Student shoveling snow

Richmond Hill-based ‘Uber for Student Services’ Thrives Amid Pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak continues to wreak havoc on local economies, a start-up company in Richmond Hill has seen its business booming amid the global crisis.

Student shoveling snowAs the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak continues to wreak havoc on local economies, a start-up company in Richmond Hill has seen its business booming amid the global crisis.

LocalStudent, an online platform which connects students with nearby customers in need of home services, has expanded its service areas from Richmond Hill to 23 cities in Ontario during the ongoing pandemic, co-founder Alex Ryzer said.

“It’s very exciting that every day we’re helping a lot of students to find work and work that is safe and really meets their needs,” Ryzer said on Jan. 6.

Since starting out in his home city back in the summer of 2019, Richmond Hill resident Ryzer said LocalStudent has expanded fast during the pandemic to offer services to cities across the Greater Toronto Area, Hamilton, Barrie, Ottawa and Calgary.

The online platform has received more than 10,000 signups from mostly college students – and some “ambitious” high schoolers, as of Jan. 6, he said.

In the last month of 2020 alone, more than 6,000 students have signed up for the platform, Ryzer said.

The growing company hired more than 200 out of the applicants who currently provide lawn mowing, leaf cleanup and snow removal services.

A senior majoring entrepreneurship at Ryerson University, Ryzer said he was not exactly surprised at the rapid growth of LocalStudent despite the pandemic’s punch to the local economy.

The simple process for customers to book a service online played an important part to the success of LocalStudent, Ryzer said.

The platform works like “Uber for student services,” where a customer is able to get a free quote for the service needed within two minutes after entering information and a student nearby can quickly take it and set up a time with a customer on the phone, he noted.

“We wanted to start out with services that only students can do so it’s open to as many people as possible. It’s just so happened that it was the perfect service for these times because you can work independently,” he said.

During COVID-19, the platform offers services outdoors exclusively with payment done online to make sure students are physically distanced at work.

As people are asked to hunker down and most businesses are forced to close, LocalStudent has seen an increasing need on both ends – students looking for work and homeowners in need of services, Ryzer said.

“I really like the student respect of it and how we could choose our flexible hours and the impact we made with customers. Always making customers smile and making a difference in your community,” said Kamran Fotovat, a manager at LocalStudent.

Fotovat, a Richmond Hill resident, said he joined the company in May to pick up lawn-mowing jobs in the neighbourhoods before being promoted to be on a six-member management team of the company.

Currently a first-year student at Brock University, Fotovat said it was fun working with the rest of the management team even though they’ve never met in person.

For Fotovat, it was the flexibility and independence that attracted him to LocalStudent in the first place, which Ryzer said was what set them apart from traditional student jobs like flipping burgers at minimum wage.

Ryzer received the William F. Bell Young Entrepreneur Award from the City of Richmond Hill in 2019 for his innovative work in the community.

The company was started with the aid of Small Business Enterprise Centre (SBEC) and connected more than 50 homeowners with local students within the first few months after its launch.

“The vision is to become the new way for students to find work. A job where students will actually wake up every day and be excited,” Ryzer said.

The co-founder said he expected LocalStudent to continue to expand across Canada – and maybe the globe – to offer services including graphic design and tutoring in each neighbourhood and each street.

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