By Diane Mastrull
The Philadelphia Inquirer.
From my seat in the belly of an industry wracked by declining print circulation and ad revenue, Jennifer Padova Gallagher’s name choice for her start-up company — GoPaperboy.com — first struck me as endearingly nostalgic.
Then I wondered if it was woefully misguided, before settling on amusingly ironic.
After all, the business is a website aimed at a generation hardly familiar with newspapers. But the concept — to link students looking to earn some cash with families who need their services, be it babysitting, tutoring, yard work, or dog walking — is premised on Gallagher’s interest in planting the seed of business self-sufficiency early. Sort of like having a paper route.
“The higher vision is really to develop students and give them a taste of entrepreneurship,” said Gallagher, a lawyer who left Ballard Spahr L.L.P. 10 years ago to start a family, and now is an entrepreneur.
It comes from a personal place. Gallagher, 42, of Gladwyne, and her husband, Thomas, have six children between them, ages 4 to 23, making them experts from both sides of GoPaperboy.com. It is a site where young people market themselves, and potential customers advertise their needs.
“I’ve always been one to find a problem and try to solve that problem,” Gallagher said. “This specific problem was something I personally experienced. I saw a void in the market.”
That void was a locally focused jobs matchmaking site, differentiated from national ones such as Care.com — and much more casual. For instance, GoPaperboy.com does not do background checks on those offering babysitting services on its sites.
“The amount of liability you have [when vetting] is astronomical,” Gallagher said. Given its infancy, GoPaperboy is not yet able to take that on, she said. For now, the vetting is largely up to the prospective user — “like you vet a babysitter,” Gallagher said.
Access to the site is free to students ages 14 to 26, who establish their own online profile and set their own prices, owing no cut to GoPaperboy.com. Consumers must pay to gain access to details about the students, including their picture. There are three subscriber options: monthly for $14.99; quarterly, $39.99; annual, $99.
Since its soft launch in July, GoPaperboy.com has attracted 150 students, mostly on the Main Line, its initial focus area. Gallagher would not disclose how many paid subscribers the site has, but said she soon will expand marketing efforts to Philadelphia and West Chester “as demand is calling.”
An unexpected opportunity has emerged on the user side, she said.
“We are finding now that small companies [looking for help] are posting, too,” Gallagher said.
To build recognition — and a robust menu of service providers — Gallagher has been manning information tables at local universities almost weekly with Radnor native Kate Wymard, GoPaperboy.com’s marketing associate. Company staff so far consists of five independent contractors.
At Villanova University, GoPaperboy has participated in a jobs fair held each spring designed for entrepreneurs and students interested in working with start-ups, said II Luscri, director of the school’s Center for Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship.
“I think they have a great chance of succeeding,” he said of GoPaperboy.com. “One of their challenges is it’s a crowded marketplace. There are other sites and other organizations trying to do similar things. But with the focus on the area, they can get more people involved and engaged.”
Among them is Grace Ann Crenny, 20, a finance and accounting major at Villanova. She used GoPaperboy.com to land a job tutoring 10-year-old Lucas Conlon three days a week at his home in Villanova. She charges $15 an hour.
“I think it’s a great way for families and students to connect, and it’s very mutually beneficial,” Crenny said. She so impressed Lucas’ mother that the student now is also interning three days a week, for $18 an hour, at an investment company in Center City where Laura Conlon is a financial advisor.
“It’s such a great idea,” Laura Conlon said of GoPaperboy.com. “There’s so many young people in our area . . . that are talented and they’re looking for jobs.
“And you have tons of families that need help with all sorts of things. It’s hard to find those things even with all the social media out there. There’s nothing that directly connects families and young people the way this one does.”
As for Gallagher’s choice of a largely outdated image as the logo of her company?
“I wanted that retro feel,” she said, “bring you back in time, return you to the period of industrialism.”