Help for hire inspires Houma entrepreneur

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Lisa Brown delivers. She also picks up, shops, banks, files and waits while describing examples of the business she started and still has difficulty describing in just a couple of words.

After being severanced from a 27-year career in the telecommunications industry, Brown knew she needed to do something to make a living. She simply wanted it to be meaningful.

“I enjoy helping people,” Brown said.”So, I thought, ‘Why not do that and get paid for it?’”

For more than a year Brown has been building Errands by Lisa as a personal assistance business. Whether it is for individuals or corporations, her clients contend having an extra hand means a lot when schedules get too tight to do everything alone.

“Lisa is a great help,” Profiles by Jackie owner Jackie Martinez said. “She has a great business. When I can’t get something done I just call her.”

Martinez stands as an example of someone who has used Brown’s service both professionally and personally, from picking up supplies for her own business to buying concert tickets and retrieving dry cleaning.

Once she had a business license and insurance in hand Brown began bidding herself as a company. “I went to the sheriff’s office and got a background check so I can show I don’t have a criminal background or any felonies,” she said.

Brown’s work is not limited to the Houma city limits. She has accepted clients across the Tri-parish region and even jobs taking her to New Orleans to make deliveries. She charges by the hour plus mileage and often incorporates errands to make the most of her time and increase cost effectiveness for clients.

An initial consultation offers Brown an opportunity to let prospective clients know who she is, as-well-as checking them out before accepting an assignment. She reserves the right to reject offers and said she will not do anything illegal or unethical.

“I don’t want people to think I am just a delivery service,” she said. “With my business experience I can also perform temporary office work.”

This entrepreneur has even assisted people away on business travel or vacation. She will check on homes while the owner is away, then make sure air conditioners or heaters are on and kitchens refreshed just in time for residents to return. “If you need someone waiting on a repairman, I can be that person,” Brown said.

The most common activities in this business have involved shopping for Brown. “There is nothing unusual yet,” she said. “If an individual wants me to pick up a package and take them to UPS or to the courthouse I want to know what is in that package [for security purposes]. I’ve never been in that situation, but I am more comfortable when it is [an established] business.”

Brown is able to adjust her schedule to offer certain days or hours for services. Making use of a website and cell phone, she is available for direct calls or prospective clients may complete a contact form online.

Organization is the secret to success in Brown’s business. She said keeping track of client needs and making the most of time is essential. Meeting people, being open minded and thinking outside the box are the elements that makes Errands by Lisa an income-making venture.

Brown said satisfaction comes in knowing she has helped others who otherwise would have been in a bind. She wants people to understand that what she does is more than what is able to appear on a business card.

“I consider myself that person that can do those things that are productive for me, but might be unproductive for the business person,” Brown said. “With the holiday season coming, some people might not have time to shop, or businesses might have more packages that need to go to clients.”

The International Concierge and Lifestyle Management Association – based in Wake Forest, N.C. – keeps track of businesses like Brown’s and recognizes it as a growing industry.

ICLMA Director Mindy Crenshaw said a significant number of people in concierge and errand service businesses are individuals who have realigned their lives after being in other careers.

“It may be a job layoff or people just following their hearts to do something they always wanted to do,” Crenshaw said regarding the nature of people attracted to her industry. “[Often] it is a similar line of work because it is customer service.”

According to an ICLMA report, the independent concierge service is among the nation’s fastest growing industries. Start-up costs are typically less than $5,000 and according to a survey by the association 41.6 percent of its members saw a profit in 2010.

“I can call Lisa for anything and she will do it,” Martinez said. “She is a real help.”

“I do the things others don’t have time to do,” Brown said.

Lisa Brown has driving ambition. She uses it to help others in her business that makes her part concierge, part delivery service and part business assistant. Errands by Lisa is growing among established businesses and making its mark as help-for-hire.