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Neighboring Well

July 01, 2018 - 3 minute read

Joshua Mundell talking

Way back when, people would ask neighborhood kids for help with household chores—moving furniture, hanging pictures or watching children. Joshua Mundell '17, business graduate and current MBA student, wants to bring those days back - with an entrepreneurial twist.

I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, says Mundell. I just didn't know what that looked like.

Instead, he found himself working as a valet at the Irvine Marriott, running for cars in the rain while juggling Concordia University Irvine classes and leadership on the water polo team. Then one day after work, a neighbor asked him to help organize boxes in the garage - and he earned more than he did as a valet.

I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, I just didn't know what that looked like.

I was being paid more to move boxes and do household chores than running for cars in the rain. So it clicked, Mundell says.

That was the genesis of NeighborING, a business which hires out college students to perform non-professional, household tasks for an hourly rate.

I thought it sounded like a great idea, recalls Pamela Wade '82, MA '95, Mundell's Concordia University Irvine professor in a business writing class. At the time, I had a senior in college and my neighbors would start calling a couple of weeks before vacation to ask when she'd be home because they were saving up chores for her. I thought [Joshua] might be onto something.

Wade challenged Mundell and fellow student collaborator Manuel Zorn to prove the project's viability with market research. The result?

There was definitely a market for it, Wade says. The stats were huge. Ninety percent of households said they would hire college students to do chores, as opposed to other sources.

College students, too, were eager to make $15-20 an hour doing chores over the summer or during a break. Wade advised Mundell and Zorn to enter Concordia University Irvine's first annual Cornelius Business Plan competition. They took fourth place and a $1,000 prize in March 2016, but wanted to do better.

We proceeded to redefine the business plan, taking the judges' feedback and critiquing ourselves, says Mundell. With Wade advising them again, they brought on a third partner to help create an app. Because they had not placed in the top three of the Cornelius competition (God was in the details of that, Mundell says), they were allowed to enter again. This time they won second place and $5,000.

That was really awesome for us, Mundell says.

They used the money to incorporate NeighborING, trademark the name and logo, and create founding papers. Then they were accepted into UC Irvine's prestigious business incubator program, Wayfinder, one of just a handful of teams chosen from 65 applicants.

It was a big deal to get into the UCI incubator program, says Wade. When I went with Josh to the orientation, there was representation from Harvard, Pomona,Yale, MIT and other top-tier universities. For Concordia to be represented there was huge.

Still, she wasn't surprised they were accepted. I understood that if you espoused excellence and walked the talk, you could compete with the best of them. I felt strongly that they were a valid contender.

The business incubator, which lasted six months, gave the team access to mentoring and encouragement from experts-in-residence who have raised capital, sold businesses and worked for America's largest companies. NeighborING also received work space, conference rooms and presentation areas. The start-up became operational in November, with a functioning web site linking customers with background-checked college students.

There's an emotional thing that hits home,God has really given me specific people in my life to complete all this. It's been a wild ride.

That was a really big milestone for us, says Mundell. That same month Concordia University Irvine founded its own Concordia Incubator Program, housed in the School of Business, under the direction of dean Stephen Christensen. Wade became the internship director. Mundell, now serving as the program's first intern, shares his early experiences as an entrepreneur with other students. He has made presentations about NeighborING to the faculty, and the Board of Trustees—several of whom hired his employees to do chores.

It's been really helpful with Concordia supporting me, he says.

Most of NeighborING's employees are Concordia University Irvine students who perform chores ranging from demolition, to property clean-up, to furniture repair. The two biggest needs: babysitting and technology help. The new NeighborING app will give Uber-like ratings and reviews for each worker, and allow customers to choose their workers.

One gratifying surprise has been that customers tend to tip well because they want to support industrious college students working their way through school.

There's an emotional thing that hits home, says Mundell. God has really given me specific people in my life to complete all this. It's been a wild ride.

Wade says NeighborING is very primed for business... I have lots of kids come to me with lots of ideas. Joshua was the first to prove to me that this was a valid idea that could fly. It had his passion and enthusiasm, and a viable, untapped market.

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