When two soon-to-be founders were brainstorming ideas for a female-oriented home improvement service, Lacey Soslow suggested something like “OnlyFans but for home improvement,” a reference to the online service that allows women porn actors to sell their videos directly to consumers, without going through the male-dominated adult-film industry. Her counterpart, Gabriella Ainslie, pointed out that a comparison to telehealth would work just as well to get their point across. “I was like ‘yes, Gabriella, that’s a better way to describe it,’ ” Soslow recalled with laughter. “Like telehealth.”
Soslow had spent a decade flipping houses in Philadelphia with her mother, but almost never encountered female tradespeople in the field. Ainslie was trying to get the pipes fixed in her Austin home after the infamous 2021 freeze, and she wanted to work with a female plumber who could explain what work was necessary without the intimidation factor, or sometimes patronizing advice, that she’d experienced from male workers in the past. “I knew the [workers] were out there but I had no idea how you would even go about finding them,” recalls Soslow. “There is this existing community, but it’s very decentralized, and there really was no one hub.”
There is now, and it’s Matriarchy Build, the company Soslow and Ainslie launched in 2022. It’s a nationwide database of vetted pros in the industry—everyone from general contractors to landscapers to plumbers, and all of them female or nonbinary—with whom customers can book one-on-one virtual consultations. Kind of like telehealth, or OnlyFans, but for home improvement.
Say you have a project that needs completing, like fixing a leaky faucet, or retiling your bathroom. Matriarchy Build allows you to consult with a trustworthy expert in the field, for a fee ranging from $25 for a 10-minute consultation to $150 for a 55-minute talk. (Some consultants charge more than others.) As Soslow points out, the consultant “has no skin in the game.” They won’t be trying to upsell you, and more often than not aren’t in your city, so they aren’t pitching their services for the job. (Ainslie, who lives in Austin, is spearheading a local subscription service for in-person work, which rolled out in July.) The consultants are there to answer your questions, and tell you what questions to ask, or who else to ask. They can also give advice on how to educate yourself if you’re trying to go the DIY route. Expertise on the platform is wide: consultants can tell you how to keep your houseplants alive, how to choose materials for a bathroom remodeling job, or how to arrange frames for a gallery wall. And because the platform is built on the concept of women helping women, the consultants probably won’t talk to you like you’re a dumb girl.
“Obviously not all men are like that,” says Soslow, “but it’s a fairly common experience in the reno space. I’ve had plenty of great experiences, but plenty of bad ones and it would feel better for communication and safety to work with a woman, somebody who wasn’t patronizing you.”
When they first started developing the idea, Soslow and Ainslie were worried it would be hard to find pros willing to join. Nothing could have been further from the truth. They started scouring various social platforms and found female and nonbinary tradespersons that were already growing their online presences and who were hungry for centralization among their ranks.
“I wanted a community for women and other underrepresented groups in this industry, and then I came across Matriarchy Build,” says Maria Salmeron, a general contractor in Austin who owns Riveter Construction, and grew up in the home-service industry with parents who ran a landscaping business. “I emailed them because I was so hyped on what they were doing.”
Soslow and Ainslie’s roster grew quickly. When they launched Matriarchy Build last year, they had recruited 25 pros. The platform now boasts more than 80, with a waitlist of more than 400 that Soslow and Ainslie are trying to onboard. There are architects, designers, electricians, inspectors, plaster experts, tile setters, and more, from all over the country, organized neatly on the site by trade, or whatever specific project you might need help with. (Some examples in their dropdown menu are “materials selection,” “old house renovations,” “tool questions,” “wall treatments,” “appliance support,” and so on.)
“There have been so many times where I have had small projects that I thought I could probably do on my own but ended up paying someone to take care of because I was intimidated by not knowing how to go about it,” says one customer, Leah Tulin, who installed an electric vehicle charger in her Maryland home with the help of a video consultation with one of Matriarchy Build’s pros. “The fact that the pros are all women/nonbinary has made me feel so much more comfortable asking questions that I would have felt stupid asking.”
Many of Matriarchy Build’s customers have not been satisfied with just virtual guidance; they wanted to hire pros for hands-on help. The in-person subscription, available now in Austin, gives you access to a localized roster of tradespeople, all of whom have been vetted by Matriarchy Build, which confirms the quality of their work and skills at talking specifically to women. Ainslie and Soslow hope to expand to San Antonio within the next year, and then beyond.
Salmeron is one such handyperson and now works as the general manager of the Austin subscription service. She has been surprised by how much more empowering her onsite visits are, compared to what she has historically experienced. “I work for a women-owned company that is focused on the female perspective,” she says. “Day to day it’s genuinely more enjoyable. Communication is super easy. There’s a higher level of operation, and I don’t have to try as hard. But more than that, I am out in the field doing what I’m really good at, and no one is questioning me. No one has the expectation that I can’t do it, because I’m starting with Matriarchy Build, and the homeowners that are paying for this service want someone like me.”
Soslow and Ainslie were also surprised by just how many homeowners are excited to hire someone like Salmeron. “One thing we’ve learned is that men are hungry for this service, too,” says Ainslie. “Twenty percent of our online customers are men. There’s this refrain of ‘It’s really nice to feel I’m not emasculated when I’m asking these questions. I don’t want to be mansplained to, either.’ ”
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