The Background of the Owner and CEO, Darrell Babboni:
Before I can really get into the story of how Honey-Do-Men came to be, I need to give you a little background on who I am. I was born and raised in Somers, NY, and my parents were divorced when I was three. My dad disappeared when I was five, and we had little to no money. We couldn’t afford to pay someone to fix things around the house, so I had to learn. Our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, helped to put food on the table when we couldn’t, and the men in the church helped fill a father’s role in my life when mine couldn’t. I thank God for those people and for the mother He gave me. It was they who instilled the ethics, values, and morals that help drive me and this company to where it is today. I thank God for that and for my wife and my two beautiful children.
Because we couldn’t afford to pay people to fix things, I had to try myself. I probably broke more things than I fixed and made my mom cry more than I made her laugh, but that is how a kid learns. By the time I was 12 years old, I was already knocking on doors asking neighbors if they needed their grass cut, driveways shoveled, or hedges clipped. By the time I hit high school, I hooked up with a company called the “Somer’s Job Mart” which was run by another student’s parents, Bethany Serrano. They matched up high school kids with local homeowners looking for things like a kid to lift and move things and do manual labor around the house.
By the time I hit college, I was starting to build my own client base and buying my own tools. I would work for anyone that needed something done. Whether it was babysitting or washing windows, fixing a broken door or painting a railing, I was a handyman for hire. It was then that I got a call from my mom saying, “You’re a Honey Do.” I didn’t know what that meant, but after she explained it, it made perfect sense. All my customers were women whose husbands either worked in the city, commuted all day, or just weren’t handy. Someone had to take care of the Honey-Do-List. From then on, I was Darrell Babboni of The Honey-Do-Men, The Handyman Extraordinaire—and the name stuck.
I graduated from Westchester Community College in 1998 with an associate’s degree in performing arts and a pretty steady and loyal customer base. Although I dabbled in the arts a little, there is a big difference between doing it as a hobby and depending on it to put food on the table. Construction always paid the bills, I was good at it, and I loved it with all my heart—and still do. I don’t know many people that can get up day after day and say, “I love my job.” I do.
I would say the story has to start back in the late ‘90s. I was working out of my Honda Civic DX stripped-down hatchback with the seats folded down, a milk crate full of tools, a backpack blower, and a folding ladder. I was living with and working out of my mom’s house using her computer. I had a ladder strapped to the roof of the car, but no ladder rack because I didn’t have the $200 to buy one.
It was in the fall of 2001 that I was up on a roof working on a chimney when I looked down and saw that the gutters needed to be cleaned. I told him, “You know, for $50 I can clean your gutters.” He said no, but I got to thinking, “I bet a lot of people would pay $50 to have their gutters cleaned.” So, later that week I went to the PennySaver in Yorktown, NY, and took out an ad: “$50 to clean your gutters, any house with a walkable roof.” I got about 20 calls, sold all 20 jobs. So the next week, I went and took out another ad, got another 20 calls, sold another 20 jobs … and then thought, “Hmm, this wasn’t just a good idea, it was good business.” So over the next year or so, I started phasing out the handyman part of my business and focused strictly on gutters.
Over the next five years, I hired more people, bought more trucks, started building the office staff, and started winning awards. I found the best gutter guys were roofers. They would get off the ladder and work from the roof. The jobs went faster and were more profitable. The problem with roofers is that it’s something in your blood, and so the new staff pushed for us to go into roofing. In 2005 I caved and said, “If we are going to do this, then we are going to go all the way and do it right.”
I then contacted Pete Smyth, the regional rep for GAF, the largest roofing manufacturer in the United States. From that meeting, I found out about the Master Elite program which was an invitation-only program for the top 3% of roofers across the country. It was all or nothing, so I kept in touch with Pete and he kept an eye on us until two years later, we got the invitation. Since then, we haven’t looked back and are now on track to win almost every award you can think of.
In 2010, after reaching the top of that industry, I decided to go back into handyman work, my first true love. We have dabbled in solar technology, and started a General Contracting Division in 2014. We can now pretty much fix, repair, install, or replace almost anything in your home.
There are several spin-off stories, like when I also worked at The Home Depot, the United States Census Bureau, and the USPS as a mail carrier; what happened with the performing arts and if I still perform today, stories about the people and organizations we donate to and the ways we give back to the community, like the Honey-Do-Men Entrepreneurial Scholarship, Holiday Miracle, our Good Samaritan Truck, and more.
Not only to my mom and to my church, but to:
Bob Benjamin: My first business partner and best friend.
Johnny Layola: A God-fearing man who taught me it was OK to bring the values and morals I learned at church with me to work.
Garry Kull: The first business man I really ever knew. A man who was inspirational to me as a young man, as a spiritual leader, a father figure, and a business mentor. Truly inspired by God to be in my life at that time.
Billy Giles: My first insurance agent who also became a dear friend. One might say the real true story of how Honey-Do-Men came to be started at his desk in 1996 when a very young and naive kid walked in off the street, sat at his desk, looked him straight in the eye and said “I want to start a company, what do I need to do?”
If you would like to know more about Honey-Do-Men and its founder Darrell Babboni, please click here to read his blog.