Most brilliant companies come from a single drop of inspiration. For Matt Sheehan, that drop was from a leaky faucet.
Sheehan, a former executive at Redbox and Primo Water Services, founded Raleigh-based 24/7 home management platform Exhale in August 2020. (See Exhale’s promotional video below.)
The idea for a home management service came to Sheehan a decade ago, when a leaky faucet set off a frenzy of failed DIY repairs, annoying phone calls and expensive, inefficient repair processes.
“My life was somewhat blown up because of a silly faucet that wasn’t maintained properly and should have been maintained properly – my job is not to stay on top of who’s the best plumber in the city,” Sheehan said. “It was exactly like I predicted, and just a very negative experience.”
COVID-19 has forced homeowners to constantly deal with minor inconveniences like leaky faucets and faulty light switches that might otherwise be tolerable. For Exhale, Sheehan said, the pandemic provided an opportunity.
“It’s actually a very good time for a business like this to come out,” Sheehan said. “Because people are spending more time at home, they are realizing that there is a gap between the home they want and the home they have.”
The monthly or quarterly subscription service matches homeowners with 24/7 home managers. To maintain constant care, home managers check up on properties regularly and either take on projects themselves or call on approved outside contractors.
All repairs are billed and scheduled through Exhale, so homeowners can breathe easy while forgoing frivolous phone calls, Google searches and invoices, reducing the time of service from up to 45 days (with payment processing and invoices included) to as little as 24 hours.
“Our clients, we call members, because it is a membership,” Sheehan said. “That’s a very different model because we have dedicated resources for our clients. There’s no more vetting, there’s no more going to the internet. We know the best trades in the city, and we have them ready to go.”
Although each customer’s plan is catered to fit their home’s needs following an initial home inspection and consultation, baseline services include pool maintenance, window washing, lawn care, foundation inspection and general maintenance.
Exhale services just under 20 homes and directly employs three people in the Raleigh area, but Sheehan said that the startup’s successful first year has given him the confidence to look towards expansion.
While maintaining personalized customer experiences and a positive work culture, Sheehan hopes to have up to 100 members by August of next year.
“We’re very, very focused on our members right now, and we will also grow in a very prudent way,” Sheehan said. “What we’re not going to do is try to set some ego record of how fast we acquired customers. This is all about providing incredible service.”
For the time being, Exhale is going to limit its geographical growth, fostering deep local connections instead of stretching itself thin.
Raleigh, Sheehan said, is the perfect spot for his first solo venture to plant deep roots. The Triangle’s growth mindset, diversity focus and welcoming attitude have captured his attention—and he is excited for Exhale to hit it out of the park.
“I just feel this great sense of—I almost call it early innings,” Sheehan said. “It’s like the second inning for the Triangle. It’s already pretty cool, but it’s got a long way to go.”