Firm Hopes 'Glitch' Blitz Is Good for Business

Washington area residents may have noticed a new character popping up on television ads lately--the "Glitch."

A local company is hoping this animated, buglike character that finds its way into kitchen appliances, lawn care equipment and the like will also find its way into the minds of consumers looking for advice on household repairs.

The ad blitz--which also includes radio spots--is brought to you by RepairNow.com, a Dulles company that has created a World Wide Web center for advice on fixing everything from dishwashers to bathroom plumbing. The site also acts as a virtual Yellow Pages for area service centers.

RepairNow is the result of three years of brainstorming by Lovettsville resident Fred Schaufeld and is a spinoff of National Electronics Warranty (NEW), which provides service contracts for consumer products and manages warranties for companies such as Visa. Schaufeld serves as NEW's chairman. NEW employs about 350 people in its Dulles office off the Dulles Greenway.

RepairNow, which was launched Sept. 29, raised $6 million in its first round of financing.

Schaufeld's Web site rates area repair centers, allows consumers to schedule appointments online and provides an area for customer feedback. Companies that want to be listed on the site pay a fee to RepairNow. The initial fee is $149, and the average monthly fee after that is about $140, depending on the industry and location. The site also provides a telephone and address list as well as consumer ratings of nonmember companies.

Store's Charity Program Feels a Labor Pinch

Three years ago, Kohl's, the department store chain with locations in Leesburg and Sterling, thought of a way to get much-needed sales help during the holiday season.

The Loudoun stores offered to team up with the county's Department of Social Services on a promotion. Community volunteers could work a shift at either of the store's locations, and the store would donate what it would have paid a staff member to the Holiday Coalition, a social services program that purchases food and gifts during the holidays for those in need.

The program has raised about $3,500 each year for the Holiday Coalition, but recruiting volunteers to work at the stores this year has been so difficult that the department turned over Kohl's Sterling store to another local charity, Loudoun Literacy.

"It's a lot of work," said Karen Velez, the department's special projects and resource development specialist. "Kohl's gets us to help them, and they pay us," she said, "It's a real interesting concept."

But as the labor market continues to tighten, Velez said, she realizes just how valuable the program is to Kohl's, which does not help recruit volunteers.

"Everybody is having a hard time getting enough help," Velez said.

Velez has had a particularly tough time finding volunteers for the Sterling store, although she is not sure why. She spent some time there herself last weekend working in the store's purse and accessory department.

Kohl's, which has stores in about 25 states, runs similar programs during store grand openings and during the holidays at all its locations.

"It's meant to assist the customers during that busy time . . . and it helps us to give back to the communities," said Annette McEwan, Kohl's district manager for Virginia.

Is it cheaper than hiring temporary staff? "I've never thought about it that way," Ewan said. She added that the company keeps separate accounting books for the charity programs.

For information on volunteering for the Leesburg store, call Holiday Hotline at 703-771-5718. To volunteer in the Sterling store, call Loudoun Literacy at 703-777-2205. The program lasts through November.

Business Start-Up Workshop to Be Held

The Town of Leesburg and the Loudoun County Small Business Development Center will offer a start-up workshop from 7:45 to 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Leesburg Municipal Building at 25 W. Market St.

The workshop is aimed at people planning to start a business and will cover topics such as zoning, accounting, business plan development and financing sources. There will also be a question and answer session. Heidi Sheppard, executive director of the center, will lead the free seminar. To register, call 703-430-7222.

Please fax items for Thursday's business page to Sarah Schafer at 703-777-8437 or send them by e-mail to schafers@washpost.com or by regular mail to 305 Harrison St. SE, Leesburg, Va. 20175.