28 March 2017
Butler In Suits helps busy millennials outsource home management, and its founder is only 24 years old
Singapore millennials are a lucky lot. The advent of on-demand services has made the mundane and everyday tasks much simpler to manage. For example, I can’t remember the last time I actually hailed a cab along the road.
It may seem like entrepreneurs have left no stone unturned in their bid to tether age-old laborious chores to an app. To book a cab or coach, use Grab; for groceries, there’s honestbee; spring cleaning too much work? Helping can assist; for food delivery, use UberEATS.
But for 24-year old entrepreneur Poon Da Qian, these on-demand services are no guarantor of quality — at least, with regard to house cleaning services.
“I couldn’t stand the inconsistent quality of cleaners that was supplied by on-demand cleaning services that require my presence at home and pay to watch a freelancer cleaner work ‘slowly’,” says Poon. Managing too many on-demand apps and different appointments was a also a sore point.
At the same time, Poon says he could not hire a maid because his home did not have a spare room to house one.
Now, it may seem that the obvious solution to this quandary is: quit whining and do the damn chores yourself.
But millennials, he says, are usually busy with “work, life, and social media” and so, household chores are usually at the end of the to-do queue. As a result, weekends, which are usually reserved for relaxing and doing fun things, are spent scrubbing the sink or vacuuming the floor. And if you have a family to raise, this problem is exacerbated.
“Millennials have smaller homes and busy lifestyles these days. And if you hire an expensive maid, you sacrifice privacy, and there are other liabilities that come with it,” says Poon.
To tackle this pain point, Poon has launched called Butler In Suits, a millennial-oriented home management service, designed for smaller apartment-style homes.
Butler In Suits strives to differentiate itself from the glut of home service startups by integrating different services on one platform. Its “butlers” do more than just cleaning; they can pick up the mail, buy grocery, and also collect the mail. Customers are not required to be at home while the butler goes about their business.
Leaving the keys to your home to total strangers may sound risky, but Poon assures me that every butler is thoroughly vetted.
“We hire trustworthy individuals who have prior experience in the hospitality industry or a graduate from hospitality courses, and we have a stringent hiring process in place and train them with home management and the hospitality best practices,” says Poon.
“We have our in-house training and guidelines to ensure a standard operating procedure for the job done across all types of homes, such as general tidiness and placement standards, as well as prohibitions that we enforce, such as not moving furnishings or do tasks that might involve risk of damage or injury,” he adds.
Butler In Suits works on a subscription-based model. Users can select from three packages: 1 visit per week at S$240 (US$172)/month; 2 visits per week at S$440 (US$315)/month; and 3 visits per week at $600 (US$430)/month.
Poon says all customers will receive a S$1 million (US$717,000) insurance for their house during the time the service is carried out.
He did not specify how many hours each visit would take up, but it includes all four services.
When I point out that this may be a little exorbitant for the average millennial, Poon says subscribing to Butler In Suits is cheaper than hiring a maid.
“Butler In Suits is less than 20 per cent of what it cost to hire a traditional domestic helper which is an estimated, after living expenses, S$1200 (US$860)/month minimum,” he says.
Though, of course, a domestic maid will also feed the kids (if any), look after them on family trips, walk the dog, cook the meals, and more. So, it’s unlikely Butler In Suits will ever replace maids or nannies.
Rather, it is more suited for the childless couple or single yuppie who are tight-on-time. Essentially, Butler In Suits is a service that goes in between the domestic maid and on-demand helper sector.
Poon says Butler In Suits will partner with other on-demand services to provide more versatile offerings.
“I see the future of startups will be an interconnected ecosystem through API, where vertical startups can partner with horizontal startups such as Butler In Suits to provide the end user with a better, more convenient, and affordable lifestyle,” he says.
Butler In Suits currently has 15 customers on board, with a monthly recurring revenue stream of S$3,600 (US$2,580). It is looking to raise a seed round of S$100,000 (US$72,000) for 10 per cent equity.
But the most burning question that should be addressed is this: Do Butler In Suits’s butlers actually wear suits?
Poon says they used to rotate between wearing suits and casual shirts because of Singapore’s hot and humid weather, but eventually got wiser and just stuck to shirts.