Michelle HammondFollow on twitter www.startupsmart.com.au
Based in NSW, the business was founded by former colleagues Allison Baker and Fiona Anson. Despite a 20-year age gap, the women were united over their shared struggle to find temporary work while they were in-between projects.
They were left wanting by the mainstream job resources available, setting in motion the idea of starting up a new, tailored service.
HireMeUp was launched in December last year and now attracts around 10,000 hits a month. StartupSmart talks to the founders about standing out in a saturated market, and the pros and cons of being business partners from different generations.
How does HireMeUp operate?
We have two very different markets. We have companies and recruitment agencies looking for people to fill jobs, and we have jobseekers.
The site is very much geared towards people who want to work anything other than full-time. In fact, we’ve coined the phrase: “Sometimes full-time just doesn’t work”.
We’ve taken the angle of dating sites by going down the matchmaking road, so people who can only work certain hours can build a profile.
They include information about what sort of job they’re looking for, in what industry, and the days and hours they’re available, including whether they can work on school holidays and how far away from home they’re willing to travel.
People posting jobs register the same information, so Job Matchmaker allows one to match up with the other.
It also saves time. When you’re applying for different jobs, you can spend hours sifting through the job ads to find ones that match your requirements, so that’s one of the things that we’ve tried to overcome.
How did you build the site and the Job Matchmaker application?
We launched a temporary site in February, which we built ourselves, to enable people to register their details.
The permanent site went live in April and we contracted that out. We knew it would take time to get all the bells and whistles that we wanted, so the reason behind the temporary site was simply to get our name out there.
However, it was much more complex [to build the permanent site] than we anticipated. We discovered that when we wanted something like the Job Matchmaker, we didn’t have the programming skills to be able to do that.
However, we’ve been able to do some of the minor changes ourselves. Job Matchmaker has an extensive back-end and we manage everything on the site.
What were your start-up costs?
Between $10,000 and $15,000, which came from our personal savings. We registered domain names, IP and trademarks on different things, and getting the site built as well [cost money].
We used contractors for various things within the business. Being a young business, it’s beneficial for us to outsource because it costs less than having full-time employees; people can come and go as we need them.
The other roles have been filled by people who we know or people who we’ve been able to find online. It’s mainly clerical work, like updating databases.
We’re looking at taking on a salesperson but generally when we need a person, we just advertise the job.
What is your pricing model?
Our pricing model is generated by advertisers and there are different tiers. For recruiters, there are a number of packages available to them.
For employers – whether they place job advertisements consistently or it’s just a one-off – they can buy one job ad or in packs and there are subscription rates.
For jobseekers, the site is free. If they want help with resumes, we can help them with that. We also generate revenue via display advertising.
What are your revenue projections for 2011?
Right now, we’re forecasting that we’ll achieve upwards of $30,000 a month by Christmas 2011 and upwards of $60,000 by the end of the financial year.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
With the website, we didn’t know what we didn’t know, so it was a very piecemeal process. It’s been a constant reinvention as we’ve been going along, to get the look and feel exactly how we want it.
We outsourced the website design to a designer in India. The cost benefit of being able to do that as a baby business made it attractive. The cost of having it done in Australia is absolutely prohibitive. We also wanted to own the code, which we do.
The time difference made it interesting but fortunately there is a range of interesting online tools [you can use to overcome this].
For example, we used [free software download] Jing, which allowed us to record ourselves visually and orally so that we can talk and show the designer what we want simultaneously.
Alli, what’s it like working with someone 20 years older than you?
Fiona and I have a really great work dynamic that makes the age factor hardly register. There may be 20 years between us but we’re both creative, no-nonsense women who aren’t afraid to get our hands dirty or take some calculated risks.
Where our age difference does come into play is we both bring different skills and experiences to the company that makes for really well-rounded business plans and strategies.
For example, Fiona brings her marketing background and runs on the board due to her experience, while I bring almost a natural talent for social media and online strategies due to my age – having grown up with it from its early development.
Plus, our target market ranges from both of our age groups and beyond, so we have a great understanding of what people are looking for and how to approach them.
We both recognise the other’s strengths and that’s important. I really think the biggest battles we ever have are over newsletter styles and colour palette preferences – sometimes she wins, sometimes I win. But it always ends with a laugh.
I don’t think we’re necessarily a typical business partnership. Some might be afraid to go into business with someone older for fear they’ll have a sense of superiority or think they can pull more weight.
Conversely, some might not want to venture into business with someone younger for fear they’ll be less serious or won’t bring enough to the table. For Fiona and I, we’re not afraid to speak up, share work, or try new ideas. There’s no age bias there; we don’t have time for it.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
We would have reduced the amount of time we spent developing the site. We also would’ve built an online community before we launched the site.
With other start-up companies, that’s something they should consider – it’s crucial to build an online presence beforehand.
We also recognise the importance of social media. We’ve found that the business we’ve been able to generate through social media has been invaluable.
It’s allowed us to spread knowledge about who we are and what we do and has proven to be an instrumental part of what we’ve been doing.