During a call with Napoleon Foster, 72, one gets the feeling they can slow down and examine whatever’s going on at the moment. His measured words bring him across as someone who’s here to help – to unravel life’s tangles and hand them back in neat, ordered bundles. And that’s basically what he did for years as owner of A Minor Touch handyman service, arriving in clients’ homes to handle the types of relatively small tasks that are often just big enough to cause confusion and, oftentimes, procrastination.
Although COVID-19 forced him to shut down, the Forsyth County resident is still in the business of helping people. He’s gone back to the small-but-necessary tasks for friends and family that led him to launch his service, and he’s active in his community with volunteer activities that include working with the Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce on diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Beginning of a business
Before his 2010 retirement from Xerox Corporation, he was already doing small odd jobs for acquaintances. His community welcomed his decision to offer his services in an official capacity. Many customers were seniors who Foster feels didn’t need to be involved with ladders or other threats to their balance. They needed significant things done around the house, but the tasks didn’t require a licensed craftsman.
“Just changing a light fixture in the home or changing the light itself … changing the batteries in a smoke detector, those are the type of things that I would do,” Foster told the AJC recently. “After I retired, I decided to open this handyman service to provide just a little small service for customers that really don’t need a contractor to come in and do stuff … things that a senior citizen may need to have done.”
Most of the time, Foster worked solo.
“If I did take on some project that I needed to have another helping hand, I had a friend I could call on that could go help me, but that was very rare,” he said.
Local networking helped him build the business quickly, and he began servicing North Fulton, South Forsyth, and Gwinnett counties with occasional forays into Cobb and Dekalb counties and Atlanta. Chamber membership, he said, was a key part of that fast expansion.
“It started out small, of course, but by me being a member of the chamber of commerce … I was able to expand my business contacts,” he said. “It caused my business to blossom, I would say.”
People hired Foster for jobs they weren’t sure how to get started or didn’t have the right tools for, and then they passed his name on to others. Foster also established an online presence, which helped A Minor Touch take off.
“It only took a few months to get started off the ground that way because of the contacts you make. When you go out and do one project for a customer, then they would tell their friends and other people there that I came and did the work for them and they were pleased with what I did,” Foster said. “So, therefore, it was somewhat word of mouth being passed along, and at the same time, I did create my website and was able to get some business that way.”
Doing it right
There was no shortage of work, and Foster was able to make referrals when jobs fell outside his area of expertise or were beyond the scope he wanted to take on.
“You can become very overloaded with work, but because of me only doing small projects, when I would get a call for something that required skill levels outside of what I wanted to do or knew how to do, then I would just immediately tell them that no, that’s not what’s in my services that I provide,” he said. “But I also knew of other people, other companies, that could possibly take that on, so I would pass that information on to them, so they would contact the customer and complete the jobs that I could not do.”
At this point, he plans to continue unofficially assisting those in his circle. While he’s not in the business per se right now, he does have some tips for others looking to tap into their potential as entrepreneurs.
“The only advice that I have for them is to get yourself involved with someone that can help you with the business or the legal part of it. In my case, I had an attorney that helped me establish my business, along with a CPA because I wanted to do the business right,” he said. “I wanted to do it correctly. I didn’t want to go out and go to people’s homes and not have the proper insurance that I needed in order to do that. So, that’s my advice for anyone that wants to start a business is to seek out professional help from those standpoints.”