Looking for a way out of some of the pitfalls of being a single mother, Brit Lindell has come up with a business idea that she hopes will help others facing the same obstacles.
She is starting a new kind of temp service—Billings Betties—that will match businesses with single parents who want to work but need a lot of flexibility to get the job done.
She also hopes to start a drop-in day-care where parents can leave their kids while they work part-time, then put in hours at the day-care to help pay for the service.
For many single parents, Lindell said, “It’s a horrible Catch-22. You need money to pay for child care, so that you can get a job. But you need a job to have the money to pay for child care.”
A fundraiser for Billings Betties will be held at the Railyard Ale House, 2526 Montana Ave., on Friday, April 1, with a mixer starting at 5:30 p.m. and live music and dancing at 8.
The group’s mission statement says its goal is “to raise money to build a job service for struggling single parents that need flexible hours and affordable childcare; one odd job at a time.”
Lindell is 31 and has an 11-month-old son. When she was pregnant she thought her finances looked good and that she could keep working about the same hours in her job as a self-employed event manager.
But when Augustus was born she found she had much less time to spare than she expected, and the hours she could work were scattered throughout the day and the week.
“I was constantly struggling to find the child care I required,” she said. “I very quickly found myself without affordable housing.”
She got some government assistance, but that came with its own difficulties, including long waits, lots of red tape and numerous restrictions. In the course of trying to figure out if she could make enough money doing a variety of odd jobs, she had an inspiration.
She got together with three friends—two single moms and a single dad—and they began putting together the outline of a new kind of temporary service that would match people like themselves with businesses that needed particular kinds of help and could accommodate workers unable to work traditional shifts.
They figured cleaning jobs would be a temp position of interest to a lot of their clients, and the name Billings Betties seemed to fit, since “Betty” seemed like a stereotypically perfect name for a ’50s-era mom whose two main preoccupations were cleaning and taking care of children.
At first Lindell and her friends found a few jobs for themselves. Then, in January, they put up a Facebook post outlining their plans and inviting individuals and businesses to call Lindell with their needs and wants.
“My phone didn’t quit ringing right off the hook for a week,” she said.
In fact, she said, the volume of inquiries was so great that she abandoned plans to make the service a small, mostly informal one. She is now trying to obtain the proper licensing, certification and insurance to make Billings Betties a going concern.
In the meantime, she is using the Billings Betties Facebook page to continue finding people who need work and businesses that need help. The services she is offering include house sitting, child sitting, dog walking, personal care assistance, office help, dog walking and fast-food delivery.
She also invited businesses to send her emails describing their needs. So far, she said, she’s heard from contractors, child-care businesses, house cleaners and insurance agencies looking for temporary office help.
To support her business, Lindell said she plans to charge employers 20 percent of whatever hourly wage they agree to pay workers referred by Billings Betties. For smaller businesses that need someone for only a very short time, Lindell said, she would be willing to charge less.
Part of her goal is also to encourage single parents to think about their futures. So, instead of offering them any sort of odd job that pops up, she asks applicants to list all their skills and former jobs, and to specify what sort of work they’d like to do for a living. Then she can try to find them a part-time job that could lead to something bigger or more permanent.
And despite the obvious focus of Billings Betties, she said, you don’t have to be a single parent to use the service. It is open to anyone who is having trouble finding work and day care and needs to work flexible hours.
Lindell even went out of her way to welcome those who might have special difficulties finding work—people with felony records. “I have absolutely no judgment and you will not be denied,” Lindell said on the Facebook page. “ I just need to know, so you can be placed with an employer that also is OK with your situation. Everyone makes mistakes!
Lindell said her old job prepared her for this one. As an event coordinator, she organized the Mini Com Con (Miniature Comic Convention) in Billings in 2015, followed by the Tragic City Alternacon last summer. Both events featured costume contests, live action role playing, panel discussions and more.
Because these sorts of events were new to Billings, Lindell said, she had to work with people to develop the kinds of services such events demand, including vendors and entertainment providers.
Lindell plans to operate out of her home, “and as we grow, we’ll get a storefront.” She is confident that day will come, given how much interest the concept has generated just through a low-key Facebook campaign.
“I seriously didn’t think it would be such a hit,” she said.