TheJobsMenu: Ilona Alcock

The tech start-up's founder talks cashflow, elevator pitches and why you really need to think about why you want to start a business before taking the leap

Name: Ilona Alcock
Company name:
Location: London
Date launched: 03/04/2015

Tell us what your business does: is the ultimate online meeting place for top hospitality brands and talent. By working with direct employers only, we aim to become the most effective and loved hospitality job board in the UK.

We advertise roles for catering and hospitality companies, such as Carluccio’s, The Dorchester and itsu, offering them a content rich profile page which can be fully customised to suit their brand. We also utilise unique behavioural matching criteria to pair candidates with their ideal role.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

Most job boards look fairly dull and it is hard for candidates to get a feel for the brand’s personality. We therefore decided to pass all the control, and the vast majority of website space, back to the brands. Recruiters can use their own text and images on their profile page, homepage and advertisements. We also noticed how difficult it was for candidates to utilise job boards on the go.

Finally, we felt that there had to be a better way of matching people with jobs than the traditional CV review. Using technology similar to that found on dating technology we were able to come up with a series of questions to establish whether a candidate would be a good brand fit. Not only does this help at the recruitment stage but it will vastly reduce turnover in the early stages of hiring.

How did you know there was a market for it?

Everything we have decided to do has been based on conversations with recruiters and job seekers. We wanted to really understand what the issues were, what had been tried before and where we could improve the process.

Last year we also commissioned an EU funded research project into the next generation of job seekers to spot trends and forecast our development.

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What were you doing before starting up?

I initially worked in recruitment before retraining and qualifying as a commercial solicitor. Around three years ago my husband and I decided to go it alone and set up a bespoke software development company, Diced Software.

It was through a project at Diced that we started working with our new business partners.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

Actually, no! If you’d asked me five years ago I would have said it wasn’t even on my radar. I’m from a family of entrepreneurs though so I suppose it must be in my blood. Now I’ve done it I can’t imagine going back. Easily the best decision I have made!

How did you raise the money?

We have received start up funding and support through the Invest|R Group.

Describe your business model and how you make money:

We offer an annual fee to our launch partners to advertise unlimited vacancies on TheJobsMenu, which also includes access to our applicant tracking system (used to manage candidates). As we grow we will start of offer advertising packages to smaller companies with fewer roles to recruit for.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

Loads! Getting to grips with new technology, working on our “elevator pitch”, building a strong team who live and breathe our values, managing cash flow pre-launch. Every day brings its own challenges which is actually the main reason I love what I do.

In terms of overcoming them, I think it is mainly a mindset. We stay focused on what we are trying to achieve, work as hard as we can to be as good as we can, and then learn to accept that not everything will be perfect the first time round.

What was your first big breakthrough?

The early successes for us were the sales to our launch partners. Knowing that these fantastic, high profile brands believed we could deliver (having only seen a demo site!) was a huge confidence boost to the whole team. It has also made us exceptionally determined to exceed all their expectations.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Think about why you want to be an entrepreneur, and why you want to run your particular business. It’s insanely hard work and long hours at times, with no guarantee of a pay cheque at the end of it. If you’re not genuinely excited by what you’re creating it is unlikely to ever seem worth it.

I would also get objective advice from potential clients as early as possible. Of course your mum thinks it’s the best idea since sliced bread – but are you actually solving a real problem? And will people actually pay you to solve that problem?

If the answer is yes, then go for it! And ask for help from anyone and everyone you can. You’ll be amazed at just how much support there is out there for new businesses.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

Sunbathing on my private island. Or more realistically, running a well-respected, innovative technology company that is transforming the recruitment industry. I’m so proud of TheJobsMenu and can’t wait to see it go from strength to strength.

And whilst that’s happening we’ll be working away behind the scenes on our next products. Watch this space!


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