Aftermath of COVID

Jason Grilli, a former Pittsburgh Pirates closer, has his jerseys mounted on his wall by Wexford Handyman.

Andrew Parrott

Jason Grilli, a former Pittsburgh Pirates closer, has his jerseys mounted on his wall by Wexford Handyman.

Levi Parrott, Staff Writer

Andrew Parrott, who is a senior managing partner and senior project manager of Wexford Handyman Company , shared some insight of how during covid, he switched from working at PNC bank, then Edward Jones, and eventually to starting his own small business.

Andrew left PNC during the early stages of the pandemic, right before everything shut down, but it had nothing to do with the pandemic, rather just being “Recruited for six months prior” he says, with his new job, “I was doing asset management and wealth management with Edward Jones, and I was building a client book doing financial advising when the whole industry got shut down so everything switched from being able to meet face to face with clients and businesses, to everything being over the phone or emails.”

Which in his industry is “Crippling when you can’t meet face to face interactions with clients, it’s very difficult to build the trust that’s necessary to succeed in that industry, so it didn’t take long to realize that a change was soon needed because it didn’t seem that covid was going away anytime soon.”

The opportunity really came about because, “With COVID, everyone was working at home, and when people work from home, it’s no longer out of sight out of mind, and all the little problems that people have in their house they’re going to see everyday because they’re working from home. A lot of the projects are smaller projects because of covid, they don’t want someone in their house for a month and a half at a time, they want someone to sneak and do an hour or two job with a mask on, they don’t want a full home remodel.”

But this process of building a business from the ground up is a very hard process as Andrew says, “Structurally it was difficult because the state had basically shut down as well and they govern all small businesses so for licensing and getting our business registered and organized. All that took a very long time because no one was in the office.”

This process was delayed around “3 or 4 times longer than it should have taken, because they were only in the office a couple hours a week, or handling those documents 3 or 4 hours a week instead of full time like they normally would. Once that part of it was done, once the company was established legally, it took off like a wildfire because of the demand and the need for that type of work in this area. It was really really simple, if you have something that somebody wants and it’s priced competitively then people are going to come to you instead of you going to them.”

Andrew explains how he was, “Lucky because most businesses suffered during covid, especially service businesses, which is what we technically own, going into people’s homes. The government protocols were difficult because they changed a lot, it was really really difficult to find employees to stay with, because they were getting paid so much for not working or working from home… there was really no incentive for people to work for a long time.”

He continues saying that it is “very, very difficult navigating owning a business and now being able to find people to work, but the protocols around safety measures in terms of wearing masks, washing hands, checking your temperature, quarantining, all of that would almost seem like it was set up, yes it was in place to protect society but at the same time it was crippling for the business injury.”

Andrew explains that his business has changed severely since covid and still changing in covid’s downfall, “ there was one company that did what we did prior to us getting into the market” (Mr. Handyman) “ But they didn’t offer what we offered, they lost a lot of their business to us because of the personal touch, the people part. They were a bigger corporation so they had more employees but we had a more personal family business feel that you could call us and we would answer the phone and if we ever made a mistake we would fix it.What happened is that a lot of people lost their jobs because of covid and then this market got saturated… what happened I think is that all these people lost their jobs and decided that they could switch a light bulb or paint a wall and decided to get into handyman work, and while we still have a lot of clients coming in, the market is so saturated that we are starting to steer out of the market and only working for select clients now. So how it has changed is that we are focusing because the market is oversaturated with people who were late for the party. We showed up and we did what we came to do and now we’re looking at the next big opportunity.”

This next opportunity, he tells us, “I’ve always worked around real estate, whether I’m a real estate agent or writing mortgages… or wealth management and financial advising which certainly has to go into property and business management and then the service industry around remodeling. With covid, inflation, interest rates rising and trying to battle the inflation, not as many people can afford their homes, covid forced a lot of homeowners into foreclosure, they lost their jobs and couldn’t afford their homes anymore so their is a big opportunity right now to buy foreclosed homes and buy them and flip them and/or rent them, but the interest rates are so high so you have to have cash to do this, it’s a high risk high reward which is hard for some people, when some opportunities carry a the same reward but a lower risk.”

He leaves with a word of advice for upcoming business owners, “You know what they say. Scared money doesn’t make money, so sometimes you gotta put it out there and see what happens.”