While they attended Harvard Business School, Marcela Sapone and Jessica Beck inadvertently came up with a startup idea thanks to their messy apartments.
The two women hired someone off of Craigslist to come do their laundry and buy their groceries weekly, and then they split the cost.
The woman they hired, Jenny, came to their apartments to take care of errands that would otherwise pile up. This would eventually evolve to become their company, Alfred.
Today, it’s a startup that hires employees — Alfred Client Managers, or just “Alfreds” — to run weekly errands: buying groceries, sorting mail, dropping off packages, and taking care of laundry for you.
You pay $32 a week for the service, plus the cost of things like your groceries. Alfred has raised $12.5 million from investors, including Spark Capital, New Enterprise Associates, Sherpa Capital, and CrunchFund.
There are plenty of “last mile” startups — companies obsessed with logistics and delivery and getting your groceries or packages to your doorstep. But Alfred wants to be a “last meter” startup, operating inside your home.
“We are looking at Amazon as our inspiration,” Sapone, the company’s CEO, says. “Alfred as the trusted relationship that brokers every conceivable service past the front door.”
Since launch, Sapone and Beck have been focused on building and maintaining a sustainable and profitable business.
Alfred’s founders have deliberately throttled the company’s growth. Alfred has seen 30% month-over-month growth. Sign-ups for the service are four times as much, but Sapone and Beck are focused on “making sure each of the unit economics in each of these atoms of the business — essentially the book of clients that Alfred has — are sustainable, break even, or better,” Sapone says.
The company isn’t yet net profitable, but it is operating profitable, according to its founders.
Alfred, which launched in 2014, is active in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Boston and is rolling out in beta in Los Angeles and San Francisco. There are “hundreds” of Alfreds who have handled “just under 100,000” requests from thousands of users, Sapone says.
The average Alfred customer spends $415 per month, or $4,980 a year. In comparison, Amazon Prime subscribers spend about $1,500 a year. In its first year, Alfred achieved $1.5 million in revenue. The company has 26 corporate employees in its New York headquarters.