Monday, April 18, 2011/
Carla di Marco says that she has always wanted to run her own business. She may well now have the winning idea that will allow her to break away from paid employment and go it alone.
Di Marco’s start-up, Students4Hire.com.au, links students seeking experience in the workforce with customers needing certain jobs completed. The business won’t officially launch until the end of the month, but di Marco’s innovative thinking has already landed her the Best Start-up Idea Award at the recent StartupSmart Awards.
She explains how she came up with the idea and her goals for the business.
When did you first come up with the idea for the business?
It was a couple of years ago now. I’ve spent about two years tweaking the model. I initially launched MyLocalHelpers, which was for any jobseeker who wanted to get a foot in the door, but that will close when Students4Hire launches.
I got the idea when I was organising my sister’s engagement party. I didn’t want to pay an extortionate amount for a photographer and thought that surely there would be some students available to do the job for a smaller amount of money and to give them experience.
There was just nowhere to find a student to do the job. That gave me the idea for the business, as well as remembering how I had to cold call companies when I was a student. Your experience counts for a lot when you’re going for a job, so anything that helps boost that is really useful.
What convinced you that the idea was a viable one?
I spoke to a lot of people and found that a lot of people would want that kind of service. They also said that they would feel good to give a student some experience, there’s almost a charity element to it.
The obvious groups to target are the Tafe groups – practical things such as landscaping and hairdressing, but also things like marketing and accountancy.
Won’t customers be concerned about being in the hands of an inexperienced student?
No, I don’t think so. Your expectations are different when you are using a student than someone who has been doing the job for years. You know that a student will take more time to do the job and will probably have more enthusiasm for it than someone who has been doing the same thing for 20 years.
The message for MyLocalHelpers was too weak and confusing. Now that it has been tweaked to students, there’s a clear group that needs experience but no one will give it to them. Hopefully the site will become a hub for students across Australia and also an advertising tool for advertisers who want to reach them.
How did you fund the business?
I funded it myself. It cost about $15,000. Most of it went on website development, trialling and testing it.
Building a website is like building a house. You can design a building but when it comes down to the nuts and bolts it can be quite different. You need to keep the communication going with developers to get the best result.
How have you got word out about the business?
I have spoken to universities quite a bit – 10 so far in Queensland with a national roll-out to come. We can provide them with feedback on how students have fared in certain jobs and they can compare that with how students are doing in comparable faculties in other universities. This can help with their marketing.
The universities will then market the site to students. We will also market it via student unions and local news outlets. It’s a very local kind of service, so local PR really helps. I’ve done that in Queensland and will replicate that in NSW and Victoria.
I’m already taking sign-ups. We’ve already got 200 people who want more information ahead of the launch.
What are your goals for Students4Hire?
I have a full-time job in recruitment, which I will stay in as long as I need to. I’ve always wanted to run my own business 100%, so I eventually want to make this my full-time focus.
I’d like to see the site go national and then international. This is a real chance for students to get practical experience rather than work at McDonald’s or a bar. There’s a great opportunity there.