July 1, 2020

Hopewell High School Alumni Launch “Helpers” Business

ODD JOBS AND MORE: Mike Vanover, left, and Will Titus are busy doing yard work and a host of other tasks for clients of Hopewell Helpers, which opened for business a few weeks ago.

By Anne Levin

Less than three weeks after opening, a business staffed with graduates of Hopewell Valley Central High School is already thriving. The 12-member team at Hopewell Helpers provides everything from pet care and grocery delivery to yard work and technical support — at a “pay what you want” pricing model.

The new venture serves Mercer, Hunterdon, and Bucks counties, with additional locations by request.

“In the first 10 days, we had nearly 30 clients and had to triple the size of our team,” said Will Titus, a 2019 graduate of the high school. A rising sophomore and political economy major at Williams College, Titus got the idea for Hopewell Helpers while delivering groceries to senior citizens at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One day, I thought, what if we could do this and expand with more services to reach more people?” Titus said. He quickly assembled a team of college students, and one college graduate, whom he had known in high school — and in some cases, longer.

“I trust them and I know they have a very strong work ethic,” he said. “We look for people on the team who are good at specialized things, but most of the services we offer are things that most any local student is able to do.”

The team lists child care, tutoring, driving, and redecorating among its services, and urges customers to ask about others they might not have considered. Weeding and yardwork have been the most frequently requested so far. Most customers have been able to pay, at levels that Titus says are “very fair.”

“The pay system works well for a few reasons,” he said. “It makes sure our services are more accessible and not exclusionary based on price. We also offer services for no cost. We offer such a wide variety of services, and not just what is listed on our website (hopewellhelpers.com), and it would be very difficult to accurately price everything. I don’t have enough experience to say what things should cost.”

Titus, who runs varsity track at college, is a member of the Williamstown Fire District. At home, he serves on the Pennington First Aid Squad. He tries to make sure that team members work on projects that match their knowledge and expertise. “I’m not as handy as a couple of the guys on my team,” he said. “I’m more about leading and managing. When it’s time to do something that requires some handiness, I let those guys take over and tell me what to do.”

Some jobs turn out to be more challenging than anticipated. “Whether it’s weeding or taking things away, all of a sudden there might be much more than we thought, or a job will take twice as long as we expected,” Titus said. “The hardest job we’ve had so far was a garden we built. It was enjoyable, but it got a little bit hard at the end because it was so hot. Everyone has been super supportive of what we’re doing. Every now and then we have an unexpected challenge, but clients have been very understanding that we’re college students and we do the job as best we can.”

Titus hopes to continue the business in some capacity, even when team members are able to return to colleges. “I would like to bring it back next summer,” he said. “It’s been very educational. We’re constantly learning, not just the jobs we do, but how we can better run the organization, serve our clients, be more organized, and run a small business.”