Queen of retail entrepreneurship Janine Allis has chatted to founder of mtime, Sarah Agboola, on how the global pandemic has driven some major changes within the start-up scene and specifically for her business, that's gone from strength to strength, even in recent times. The conversation is just one, in a larger series within the #sharetheplatform campaign, launched by organisation ONE LOVE AUSTRALIA to highlight the great (and sometimes unrecognised) work being done being black indigenous people of colour [BIPOC] founders.
The campaign calls for authentic conversations in the pursuit of building understanding around structural racism still prevalent across not only Australia but the globe. It's aim is to provide a platform for BIPOC founders to share their stories - not only those related to their business but of their life - to encourage individuals and businesses alike to join the conversation of how we can all contribute to meaningful change.
Mtime, a business started back in 2017 is on a mission to help busy working parents reclaim time and balance into their life by matching them with an in-home family assistant to support the parents with 4 critical C's - cooking, cleaning, chores and childcare. In what could feel like an insurmountable task during the COVID crisis, the business has gone from strength to strength — showing Sarah's tenacity to push forward with her vision of never leaving anyone without the care they need, while simultaneously creating meaningful employment opportunities for new or returning women to the workforce.
Janine, founder of the super successful Boost Juice franchise, reflected on the mindset of many businesses and owners prior to the pandemic, putting mental barriers around the things they didn't believe could happen at all; let alone at the pace at which pivots have been executed. "People pre-COVID would've gone can't change, can't be done, can't be that agile", she said. "It kind of makes me laugh, all we needed was a pandemic to push us that little bit further", responded Sarah, "and we ended up moving our entire recruitment process online."
Like many businesses mtime has accelerated a new wave of growth through seemingly overnight expansion into new areas — both geographically and technically. Key wins that have been created or accelerated in response to COVID driven changes in the market and the corresponding family situations are namely:
The entire recruitment process is now online — allowing hiring of women into roles as moncierges to continue taking place remotely, without compromising the experience of the quality of training. Sarah said, "I think it was a fallacy that the digital skill set wasn't there and now the entire flow is facilitated digitally". Launching in Sydney is also imminent of the back of recent times; as demand from parents working from home while tasked with home-schooling, increased workloads for COVID response projects, alongside the usual unpaid work hours to manage a household. With this new wave of growth there is now proof of concept on the deeper social impact that mtime has been delivering. Sarah stated, "A big focus for me has always been genuinely creating meaningful employment opportunities". She shared an example of a women, Angela, whom they hired to come on board as moncierge, who then became a mentor, then she started training and she has now progressed to work within the core concierge team running recruitment operations. "Seeing this career trajectory that we're able to offer, is probably one of the things I'm most proud of," Sarah shared.
Mtime is also leading the charge on supporting innovative businesses who are on the front foot in driving new ways to support parents in their organisations. Sarah noted, "I've witnessed even more SOS moment from parents who are experiencing acute stress and major time-crunch." Mtime has witnessed several organisations rallying to offset this pain point and is now offering a customised programme whereby companies can offer moncierge services to support their working parents. Options to activate the solution include subsidy or funding a discount, salary sacrifice or through an integration with an existing reward programme they may already have in place. Janine commented she's hopeful more companies will hold onto this kind of thinking, "tapping back into the COVID mentality of just because it hasn't been done doesn't mean we can't do it".
Demonstrating all of this fantastic impact Sarah and her business are having (as a BIPOC founder) Janine asked Sarah, "What initiative would you like to see in the start-up community — that would help founders and all sorts of ppl of all backgrounds?" Sarah summarised simply, "more representation, because we can't be who we can't see". "I really hope that by seeing this, other people of colour, they can also see you're not alone, this is something we can talk about, reflect and see how we can make change", Sarah expressed.
"It's actually adversity that really does create greatness," said Janine, clearly impressed with the level of hustle and entrepreneurial grit Sarah has shown to date. Ending the interview with a "Watch this space, Sarah is on her way!"
Mtime is a for purpose company that gives busy parents their time back by matching them with in-home family assistants (called moncierges), that they train to support parents through a flexible mix of at home support and childcare. This team can help with cooking, cleaning, housekeeping, chores, and child minding to reinstate a better level of balance for many working parents suffering time-crunch. With a unique and scalable recruitment process they predominantly employ new and returning women to the workforce. By creating this symbiotic model, they openly aim to drive deep societal change related to the disproportionate burden and lack of value placed on unpaid work. Serving families since 2017 from their Melbourne HQ, they have created 100's of new jobs and delivered 1000's of hours of support, partnering with local government communities and winning a major grant with Impact Investing Australia.
You can see all they have to offer on mtime website