Van Middlesworth (right) and app co-founder Javier Escamilla. Michael VanMiddlesworth
Van Middlesworth (right) and app co-founder Javier Escamilla.

Mike VanMiddlesworth of Plymouth and his team have created an app that allows Michiganders to “lend each other a hand” like never before.

MICHIGAN—With Michiganders feeling the pain of the pandemic at work and in their wallets, earning extra income has been a pathway for countless Michiganders. 

The year 2020 has been the year of Oseas for them. Just ask Plymouth start-up owner Michael VanMiddlesworth. 

This past July, he launched a phone app that could be part of the solution—”I Need a Hand,” a central platform that was born out of his own need at his home.

Photo courtesy of Michael VanMiddlesworth
VanMiddlesworth along with his wife Elizz and daughter at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the app in downtown Plymouth this past July.

“It got founded because I was trying to get a mattress out of my basement and I was searching on the Internet for an app (for odd jobs),” VanMiddlesworth said. “And I was like, ‘Wow, there’s got to be an app out there for that.”

The 49-year-old, longtime electrical engineer in the automotive industry was about to call an Uber driver for help just as his neighbor arrived to lend him a helping hand.

The crucial assist spurred VanMiddlesworth toward launching a gig-based app of his own alongside with his friend Javier Escamilla.

“The next day I was talking to Javier at the barbeque and he said I could make an app like, ‘I Need a Hand’ and I said, “’Great, I’m sure a lot of people need it.’”

The app started in July 2017 and was officially completed its launch in July of this year: right in the middle of one of turbulent economic times.

The app, found on both the Apple Store and Google Store, allows users to create a profile and share their skills with those who need a hand.

App users take on household jobs ranging from moving dirt to fixing doorknobs, raking leaves, snowblowing, moving furniture, and even assisting neighbors with rides, Uber style (100% goes to the driver).

Service providers are shown on a map of the lower portion of Michigan, allowing those who “need a hand” to find help in a private, fast and secure manner.

VanMiddlesworth said he plans to launch the app in Lansing soon as well as Grand Rapids by the first quarter of next year.

Tweaks are still being made to make the app as user-friendly as possible.

In the meantime, VanMiddlesworth has been taking on other gigs in his spare time.

“A woman needed a swingset put together than had been in a box for two months,” VanMiddlesworth said.

“She found me on the app. We got that swingset together for the little kids and it was probably my most emotional story, it felt really good getting it together for that little kid.”

With the basics in place and the app’s reach expanding, VanMiddlesworth is now zeroing in on the next round of improvements.

He offered advice for aspire entrepreneurs and app builders.

“You have to be flexible with what you’re doing,” he said.

“You’ve got to be persistent, be very, very persistent. It’s easy to get frustrated and give up but you just have to be persistent.”

VanMiddlesworth and his team of Michiganders including Escamilla, lead project manager Steve, and website designer Dhiloj are currently fundraising in hopes of improving the app’s interface.

Three years in, VanMiddlesworth offered advice for anyone who may be on the fence about creating their own digital property.

“My advice would be definitely to go for it, because there’s a lot of things out there that haven’t been created that can definitely be implemented and help people have a better quality of life,” he said.

“I think that’s kind of our purpose in life, to help people be better off in the future to live a better quality of life.”

More information about I Need a Hand can be found on the app’s website.

UP NEXT: Michigan Still Needs the National Guard for Coronavirus Response