3 Vital Points for Young Entrepreneurs Choosing Startup Over College
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Hello Alfred - Elevator Pitch:
"Hello Alfred is leading the next frontier of On Demand, changing the way that everyday people manage their life. Its platform brings together the best on-demand and local services to put your home on autopilot so that you can do what you do best: rock your career, build a business, play with your kids, or pick up a new hobby, but always Come Home Happy. Alfred members get a dedicated personal butler who visits their home each week to get their to do list done."

Hi Marcela and welcome to our inspiring startup talks with entrepreneurs! Firstly, can you please tell us a bit about yourself and Jessica, how did you guys meet and how did you end up becoming entrepreneurs? 

Both by accident! Jess and I met at Harvard Business School – we were seated near each other and became best friends over the course of our time there.  We both had previously worked at consulting firms and in other areas of the business world, and came up with Hello Alfred organically from a need in our own lives. 

I know that you drew inspiration from your personal life experiences which paved way for the birth of your company ‘Alfred’. Can you tell us about that? 

Definitely.  Basically, Alfred began in its first form as a service that we crafted for ourselves.  Balancing work and everything else was making it so that a lot of our free time (there wasn’t much of it) was being taken up by taking care of chores.  We combined some basic existing services and hired someone to help us coordinate the chores in our lives.  It got more sophisticated, and after we realized how many other people wanted it, we developed it more and created Alfred. 

Who is Alfred targeted at and how does it work?

Perhaps the easiest way to understand this is to back into it from a service most people are familiar with, like Uber.  When you think about Uber – essentially what the company did was to use technology and the concept of the sharing economy to lower the price point for what was previously a luxury service (black car service), thereby enabling a larger group of people to access the service.  Alfred does something very similar in the home services / butler space.  We’re able to provide butler services that organize the logistics behind laundry, dry cleaning, groceries, home cleaning, and more for $89 a month. 

So our target is people who are busy and think that $22.50 ($89/4) a week is worth saving the 3-7 hours of things we can take care of. That can cover a lot of people, and our clients now are extremely diverse across a number of categories.  We have couples, single people, families, everyone from 22-80.

In one of your previous interviews you have mentioned that, in the early stages you ‘weren’t sure if Alfred was a company that needed venture capital funding’. Eventually, you have managed to raise $12.5 million from various investors (in the initial stages). How was this possible? Would you have any tips for the aspiring entrepreneurs in our community about gathering funds for their startup?

It was possible with a lot of work. Best advice would be to hustle. We were traveling across the country to find the right investors and we didn’t give up when we were turned down by some of them. You really need to believe whole-heartedly in what you’re doing because that’ll keep your spirits up when you’re running around trying to find someone to invest.

Can you tell us about your first set of customers? How did you manage to get their orders? What was their response after your service? 

Our first set of customers were actually neighbors who saw the service that we had built for ourselves and wanted their own version of it. They asked us to build them one and we did.  The positive feedback we received and the improvements people reported in their lives were some of the major reasons we decided to pursue Alfred full time.

I understand that you were still in school when you built your company and you found it difficult to strike a balance between school and business. But when you walked up to your customers and told them that you were planning to halt the service as you needed to focus on your studies, I understand that they offered to pay more money to keep your service going.

Gaining the trust and confidence of the customers is the first step to success for a business. How did you manage to do it? Can you give us 3 main tips to maintain a healthy relationship with the customers?

1. Employees come first.  If you don’t focus on hiring quality people and making them happy then everything else will not fall into place nearly as well, particularly in the service industry. 

2. Recognize that errors will happen and have mechanisms in place to deal with them.  While you should always work to minimize errors, when you’re dealing with something as complicated as we are – organizing a number of different people’s individual lives across a number of categories – there are going to be times where you don’t get everything someone wants exactly right.  The key is to be prepared for those instances and to respond in a timely, appropriate manner, and to have systems in place that learn from mistakes and adapt going forward.

3. Be doing something that fulfills a need or want that people have, and do it in a quality way.  There are so many people who don’t have the free time or don’t want to spend the little free time that they have on chores, and we can help take care of that.  We partner with the best vendors and while we have room for improvement, as does any startup, our quality and percent accuracy levels are extraordinarily high.  

What would your advice be for student entrepreneurs? How can they strike a balance between studies and business?

1. Remember that the purpose of business school is to prepare you to be in business.  We learned so much during our time at HBS, and are extremely grateful for it.  You should try to to pursue the areas that you find interesting.  If you know that entrepreneurship is on your horizon, then take some classes with a focus on it.  If entrepreneurship is already on your doorstep, then make sure you realize what you are getting yourself into work wise and be prepared to grind.

Just as any other startup, Alfred would have also gone through tough times. What were the hurdles that you have come across and how did you overcome them? 

Of course there are always hurdles when you’re starting a company. I think that for us trying to manage two cities at a very early stage was ambitious and tricky. We were traveling back and forth make sure everything was going well. We eventually hired amazing GMs for both cities and now they’re growing and running smoothly! Essentially delegating and finding great people that you trust can be hard, but is so important in building a company.

You dropped out of school in order to run Alfred full time. It must have been a very tough decision to choose between education and business. What are the 3 main points do you think an entrepreneur should consider before opting for their business over education?   

While we did drop out, we actually went back the following semester to round things out and finish up our degrees!  In our thinking, the decision should be informed by three main things: 

Timing – the time for Alfred was ripe.  With all of the on-demand startups springing up, it was an ideal environment to have a logistics manager that could help handle them and organize your life for you.  If we didn’t get going, we were worried someone else would figure it out and begin their own service.                                                                

The education – why are you getting your degree?  What is it giving to you? Is it just a security measure to boost your feeling of self-worth? Or is it adding real value that you can carry into the wok force.   We learned a ton at school, and ultimately decided we needed that last semester to finish it out.

The idea – is there demand for your idea?  We knew that our first customers, our neighbors, loved the service . That gave us confidence that there was demand and the courage to push forward with it.

You must have used various methods to market/promote your company and to make the world know about Alfred, which method do you think worked best and how? 

We actually haven’t done any marketing so far.  Everything has basically been word of mouth and grassroots type growth.  We’ve found that referral programs can be a great way of spreading: if you’re making a quality product or providing a quality service, then people are happy to tell their friends about it and get a few dollars off their next service. 

What is the next for Alfred?

Next for Alfred is continued growth – both within our service and our app, as well as expansion of our service to other cities.  

Before we let you go, where can we find you online?





Exclusive offer for InspiredStartups.com readers: You will be given priority access to Alfred!! You can download the Hello Alfred app from the app store and use the promo code: INSPIRED and you'll be bumped to the top of the waitlist (for NYC and Boston readers).



What drives you as an entrepreneur?

What is the best advice you received as an entrepreneur?


Sindhu Chandrasekaran is a very confident and enthusiastic journalist who loves to take up responsibilities and  challenges. My quest for learning and keeping myself abreast of any developments in the field have been a drive to experiment new things. Both, the interest that I have in meeting new people, make connections and flare for writing that I am blessed with has moulded me into what I am today. You can follow Sindhu on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Author: Sindhu Chandrasekaran

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