At loose ends looking for temp work in Europe a few years ago, Gen George hit upon an idea that blossomed into a company which is now worth $18 million.
Name: Gen George
Company: One Shift
Gen George is only 23, but already she’s a self-made, successful businesswoman who’s been running her own company for two years.
A few years ago George was in Europe and found herself looking for part-time temporary work, but discovered there was nothing which met her needs, with Gumtree and handing out CVs her only options.
Three months later she’d abandoned her search for part-time work and instead launched her own business, OneShift, a site which matches job seekers to employers, specialising in temporary positions.
The first site was a simple WordPress webpage and George began to build the business by putting up posters and handing out flyers around universities.
After the business started to gain traction, George relaunched a “proper” website in 2012 and in the past 21 months the business has boomed.
Currently the site has over 300,000 users across Australia, just under 30,000 businesses involved and just over a month ago launched in New Zealand.
After only a month the site has almost 900 job seekers looking for work in New Zealand and 210 businesses on the site.
With plans to launch in the United States and the United Kingdom in the next few months, George is helping job seekers and employers to “take control of their own destiny”.
The site attracts predominantly 18 to 24-year-olds, but has also helped a 13-year-old and an 86-year-old find work.
The business was valued at $18 million last year and in February this year its revenue was up 65% on January.
George spoke to SmartCompany about building the brand on social media, the growing demand for flexible work and not being afraid to “give it a go”.
Each morning George tries to do something for herself to kick start the day.
“I try and go to the gym or go for a walk. Then I have breakfast and coffee with my dad and troubleshoot any issues I’m having in the business,” she says.
“I’m in the office and ready to go by about 8am.”
George’s day is filled with meetings, catching up with staff members and “running around like a headless chook”.
“I also work with the sales team, the CFO, investors, attend board meetings and fly to New Zealand quite regularly.
“I do a lot of TV appearances too and we’re lucky because we get some good traction with PR.”
However, ultimately, she says each day is different.
“We have control of our own destiny and there is no kind of set path about how a business should operate.”
When George first started the business she was the only person involved, and admits she did every role.
“I was the call centre, the help desk, I was putting the website together and I did the social media,” she says.
“The social media is something I still do – it’s a great way to get a handle on what’s actually going on with the business. I’m also still the go-to person to get the water for meetings and to distribute the mail and I would be mortified if I ever stepped away from that.”
OneShift has over 172,000 likes on Facebook, one of the largest social media bases in the job board industry.
“I can relate to the users because I’m their age,” George says.
George had originally approached a person in the US through O-desk to build the OneShift site, but paid half the money up front and received nothing in return.
“It was a very fast learning curve. I finally got the money back, but it took two years. It’s amazing what you can learn when money is involved,” she says.
The site’s best turnaround in terms of the time taken between when a job is posted and when someone is employed is 27 minutes.
“A café posted a job and within 27 minutes the barista had turned up at their door and was hired.”
Being a website, George says online marketing is very important for the business.
“It’s the fastest way to get people onto the site. We get traction through social media, word of mouth and Google AdWords.
“With anything online you track it through Google Analytics and with social media it’s about having the connection with the community and being able to discuss topics like ‘what would you rather, an engaging job or a boring job which pays more?’ With questions like this we’ll get hundreds of likes and comments.”
George is working toward the launch of OneShift in the US and the UK; however, she says not much with the site needs to change.
“It’s just a matter of making it geocentric to the location. It’s minor details, so we don’t need to make a lot of changes.
“Because we’re such a young company it’s literally a matter of leaning over the desk and giving the developers instructions.”
George says people’s mindsets about work are changing and young people in particular have different desires than previous generations.
“It’s not what the Australian dream was years ago. People’s stories have changed, as they’re taking gap years, changing degrees, going overseas, moving cities and changing jobs – there are not set paths to success anymore,” she says.
“People read stories about how to employ and manage Gen Y, and it is a different way. We don’t believe in the standard come in at 9am and leave at 5pm. It’s a matter of not needing to be at your desk to be working hard.”
While the company is still small, George says hiring the right people comes down to gut feeling.
“You need someone who will have the same values and work ethic as you do. You need to find the right group of people that work together. You can always train specific skill sets. You want people to get along and collaborate, then they’re more likely to be putting in 110%,” she says.
“Also don’t get set on a fixed price. If you find someone who is going to change the business, get them in.”
George encourages her staff to have a work-life balance, however, admits her business is her passion and she has little time for anything else.
“For me, work-life balance is about finding what you love and fitting it into your life, because of this I think have I work-life balance.
“When I went to New Zealand for work… I also jumped off the Auckland Tower, I just like experiencing things.”
Looking forward, the immediate goal is to get OneShift off the ground in the US and the UK.
“It’s going to take a lot of time just because it’s on the other side of the world. My goal this year is to really tackle those markets. We’re going to be impacting a lot of people soon.”
To aspiring entrepreneurs, George says “give it a go”.
“Worst case scenario is you fail, but the real failure is actually not trying. You hear of so many people saying they’ve got this fantastic idea but then not doing anything about it.”