DOING HER HOMEWORK
How a holiday led to the My Home Watch business.
Often, the best ideas come from an “aha” moment. That was the case for Natasha Morgan when she was organising her first family holiday and wanted someone to check on her house while she was away. Busy relatives were a half-hour drive away, and she was struggling to find a reliable alternative.
After a little research, Morgan discovered the home-watch industry in Canada and the US. Six months later, she launched My Home Watch. Another seven months down the track, she was named a silver award winner in the Big Idea category of this year’s AusMumpreneur awards.
Morgan says the accolade has boosted both the company’s credibility and its branding. The judging covered all aspects of the business: concept, growth, funding and development.
Obviously as a big idea, it needs to be scaleable, and the judges were also interested in how the finalists juggle their motherhood duties with their business. “It comes down to your values, and how you make it work,” says Morgan.
While her business is flexible enough to cope, about 80 per cent of her franchise inquiries so far have been from men. They include seniors bored with retirement, tradies or hairdressers looking for less physically demanding work, and people who have been made redundant.
The premise is simple: absent homeowners can employ My Home Watch franchisees to undertake myriad tasks, each a separately billed activity. Most popular are home checks, mail and bin services, garden watering and pet care.
Morgan says 80 per cent of inquiries come from pet owners, and with a variety of options available franchisees have the opportunity to upsell.
In a link with tech company Netgear, My Home Watch also offers security cameras for hire for up to three weeks as an extra level of reassurance for clients.
Of course, franchisees need above all else to be trustworthy, and need to undergo police checks and gain a security installation licence. Morgan says her wish list includes traits such as liking pets and being able to work with homeowners and real-estate agents.
She sees the agents as a potential source of revenue and is considering introducing a loyalty program encouraging their support.
Morgan knows from experience what is entailed in looking after properties as in a former career she cared for homes worth $15 million for a prominent highnet-worth family.
To help franchisees in one of the 120 territories available, there is no franchise fee for the first six months. As their business grows, franchisees can employ one staff member, then have the chance to split territories for further expansion.
Meanwhile, Morgan did find a house sitter for that family holiday. “But it wasn’t a great experience,” she says, “because we found out that they stayed at the house only twice in the whole three weeks we were away. So very unreliable. We were really disappointed when we found out.”
My Home Watch has exclusive rights to a reporting software system (in Australian and New Zealand) which provides geo home reports that prove franchisees are servicing the homes and homeowners pet needs.
“That is where the professional service option is fantastic – it totally alleviates the stress.”
Unable to find a service that could keep an eye on her house while she was away, Natasha Morgan started researching and found a market niche she is now filling with her new franchise business, which
has been quick to win recognition. Her wish list includes traits such as liking pets and being able to work with homeowners and real-estate agents.