From yard work to babysitting, grocery shopping to plumbing fixes, Francis Glad’s business Mi Friend On Demand connects local people with a need for service with someone who can provide it.
Glad, a 40-year-old Nogales resident who started her first business at 18, came up with the idea after she started caring for her grandmother full-time and struggled to get out of the house, even to go grocery shopping. As she reached out for help, she realized other people were in the same boat, especially the elderly and homebound.
At the same time, she also knew many people in Nogales and Rio Rico who were out of work and would be happy to earn some extra money by running errands, doing yard work or providing a few hours of caregiving.
“We are a lifeline for most people,” she said. “We do things as simple as, we sent out a group to decorate a house for Christmas because the owner just moved in and she has a very ill son, for example.”
Since she started Mi Friend On Demand nine moths ago, Glad has been implementing innovative ways to communicate with her clients, using social media, her website and phone apps to take requests for work and find the “perfect candidate” for the job, she said.
“I think we need to move away a little bit from the way we’ve run our businesses in the past and find other strategic ways of doing it,” she said.
Entrepreneurs like Glad are part of a budding startup scene in Ambos Nogales, where a struggling economy and the decline of traditional stores and businesses are inspiring some people to consider new, creative ways to make a living and revitalize the community.
“I see Nogales being reborn,” said Stephanie Bermudez, an entrepreneur and Nogales native who is seeking to build a startup culture in Ambos Nogales and the Arizona-Sonora region.
“I don’t see the fact that stores are closing down as a bad thing, really. I see it as an opportunity to do something new, start new businesses and ones that are appropriate to the community and the world today,” she said.
Calling herself a blend of insider and outsider in Nogales after living in Tucson for a decade, where she was involved with projects driving economic activity to the downtown area, Bermudez moved back to her hometown last year to explore the “next stage for Nogales.” As part of that effort, she created Startup Unidos, a podcast and community designed to inspire and connect entrepreneurs.
Though the term “startup” is often used to refer to new businesses in the tech industry, such as the popular ride-sharing app Uber, Bermudez said in a community like Nogales, she considers a startup any “idea put into motion,” be it a service, event, social movement or small business.