Long-distance support of a family member or friend in need is difficult to coordinate, and lacks sustainability if the situation lasts more than a few weeks. Unless you're in the neighborhood, you cannot drop off a meal, babysit, petsit, or provide a ride to an appointment. Online fundraising efforts typically wrap up within two months, leaving those with prolonged illnesses or other challenges without assistance once the funds are depleted.
Like Neighbors’ Founder & CEO Judy O’Connor realized the adversity of these situations when a friend’s toddler was diagnosed with bone cancer, and then had a severe reaction to chemotherapy that put him in a pediatric ICU for a year. When Judy tried to coordinate a restaurant meal delivery from another state, it required hours of emails, texts, and calls to local friends, the child’s father, and the restaurant. She knew there had to be an easier way to help those enduring life’s most difficult challenges.
To solve this problem, Judy founded Like Neighbors, an online platform that allows people to send and fulfill requests for meal deliveries and other services via partner service providers. Like Neighbors gives friends and relatives an easy, affordable, personal way to provide exactly what’s needed, when and where it’s needed. In addition, their partner service providers enjoy expanded reach and increased year-round revenue. Like Neighbors has launched in the DC metro area with its first partner provider, Galley. Now those in need in and around DC can request and receive nutritious, high quality Galley meals, provided with just a few clicks by their supporters nationwide.
SCORE provided O'Connor with the opportunity to browse online mentor profiles and select one that she felt would be able to address her specific situation. O'Connor knew she needed to develop a business plan, and was most interested in finding a mentor who had extensive experience with startup planning, finance planning, and funding development. As she browsed the SCORE mentor profiles on the website, Hal Shelton’s bio stood out to her. "His professional background, along with his mentoring experience (and the fact that he literally wrote the book on writing business plans) made him my number one choice." Since both are based in the DC Metro area, O'Connor is able to meet in person for her mentoring sessions, providing her with team collaboration and brainstorming time that many small business owners crave.
Immediately upon completion of Like Neighbor's business plan, O'Connor entered the StartRight! Business Plan Competition and placed third out of more than forty female entrepreneurs in Maryland. The women who claimed first and second place had already had their businesses up and running, with strong numbers to back their financial projections. To be among the finalists – while still in the concept stage – was a great honor.
"I know Hal’s detailed review and excellent feedback significantly strengthened my submission and contributed to my win. For placing third, I received publicity, training, professional advice, networking opportunities, a cash award and a year of free office space!"
By scaling rapidly, Like Neighbors has the potential to help millions of people facing unexpected challenges, while enabling their long-distance friends and family to send the most impactful ongoing assistance. The team brings decades of knowledge perfectly suited to building and marketing an exceptional platform, delivering a frictionless user experience for those in need and their supporters, and expanding reach for service providers who seek out partnerships to gain market share in their increasingly crowded and competitive spaces.
Hal assisted O'Connor in assembling a strong business plan with accurate and aggressive financial projections, as well as a sound exit strategy. He provided invaluable insight into what investors want to see, how to structure a financial plan, and what critical information to include.
"A former supervisor of mine used to say that “problems” are just puzzles waiting to be solved. My advice is to find the right people to help you put the pieces together. These are mentors, advisors, friends, family members… anyone who shares your passion for your idea and can help you fill your knowledge gaps. Not only will they answer the many questions you’ll have along your journey, but they’ll also help you brainstorm amazing new ideas, cheer you on when you feel stuck, and even introduce you to other people that may play key roles in your success."