That Works For Me: Jessica Heagren, Nicola Good, Gemma Blake
That Works For Me matches recruiters and workers via its online platform
Names of founders: Jessica Heagren, Nicola Good, Gemma Blake
Location: We all work from home, which is Hampshire, Leeds and London
Date Launched: December 2019
Number of employees: 3
Age of founders: 37, 37 and 29
Which university, if any, did you attend? Jess attended Nottingham Business School, Nicola went to Leeds (to become an actress!) and Gemma went to Sussex.
Aiming to easily and quickly connect people looking for flexible, part-time work with recruiters and companies in need of skilled talent, That Works For Me is a career matching service for the professional world.
Tell us what your business does:
That Works For Me is where talent meets the real world. It’s where we stop hiding our personal lives at work. It’s where businesses see what we can achieve when we work on our own terms, and applaud us for it. It’s celebrating what modern day careers look like. It is what works for us.
Whether you’re searching for flexible work, or recruiting for a skilled role, That Works For Me provides a professional career matching service like no other. Find the work and people you need, on terms that work for everyone.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
I worked as Strategy and Distribution Director for DLG in their Commercial division managing 600 people across four sites, when I had my first daughter five years ago.
I really struggled with the travel and time; I also hated that it took me all day every Friday to get my baby to speak to me again! I spent most Friday’s juggling conference calls and emails around Baby Sensory and Ella’s Kitchen pouches. When I had my second daughter, I knew that my style of motherhood couldn’t sit alongside my Board level position, so I left – it was the best decision I ever made.
I had always known I wanted to start my own business doing something with purpose that I felt passionately about but I didn’t know what. It dawned on me one day as I chatted to a friend who had been a Marketing Director in a large alcohol company and was now thinking about getting a job in one of their local stores two days a week. I was outraged. How could there possibly not be room for her back in her old world?
The answer came to me as I spoke to a friend of mine who runs a very successful, and growing, catering business and needed some HR advice. But she didn’t just want legal advice – she wanted someone who knew her employees and could pick things up for her, but she didn’t have enough work to employ someone full time.
How had nobody seen before the obvious crossover of growing businesses needing expertise and experience on a part-time basis? And so my mission was born!
One miscarriage and a third baby later, I finally started That Works For Me. I convinced my best friend that she should be my COO (Nic), particularly as she was thinking about her own work-life balance and I roped my sister, Gemma, into being my Comms Director as she had spent years editing my blog posts for me. Together, we have launched That Works For Me.
How did you know there was a market for it?
We tentatively floated the idea to various people we met. Every single parent we know nodded furiously, most sharing their story of what happened to them after they had children. They all talked about their worlds turning upside down and everything changing so they no longer felt that they fitted their previous roles in the same way but struggled to find something new. There was definitely a need for a solution from their point of view!
We started talking to businesses; growing businesses expressed that they would love to use more experienced talent but they thought they had to take them on full time and that they wouldn’t be interested in working for a small business.
Most big businesses agree that they would love to be more supportive of employees and their families, and they recognise that they will be left behind if they don’t start offering it. Of course, some immediately said ‘flexible working wouldn’t work in my business…’ but when exploring it further, realised that actually they probably do it already with freelancers and outsourced activities.
We learnt that there is sometimes a fear about saying “we offer flexible working” because of what it may bring. But it doesn’t have to mean no one ever comes into the office and no one knows each other. It can simply mean being flexible on start and finish times. Or, it might mean Work From Home Wednesdays. It’s the conversation about work for both parties that matters, then making sure the business culture is there to support that.
We researched what was out there, finding nothing that did all of what we wanted to do. There are some fantastic specialist recruiters – for example, Capability Jane and 2to3 Days – who focus on flexible working and part time roles, generally in larger businesses. There are lots of freelancer platforms, but they are incredibly price driven and not many freelancers want to be on them beyond their first year. It was evident that there wasn’t a go-to place for when people need flexible work and especially not somewhere you can return to time and time again.
The markets were there, the proposition was not. That would be us!
What were you doing before starting up?
Jess worked as Strategy and Distribution Director for DLG in their Commercial division.
Nicola worked as Programme Director for Epiphany Search running their Creative & Development teams.
Gemma was, and is, in Account Management for a marketing agency.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Yes! Jess has been doing her Dad’s books since she was about 11. He started as a painter and decorator when he left the Navy and now builds and sells houses. Jess is totally inspired by his personal growth and the success he made of himself.
How did you raise the money?
Jess used her redundancy money to self-fund the launch but will be going out for investment in the next six months.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
We couldn’t get over how expensive it is for small businesses to advertise for help. For that reason we opted for a subscription-based business model where the subscription is determined by the business size and needs.
For example, a startup can post a project or role for free the first time, then sign up to a paid package once they need more resources. Larger businesses will pay a set monthly amount for an unlimited number of roles and projects posts – when we start charging that is! For now, we are building our customer base so offering our services for free. Now is the time to sign up!
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
The platform development was tricky! We used overseas developers who promised us a three month delivery that ended up being a year – cue a lot of tears and frustration!
We then had to do a lot of work on the platform when it came back onshore so our launch took a lot longer than we anticipated. We had made the smart decision of launching our blog and social media 11 months earlier so we had a bit of a following to launch to, which made a big difference.
We also have a daily challenge of our time as I’m working around three young children, and Nicola and Gemma both have full time day jobs. We practice what we preach though and work flexibly, when we can! We use a lot of great tools such as Trello to keep us all on track.
What was your first big breakthrough?
The thing we’re most proud of is that we have had at least one registration every day since we launched – including Christmas Day and New Years’ Day – which we were pretty shocked by!
We have just passed our 250th member and have had three recruiters agree to work with us, which should keep up the flow of flexible roles. Our big focus for this year is on sourcing projects for freelancers. We need growing businesses to use our site to find the skill, talent and experience they need. So tell your friends about us! And don’t be afraid to give us a go.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Get something live to prove the concept, then grow what you have. We made the fatal mistake of demanding everything from day one and it just got too big and too complicated and delayed our launch considerably.
Also, talk to people. The early days can be very lonely but talking to other people gives you the confidence – and often connections – to move things forward.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
We want people to think flexible working – That Works For Me! We want businesses to want to work with us because they want to support their employees holistically and care about them outside of, as well as in, work. We want freelancers to come to us knowing it’s a trusted environment that values quality over price. We want people to know that they can come to us to find work that fits their lives.
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