Anna Warren knew she'd hit on a valuable service when, about two weeks after launching her Web site, Jobbitz, this past May, she ran into a man in a parking lot who wanted a word with her.
"I had my T-shirt on with my logo, and the little sign on my van, and this man stopped me and asked if Jobbitz was my Web site," Warren recalls.
"He said, 'I just want you to know that I'm an unemployed civil engineer, and I'm on my way to a job I found on your site.' I just choked up."
Warren, a south Georgia native and former occupational therapist who also once did clinical research for pharmaceutical companies, hit on the idea for Jobbitz after several conversations with friends about all the little projects they never seemed to have time to finish. Warren, now a stay-at-home-mom in Asheville, said those conversations and the tough economic conditions prompted her to create a site she thought could serve both those who needed help with odd jobs and those in need of a job.
"It has been eye-opening to see how many people are in dire straights with the economy and having no income, or decreased income," she says.
"I needed a cable outlet put in my kitchen. I posted the job and got several responses. The guy who did it left my house to go pay his power bill. He was a qualified carpenter just trying to take care of his family," Warren recalls.
"There are so many things that we can get done, even if it's $20," and it's work that can help people hit hard by the economy, she notes.
Warren got the site together quickly, and she and Jill Gottenstrater, a friend with a background in marketing, began spreading the word about the site. Anyone who needs work done can post a job for free, and it's free for people to respond. More than 500 jobs have been posted since June, Warren reports.
"We want people to know they can post any job," she says, adding that people looking for help have posted jobs paying from $30 to $3,000.
The jobs Warren has seen posted are an amazing patchwork ranging from the workaday to the wacky. People have asked for help with everything from embroidering a family member's name on a Christmas stocking to college-level statistics homework. There are plenty of jobs for able bodies willing to do lots of heavy lifting. There have even been people wanting someone to help them learn to ride a unicycle.
"I don't think people realize how many little things they could post — the odd job, the honey-do list," says Warren.
Not every job pays cash. Warren says there have been plenty of creative barter offers, such as the person who traded a piece of fine Italian porcelain for help repairing a mailbox.
Warren says her goal for the coming year is to get more jobs posted at Jobbitz and then look toward possible expansion into other communities. She's currently testing a page offering jobs in Charlotte.
"You never know, but if it does well in other cities, that's fine," says Warren. "Let your neighbors help you, and know that they get to earn a little money."