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Retooling your career during COVID: A Philadelphia story

How a Philly guy switched it up entirely.

handyman services
Prince of Task | Image: Facebook

You may have seen the self-help articles about how to reinvent your career during COVID.

Many tips include tapping old ties from the past, remembering long-forgotten passions and re-imaging them to work for you, or doing a self-audit by recognizing other skills you may have that haven’t been put to use. While this is all good advice, one Philadelphia fellow stumbled across his next career move almost by accident. 

As the general manager of Vintage Wine Bar in Midtown Village, Britain Burgos knew he would be closing his restaurant – at least temporarily – when COVID restrictions came down from City Hall last summer. He said he told his staff:

“OK, we’ll see you in a few weeks when we reopen and get back at it.”

“And then, it just became more and more severe,” he told PW.

Weeks rolled into months, and the earliest he heard Vintage might reopen would be this spring. So, last summer, a bored and unemployed Burgos began tinkering around his house. He said he wasn’t going to wait for the spring of 2021 (and couldn’t afford to). 

“The first thing I built was a planter for my front stoop and I surprised myself. It actually came out pretty good. That was sort of my transition,” he said.

“Headed to my hometown of Erial NJ to mount a couple of aerial silk rigs.” | Image: Facebook

Burgos had a lifetime of working in restaurants under his belt, but he had always been adept at fixing things.  

What began with a few tools in a toolbox turned into something he never would have imagined. In a matter of eight months, he had taken lessons learned from working in the hospitality industry and applied them to becoming a local, neighborhood handyman.

Burgos is self-taught in all things TV mounting, wall hanging, home baby proofing, minor home repairs and painting, and does yard work, packing, running errands, assembly – and because he has the restaurant experience – he has even thrown in personal chef, sommelier and event planning and staffing as part of his services available for hire. 

Asked how it all got started, he said he was simply, one day, Googling what people in restaurants were doing for “side hustles.”

“There are these third-party apps where people are looking for people to do small tasks for them like hang TVs, paint a wall, even stuff like waiting in line or doing laundry. I signed up for TaskRabbit…And 10 to 15 minutes later, I was hired for a mounting job in Center City. I went to this girl’s house and put her TV up on the wall. A couple days later, money showed up in my bank account. I was like, ‘Wow, this is really cool.’

“After that happened, I fine-tuned my profile. I added pictures of stuff that I’ve done around my house and at family and friends’ houses. It started growing and growing to the point where I was able to start my own handyman company.”

The things that I’ve learned being a server and a bartender for years are the soft skills in how to make someone feel relaxed…

– Britain Burgos

That is how Prince of Task was born. Burgos said he tried to come up with a name that was catchy, yet also gave a nod to his hospitality background.

“The things that I’ve learned being a server and a bartender for years are the soft skills in how to make someone feel relaxed – how to hold a conversation with someone, how to read people a little bit better because that’s what I’ve always had to do,” he said.

“One of my tag lines is ‘A Butler with Power Tools’…I wanted to choose something a bit more polished.”

Burgos started Prince of Task with just a bag of basic tools he’d collected over the years – a $49 Black + Decker cordless compact drill being the implement of choice. He was walking from job to job around Center City to locations nearest his home, mainly the neighborhoods of the Italian Market, Bella Vista and Queen Village. But being on foot had its limitations. Now, Burgos has an electric bike, which enables him to expand his reach to other parts of the city. In less than six months, he said his business has grown to acquire more than 200 clients.

“It was scary, at first. There is a lot of learning as I’m going, but my grandfather was a union painter – a carpenter. My brother is an underwater welder. My dad was a photographer but he always tinkered with his cameras. He was really into cars and taking cars apart. I think just being handy ran in my family,” he said. 

As more requests came in, Burgos realized he would need bigger and better tools to take on more jobs. Now, he says he does as many as eight handyman jobs a day and is booked out for weeks at a time. 

From minor electrical work to hanging art to replacing garbage disposals, Burgos’ is pretty much a Jack of all trades, proving that even with the most rudimentary knowledge of a subject and tools in your cupboard (or, in this case, your kit), starting a new career from scratch is always a possibility. 

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  • PW Editor Jenny DeHuff

    Jenny DeHuff has been a part of the Philadelphia media landscape for the last 15 years on just about every level of journalism. She started out at The Bulletin, a conservative voice for Philadelphia, then moved through the region as she honed her career as the City Hall reporter at the Daily News, and later as an editor at Philly Voice. As Philadelphia Weekly's editor-in-chief, DeHuff brings a viewpoint that constantly begs the question of a progressive-leaning Philadelphia. Say hello at jdehuff@philadelphiaweekly.com.

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