Finance Small Business My small business: Gen Y’s jobs website takes on the big boys
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My small business: Gen Y’s jobs website takes on the big boys

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Note to Chris Lilley – not all prefects from posh North Sydney independent girls’ schools are pampered brats with a misguided sense of charity and body image issues.  In fact, I met one the other day – Genevieve George, the 23 year-old founder of the job-matching site OneShift, who would kick Ja’mie King’s a***.

A confident, smart, grounded, driven young woman who was this year nominated as a finalist in the ‘Female Entrepreneur of the Year’ category at the world’s premier business awards, the Stevie’s, in New York, Gen was a house captain, a prefect and boarder at Kambala in Rose Bay and graduated in 2008. She won a scholarship to Bond University where she studied Law and Property for a year, but the private Gold Coast university lifestyle wasn’t her scene.

“I’d been working part-time all my life. So being in an environment where so many people focused on uni – it was a more intense three semesters a year rather than the normal two – just didn’t feel right.”

Back in Sydney, she started a job with property company Knight Frank and six months later took off to Europe. It was in Cannes in 2011 that she came up with the idea for OneShift.

“When you’re travelling, you’ve got 20 Euros to your name and a whole hostel full of people who can’t afford to pay next week’s rent,” she recalls.

“So I went to a café that we all used to go to and said: ‘Look, we’re all in the same situation. You’ve got qualified people, from engineers to wait-staff and chefs from the best restaurants in Europe, so give me the shifts, I’ll make sure I turn up, or somebody else does, everyone negotiates their own rate, you get qualified workers and we all get flexible shifts’.”

Gen paid the rent, had a bit of spare cash and was able to travel and work to suit her own timetable. Happy days for this Gen Y.

It was a simple solution. So simple she asked: “Why isn’t there anything here or in Australia that does this?”

“You’ve got job boards, classifieds, recruitment agencies, temp agencies but at the end of the day you don’t have the choice. The employer, or the recruitment agencies, they have the choice.”

The difference with her model, was the individual was at the centre of it. “The whole concept started with the ability to pick up a shift on a Friday night and be out partying on Saturday night.”

Back in Sydney she got to work on the idea, downloaded WordPress and built the first OneShift website herself. With 300 students signed up she pulled a business plan together, “which is a hilarious read now” and approached her Dad for some funds because “no bank is going to help me do it” and pitched it to him on a plane trip down to Melbourne.

“We debated it for the whole hour-and-a-half and by the end of it he was, like ‘yes this going to work’.”

OneShift is free for job seekers who can upload their profile, a pic, a video, list their skills, work experience, the type of work they are interested in and where they want to work. Employers can post a job and search the database – by location or job category for free. If they want to approach any job seekers they pay $30, which gives them access to all relevant job seekers for seven days.

By June, 2012, the site was powering along and by December potential investors were knocking down the door to get on board.

Gen and her Dad got a consultant involved and assessed the willing suitors before deciding to partner with labour hire company Programmed Integrated Workforce which poured $5 million into OneShift.

“They saw the value in the online space and where it is heading – it’s the same story as the newspapers and the classifieds, it’s all going online. So even when they go and make pitches to companies they say ‘here’s our company and here’s our partner OneShift’.

“They also bought 1.5 million job-seekers to the table and a lot of other added value, rather than just lazy cash.”

OneShift currently has 145,000 likes on Facebook, a 30 per cent engagement rate and about 265,000 users throughout Australia

There’s no third party involved in the transaction.  Jobseekers can be 100 per cent honest and say what they are looking for. Employers can work with preferred candidates directly and they don’t have to read and sort through a pile of resumes. There is also a rating system, so employers can rate employees they hire.

“One star – they stole from me. Five stars – they are great and we hired them full-time.”

Employers can target potential employees quickly and easily. It’s cheap to use and the entire process is transparent for the job-seeker and the employer.

It’s a pretty powerful tool.

“Fortunately there has only been one instance when an employer rated an employee incorrectly and we investigated – got both sides of the story, directed the matter to the correct authorities and blacklisted the business,” Gen says.

Gen and her Dad share a 50/50 self–funded partnership, with Gen taking the lead on the operational side of the business and her Dad acting as executive chairman of the board.

They also share a coffee every morning at 7 a.m. and Gen goes over the issues of the past day and gets his input and advice on any aspects of the business.

The Sydney CBD-based team is at 30 and growing. “We’ve got a CFO, a CIO, six developers, 22 account managers doing telesales in a call centre, a call centre manager and we’re in the process of hiring a marketing manager and our own PPC (pay per click) analyst.”

The growth trajectory “is interesting” given that they have only been in business for 18 months, have only had a pay wall for 12 months and the target demographic is evolving and changing constantly.

The original OneShift target market was casual shifts for 18-25 year olds in service based industries, now it is 18-35 years olds and a third of the positions coming through are for full-time white collar roles.

So the team are changing the site to adapt to the changing market and increasing demands from employers and job seekers alike.

Gen is also talking with blue-chip corporates on how the OneShift model could work for them, which is hardly surprising given her rivals are charging up to $600 for an impression-based online advertisement that could get responses varying from a few nibbles to hundreds of CVs. Her job network site offers employers a self-service model for $30 bucks a throw.

At a mere 23 years of age Gen George manages to impress just about any one she meets. She is as open and transparent as the disruptive model she is building, which throws down the gauntlet to the online recruitment advertising model Seek launched in 1997.

Angela Martinkus is a Melbourne-based communications consultant and journalist.