Starting a business from scratch isn’t for everyone. Every successful entrepreneur will tell you that the beginning stages of building a startup are rough, but worth it. In the spirit of living up to KillerStartups’ mission to bring you stories of the people behind great startup companies, I present to you a story of hope, perseverance, and general bad-assery.
Wanting to do things your own way is one of the principle drives behind starting your own business, but many founders quickly learn that in accepting the necessary funding they forfeit some of the control. Being a slave to the man is almost universal for working schmucks, but occasionally people appear and show the rest of us that the right mix of work ethic and self assurance can lead to truly self driven success.
Sara Jones is one of these people. As the co-founder of the online recruitment marketplace, Hiring-Hub, she has seen her enterprise grow from a two person startup in a kitchen to a platform used by over 500 employers and over 700 recruiting agencies.
Bootstrapping and faking it to make it
In 2010 Jones teamed up with co-founder Simon Swan (after selling everything of worth and moving in with her parents) and began building an online recruiting platform from the ground up. The duo were serious about bootstrapping. Firstly their headquarters were located in Simon’s kitchen. From his kitchen table the pair was able to build a site, convince an accountant to incorporate their company in exchange for a remote control helicopter, and even got a lawyer to proof their Terms of Business for free.
Once they had a functional platform, the real work began. Jones and her co-founder had to find a way to get employers post vacancies and recruitment agencies on board to fill them. So what did they do? One of the most refreshing aspects of their success story is how open they are about how they faked it to make it in the beginning. In addition to countless cold calls to potential users, they also made their way through a list of journalists and managed to get a little press coverage.
Momentum grew, and they eventually got to oversee the placement of a software developer position for a major company. They nailed it, and started to gain traction. They still weren’t accepting a salary, but they were starting to answer each other’s phone calls to give callers the impression that their operation was bigger than it was.
Navigating the pitfalls of working with VC’s
By 2012, a year of 18 hour work days started to pay off and they were able to put their money where their mouths were so to speak. Jones and Swan were able to prove their platform worked, and were now in a position to start looking for a VC to grow with.
Jones and her partner received a few attractive offers from different venture capitalists, but passed on the offers because accepting would mean giving up control of Hiring-Hub’s trajectory. It sounds like a simple action, but those offers were the results of months and months of relentless networking and compiling spreadsheets.
One night Jones and Swan met up with a journalist in a bar, and had what they describe as a “alcohol-induced” vent session on the frustrations of traditional funding approaches. The journalist ended up writing a candid piece about the duo, and the day after the story appeared the office got a phone call.
The folks at the other end of the call connected with the frustrations expressed in the recently published piece and were really into Hiring-Hub’s business model. A few months later, after some no nonsense talks between the callers (read private investors) Jones and Swan secured the funding they needed to scale their business.
Best Of 2013
The judges were impressed with Jones’ role in creating a recruiting platform that actually works and comes with a fixed price. Hiring-Hub was also recognized as one of the finalists in the Innovative Business of the Year category. It’s easy to see why. The site offers a truly win-win option for both recruiters and employers. Recruitment agencies get to build a positive reputation through customer feedback and performance indicators, and employers can get their hands on the talent they need to grow. All of this for a fair, transparent, and most importantly fixed price.
But as most of us know, having a good product is only have the battle. The kind of determination and sacrifice exhibited by entrepreneurs like Sara Jones is really what it takes to have a great idea turn into a profitable reality.