Learn about the inner workings of Allobee, a one stop virtual business solution for entrepreneurs and small business owners, with insights from Markevicius on how she manages her company and personal life.
- Guest: Brooke Markevicius, Founder & CEO of Allobee
- Host: Anil Hemrajani, Founder of Startup Sidekick
- COMPANY: Genesis of idea, target market, revenue model, customers acquisition, tracking metrics, and product development.
- PERSONAL: Finding solutions to challenges, getting help, constant learning, founder networks, daily tools, work-life balance, and lessons learned.
[0.01] Speaker 1: This is Startup Sidekicks interview series, where the storytelling from experienced tech founders and executives provides you with real actionable tips and advice. Our goal is to help make every startup successful.
[0.15] Anil Hemrajani: Welcome to Inside the Startup; a show where we look at how startups operate. I’m Anil Hemrajani, the founder of startup psychic. My guest today is Brooke Markevicius, founder and CEO of Allobee. Brooke started her career in nonprofit management and then discovered a love of all things technology when she was fixing everyone’s computer issues and suggesting ways to upgrade their system. She decided to get a master’s in computer information systems from Boston University. She went on to work at Postmates and Uber company now in operations, but left to have more flexibility as a mother. Brooke then went on to do freelance web development and IT project management before helping to co-found a co-working space for moms in Tacoma, Washington named the Pod Works
There she saw that moms had created their own little economy, buying and selling each other’s goods and services. In an effort to get moms paid more and on a bigger scale, Brooke took her tech skills and love for supporting moms owned businesses and merged them into one idea; Allobee Founded in fall of 2019, Allobee is an agile, one-stop business solution designed with the overwhelmed entrepreneur and small business owner in mind. Welcome Brooke. How’s it going today?
[1.36] Brooke Markevicius: It’s good. Thank you so much for having me here.
[1.40] Anil Hemrajani: No, thank you for doing this. So you’re in North Carolina, what’s the weather like right now?
[1.45] Brooke Markevicius: Is a gorgeous 75 degree day that we’re excited to have. We’ve had lots of rain this winter, so it’s nice to see the sun and be able to enjoy outside when I’m not busy working, which is rare, but trying to spend some more time outside these days.
[2.01] Anil Hemrajani: Yeah, no, I’m like really looking forward to spring and, you know, summer even I’ll take the heat and all that just to be able to be outside with the pandemic and everything. It’s been crazy, you know?
[2.10] Brooke Markevicius: I know.
[2.11] Anil Hemrajani: So yeah, let’s jump into the interview. Are you ready to do this?
[2.16] Brooke Markevicius: Yeah.
[2.17] Anil Hemrajani: Excellent. All right. So we’re going to just look do this in three parts. First, we’re going to do a deep dive into your company and then, you know, how you personally work and then wrap up with some lessons learned. So speaking of your company, I mean, I really like what you’re doing. It’s easy to understand. It’s kind of a one-stop solution, you know, for overwhelmed entrepreneurs and, you know, having run small businesses myself, I mean, I totally got it. So what’s your elevator pitch?
[2.44] Brooke Markevicius: Yeah. So we really … The cool thing about us and that complicated thing about us is we are a dual side marketplace. So we are a managed marketplace and are going after both our supply and our demand. So I kind of have two pitches at all times. So my pitch for our clients that are potentially coming to us is the fact that they are overwhelmed and have decision fatigue and are busy entrepreneurs building their companies. And we want to come in as B&B or one-stop business solution to take away all the hassle and give you back more of your time, so you can stay in your zone of genius and create amazing things in the world.
So that’s what we do. We come in and can help with everything from support to visibility and growth with connecting you with our amazing workforce and over 250 women that have left the traditional nine to five and are highly skilled experts in their various categories. So that’s what we do and who we are.
[3.47] Anil Hemrajani: Excellent. And so was that the reason you kind of started the company ‘cause as we, you know, as I mentioned just a couple of minutes ago, it was just that you saw, you know, how moms basically had their own little economy buying and selling, I mean, was it because of that or just the passion or problem that you saw?
[4.04] Brooke Markevicius: Yeah, kind of a combination of all of that and my experience from working at Postmates all the way until I started Allobee is that while I was at Postmates, I saw kind of the good and bad of the gig economy. So how workers were being treated, even though they were the ones that were running the … making the money for the company. So I knew that whatever I did, I wanted to make sure that I was treating our workforce with lots of respect and dignity. And then as I stumbled into freelancing, which I had no intention of ever doing. I got my master’s, but I was going to go into tech and stay there. But found that it just wasn’t a flexible work environment for me. And so I loved freelancing. I loved working one-on-one with businesses and seeing these businesses kind of take off.
And so many female founders are not technical and so being able to bring my tech skills to help them get an MVP or a website up and running or help them kind of strategically think through how they’re about to launch a company was really great as well as I’m a super big advocate of small businesses. And so being able to support also small business owners and nonprofits with their tech issues during those five years that I freelanced was awesome and also taught me so much about what was good in freelancing and bad in freelancing. And I hated doing the marketing part of it. I was lucky that I got a lot of referrals from other business owners after I started to do really well and working with many businesses that I was booked constantly. But I didn’t know what kind of the next step was as a business owner.
Once you’re booked, then you have to build a company or can you just, you know, subcontract or what was the next step? And I always kind of had that in the back of my mind. So after I found it the co-working space, that was kind of a passion project to do that with a friend that really wanted to have the space and have a brick and mortar, she was like, can you help me with some of your business sense to like get this up and running? And it was a space I needed at the time. I was pregnant with my second and needed that place to go to, to work and be around other women. And that’s really where I was like, oh, we need to combine all of this, that we can be freelancers, we can be mothers, we can help business owners succeed, but we need a platform to do this that understands our needs instead of being built, just because of the tech.
And I saw that all of my clients, none of them hardly were using Upwork or Fiverr or other freelancer platforms. They were just going off of referrals from other people. And it was very mixed together. They were asking each other on Facebook or through email, and there was no congregated place to make this happen. So my tech side went into hyper drive and I was like, we can make a platform for this. And that was kind of the birth of Allobee.
[7.07] Anil Hemrajani: Yeah, those are the best businesses, you know, when you’re actually in it yourself, you see their pain points and all that. And that was going to be one of my questions is like, how is this different from Upwork and Fiverr, you know? But you kind of partly answered that, but, so how did you validate the idea after that? I mean, you know, you’re obviously on to something, but, you know, validation has always good too.
Brooke Markevicius: Yeah, I apparently like to just throw it all out there when I go with things. And so I was told by a friend that there was going to be a pitch at Seattle Startup Week for future founders. And I was like, hmm, let’s go with this. This idea had been kind of like brewing for a bit. And so in the fall of 2019 or 2018, I went and pitched at Seattle Startup Week in front of a large room of predominantly men and came in second place in the pitch and I was, had no idea really what I was doing at the time but was really passionate about the idea and people didn’t boo me off stage and I got in second place and got some really good mentors from that experience. And kind of went through the whole Seattle Startup Week that week and was like, oh, this is what I need. I want to do this. And it just kind of reinvigorated me to then go, okay, I’m going to step away from the co-working space, go full time on this and I dove head first into it.
[8.32] Anil Hemrajani: Wow. That’s impressive. And so what’s the company makeup look like? I mean, do you have co-founders, what does your team look like?
[8.40] Brooke Markevicius: Yeah, we are definitely not a traditional co-founder situation, but in our own way, I feel like we’re kind of making our own space and all of this, but I was still a founder for a long time. I brought on our Chief Operations Officer in the fall of 2019 after talking to a lot of people that were like, hey, once you start fundraising, you really need to make sure someone is there to make sure operations and the supply side is there as soon as you’re going to open it up to the public because we started in a private beta. And so I brought Chloe on who is our COO, and that was a really wise decision because she was able to help a lot there and ramp that up going into the New Year.
So we were planning to raise as of hitting the March of 2020, which was the bad time to raise around. But in the weird turn of events, we actually ended up bringing on our chief strategy officer and who then ended up investing in the company as well as coming on to work with us. And now we call ourselves the try factor. So we weren’t exactly co founders cause I had been working on the idea for almost a year before Chloe came on. But they do have a decent equity stake within the company.
[9.56] Anil Hemrajani: Oh, excellent. Yeah, no, I mean, in both my startups, you know, I wasn’t the only founder, but it’s so, and, but you’re actually doing it the right way, so I’m really glad to hear that. And so are you guys you know, funded right now or are you?
[10.10] Brooke Markevicius: Yeah, we raised 500K that back in the fall of 2020 and officially closed around January of this year. But we have raised that round and we’ll probably go for another year before we attempt to raise a series A.
[10.26] Anil Hemrajani: And then who’s your target market? I mean, we talked about small businesses, you know, and but like what’s, you know, how big is the market? What does your customer profile look like?
[10.37] Brooke Markevicius: Yeah, so we’re kind of an interesting managed marketplace. A lot of managed marketplaces go after a very targeted niche. So like just marketing or just interior design or whatever like that. But we’ve kind of taken an opposite approach to go after the ideal customer in our minds, that is the overwhelmed entrepreneurs, small business owner or startup founder, that’s overwhelmed, has decision fatigue. So they don’t want to go on platforms where they have to bid on a project or go through a lot of hoops to get to where they want to go. Or they don’t have the bandwidth to interview a ton of people. They want vetted people given to them. And also they are still small enough that they don’t have a team and they need a team to support them in various different ways. So we have everybody from restaurant owners to venture capitalists, to solo entrepreneurs, everybody in between that has worked with us because we offer such a variety of different services to help build your business.
But the thing that’s kind of unique about us is that we are that one-stop shop, but they can come in a sustainable way. So they can buy from us one, let’s say they buy a tech VA package to help support at the beginning, but then they add a podcast and so we can do podcast editing and then they need Facebook ads and then they need a new website and they can just come to us for all of it. And we have a really high retention rate of over 80% of our clients stay month after month because they see that quick ROI, but at an affordable rate and then they keep adding on services. So we become their hive, their team and help them build a business with a pretty low overhead, which was appealing to our investors so I hope it’s appealing to their investors as well as they might raise funds in the future.
[12.29] Anil Hemrajani: So is that like one of your differentiators basically that, you know, where a lot of these small business owners just don’t want to look at, you know, interview multiple people, look at reviews, go to Fiverr and then go to Upwork. Is that basically one of the key differences?
[12.43] Brooke Markevicius: Yeah, that is we definitely more of a curated concierge type of approach, which I found that, especially when I was freelancing, that’s really what most of my clients wanted. They would ask me, okay, now I need a graphic designer. Who can you refer to me? And then, oh, I need somebody to do my Pinterest and I need somebody to do this. And they wanted me to curate that experience for them. And so that’s what I really gained from working with all of those female founders, as well as male founders as well. And then kind of learned that in my own journey too, is like I needed people here and there, but I wanted it to all flow in one system. So we actually handled the whole project management onboard the people for them and make it a really seamless flow for the client.
[13.29] Anil Hemrajani: No, that makes a lot of sense. I definitely see the value add there because it does take time to go through all of these sites, you know, and look so the curated aspect is important. And what about geography? Like where are your customers? Where are you targeting them?
[13.43] Brooke Markevicius: Yeah. So we are all over the United States right now, as well as we do have a few UK and Australian clients right now. We’re not targeting international yet, but we’ve just naturally had it occur throughout just everything’s more global now. So it was kind of just organically happening for us already and then same thing with our experts, they’re all over the United States and Canada right now.
[14.07] Anil Hemrajani: Okay. And then what’s your revenue model? You know, is it like, is it subscription-based do, do you do freemium or trials? How does that work?
[14.16] Brooke Markevicius: Yea, so it’s absolutely free for a client to come and work with Allobee. The prices are completely straight forward on our website. Every fee is included as you see it before you even get to check out that’s exactly what you’re going to pay, because we also had a lot of clients in the early days that were like, we just want to know exactly what we need to, like, we don’t want to get on a discovery call. We don’t want to deal with this. We don’t know exactly how much we’re going to pay instead of having to do any hassle with all of that. So we’re very transparent with pricing. And then we take a transaction fee, like a percentage of the transaction and then the rest is paid out to the expert at the completion of work.
And then actually our model’s a little bit different. We have our experts pay a membership fee and at first we weren’t going to do that. But what we found is that with them paying a membership fee, we can help with re-skilling and up-skilling so they can gain more skills and be more beneficial to our platform as well as it builds a community. And so they’re very excited about being a part of Allobee. We have a monthly all hive meeting, and so everybody knows what’s going on in the company and as excited about it. And they’ve helped to bring in tons of clients themselves if they’re outside service that they provide is not like when I was working as a freelancer, as a web developer and I would be, you know, asking for a graphic designers and all of that. Now our experts just send them to Allobee instead. And so they actually are better with their clients ‘cause they’re able to provide an even higher level of service for them because they’ll send them in to Allobee.
So it’s really a cool model that they’re able to do that, but it’s a low fee membership, but that’s all revenue coming to us. And then we also have an external membership for our client. It’s kind of a client stream that’s not quite ready to dive in and, you know, pay for services, but they’re kind of tired of doing it all themselves and they want a more curated experience. So they need, maybe they need some templates to help support them. So we do templates and guides and monthly co-working and we also have weekly, which I think is the big seller. We have the weekly ability in our Slack channel to talk to our experts in all the different categories.
So if you have kind of like a stack overflow, but for all the different things that you might need in your business and be able to just ask, we have this huge, you know expert network. So if you have a question on your WordPress website or you have a question on how to fix something on your copywriting, you can ask an expert during that session every week.
[16.57] Anil Hemrajani: Wow, that’s cool that you’re leveraging Slack that way too. And I noticed you had something called, I think it was the hive with $20 a month type. What is that exactly?
[17.06] Brooke Markevicius: No, that’s actually what I was just talking about. So that’s for our external members, so they can come in and we have a business owner trainings, anything from how to use, like how to hack canvas so you don’t need to hire a graphic designer or maybe we’re doing one on Clubhouse this week and just anything like trends that are happening as well as deep dives. We ask our community like, what are they needing and we try to give them a free training on that. So once a week they get their training and once a week they get a guide or a template to help their business. And then we also do once a week, the deep dive with the experts that they can ask in Slack, so yeah.
[17:48] Anil Hemrajani: Okay, so yeah, multiple sources of revenue with like the, I guess the primary being, you know, the curated service, right, so.
[17.55] Brooke Markevicius: Yeah, that’s our primary right now and we’ll stay for a while, but it is nice that we have the other revenue streams that allow us to have that straight revenue and keep all of it at that point.
[18:05] Anil Hemrajani: Yeah. And how do you acquire your customers, like from marketing to, you know, just attracting them to the site and then delighting them, that whole, you know, flywheel thing? Like what do you guys do?
[18.16] Brooke Markevicius: Yeah. So from the beginning, I’ve taken very much an organic approach to it with a strategic, you know, backing with it. So I strategically placed myself into a lot of entrepreneur, female focus groups from the early days and was already in a bunch of them to begin with and just started talking about Allobee. I had a podcast that I launched a year before we went live. So I got a lot of people on our email list early on. So our initial demand was pretty organic, but like strategically organic. And then from there we get a lot of people coming in from speaking gigs that I do, entrepreneur groups that I’m a part of, we will give like a coupon code or a special offer to them. And so they’re pushing us out as a benefit for their group of what it gives us, the initial clients that are coming in. We’ve had a really good return rate of clients coming month over month, as well as referrals from clients and our experts that are referring in.
We just started doing paid advertising this last month. So I can speak on that in a few months to how that has been, but we went, you know, over two years without having to do any paid advertising, it’s all been organic growth at this point.
[19:36] Anil Hemrajani: Yeah, I really liked that, that, you know, just the organic aspect and how you joined the different groups. And also, I mean, you are a mom, you know, and you’re running a business. So I mean, you kind of are living this life too, you know? And what psych, so those are some of the things that are working, what have you tried in the, you know, that didn’t work as far as, you know, the acquiring customers?
[19.57] Brooke Markevicius: Yeah. I think one thing that I’ve learned as the founder is that whenever your gut is telling you, I’m not sure this is a good route to go, you should listen to it because I’ve, and I learned this early on, just in general with fundraising too. Like you have to do you and your business because anything outside of that is not going to work. And you can listen to as many like advice nuggets from founders and other people, but your business is so uniquely you and how you go about it. And ours is very different than any other marketplace. And so I’ve had to kind of tell myself that regularly. So we tried, you know, some things that didn’t work out very well. And then some things that surprised me, we did a kind of completely randomly like, we’re going to put on a summit to launch our platform in May, after the whole pandemic hit.
And I was like, I’m going to just get a lot of really great speakers and I’m going to ask a ton of people to speak and maybe we’ll get like five really good speakers. Well, I asked 30 amazing women with huge followings that are moms and every single person said yes. And so we had everybody from restaurant Reshma Saujani the founder of Girls Who Code to Rebecca Minkoff, the fashion designer, all of these amazing mom entrepreneurs that were just wanting to support and give back to other mom entrepreneurs. And so we launched our platform with about a thousand people live at a virtual event in May to kick off our company. And that was, I had never run a virtual event before. I just totally took a leap of faith on it. But it’s what worked. And I think that we have to just kind of as founders, remind ourselves to just dig deep in that grit and just keep on going and things are going to work and things are going to fail, but that was one thing that’s surprisingly worked.
But I’ve tried other things that haven’t like I think it’s not really that it won’t work, it’s just the timing of it. Maybe isn’t as good. So we did try some paid advertising too early, and it was just too much to keep up with and not the right timing. But then we’ve tried it more recently and it went really well. So it’s just kind of like being able to identify that.
[22:21] Anil Hemrajani: Yeah, no, there’s a lot of trial and error and startups, you know, but so what kind of metrics do you track right now?
[22.28] Brooke Markevicius: Oh, goodness. So my chief strategy officer is the metrics like queen. And so we track a ton of that and we have a metrics meeting every Tuesday morning with our full-time team, as well as our internal contractors that are working with us on a regular basis. And so we track, oh my gosh, I couldn’t even tell you how many metrics we’re tracking, but we’ve split it into our sales operations, client success, financial, and then marketing that we track on a regular week. We’re looking obviously at customer retention and client satisfaction. Obviously when you’re working in the service industry, customer happiness is a huge thing. So we identified that we needed even more focus on that because a lot of platforms that maybe had done really well, but weren’t like ideal client, like Fiverr, Upwork, they didn’t focus as much on this like amazing customer experience and client success as what we are trying to do.
So we hired somebody to be our head of client success and it was huge transformation, but we learned that from our metrics that okay, we’re doing okay, but we want to be amazing at this. And so by doing that, we were able to put an amazing more processes and procedures and identified that we needed to hire somebody for that, which wasn’t even really in our roadmap, what we were able to see that through the metrics. So definitely client stuff. As a marketplace, you’re tracking all kinds of different metrics on a regular basis and especially we’re two sided. So making sure our bucket sizes of experts are all in line with the supply or the demand that’s coming in for those categories and constantly reevaluating is also a big metric that we’re tracking regularly.
[24:19] Anil Hemrajani: Yeah, it makes sense. And then how do you guys develop your product? I mean, do you follow like agile processes, brands, you know, is it, in-house people outsourced, how’s that working?
[24.29] Brooke Markevicius: Yeah, so we have such a funny product situation. So I built this amazing platform in the early days and in our beta and then we learned so much from our beta and this is why I encourage every founder to not spend too long on your MVP. I ended up literally almost trashing our initial product because we found that our clients wanted it to not be like a Fiverr where they got to see everybody’s profile and instead they wanted us to curate the whole experience. And so we learned that through our beta and I’m so glad we did. And we flipped it and made a very simplistic e-commerce platform and then a more sophisticated internal platform for where everything else happens.
So now we’re actually, that was like a band-aid in many ways. And so now we’re re rebuilding the external platform to all be inclusive. But I’ve been doing the majority of the development with a few contractors here and there. But we just hired our first lead engineer that we’re really excited for. She turned down an offer at Google to come to us. So we’re excited to have a female engineer on board officially April 1st.
[25:45] Anil Hemrajani: Oh, wow. Okay. So you’re doing some of the development too. That’s impressive, you know. And-
[25.49] Brooke Markevicius: Yeah, it’s the joys of being a technical venture.
[25:53] Anil Hemrajani: Yeah, no, I mean like your story too, about helping other people with, you know, fix problems and all that, that’s how I got into you know, this tech career, you know, and I’m a former coder and all that, so I can definitely relate. And I mean, do you guys like with the contractors, are there, you know, like you, you in the US, overseas, I mean, how’s that?
[26.13] Brooke Markevicius: Yeah, all of our contractors are in the US or Canada right now. So everybody is here in the States. We will be going international probably sooner than later. Our chief strategy officer spent eight years at Hong Kong and has a huge Asian network. And then my husband is from Eastern Europe, so we also have a lot of connection there and then have naturally kind of built a good relationship in the UK with clients and with experts. So we have a waitlist of experts wanting to come on from international as well as we’ve had a lot of client interests. So it’ll be interesting to see kind of where we go in the next year or so, but this year we wanted to really hound in and really make sure that our presence in the States is really strong before we go into international expansion.
[26:58] Anil Hemrajani: Got it. And what kind of tools do you guys use on a daily basis? Like for collaboration and other things?
[27:04] Brooke Markevicius: Yeah, we are Asana, team Asana over here at Allobee. My project management background, I’m like kind of strict and crazy about our project management, but it’s been really helpful even when we were a team of two, Dejima three, to now a large team. We run everything through there. And so that’s been how we kind of like are exceptional for our clients too, because we’re really project focused. And a lot of our clients are not as project focused because they are just getting into entrepreneurship or they’re really overwhelmed. And so we’re able to kind of bring them into the fold by really getting clear on projects. Like every project we kick off with making sure that they have their full scope written for the project and they have their milestones and they stick to that. And our clients really love that approach because they see a quicker ROI and a faster completion to the project versus they usually would go a lot longer with projects, but we try to keep them in line and keep them moving.
[28:05] Anil Hemrajani: Yeah and I heard the Slack, you know, familiar sound in the background earlier. It’s like, I’m so used to hearing the click, click, click.
[28.11] Brooke Markevicius: You can’t survive as a remote team without having Slack. I, we also joke that like, Slack is such a black hole and like we’ve tried to be better, like implement best practices and procedures with Slack, but I’m always looking for the best tools for collaboration, for a remote team. I had worked remotely for so long cause I was freelancing. So I’d been on Zooms for 10 years almost. So like for me, it wasn’t really a big deal when the pandemic hit, but a lot of our clients it was, a lot of people we were working with. But it’s been interesting leading building a very fast growth team all virtually. So I’m always looking for neutral tools and tricks to help the team flow really well. One of our favorite tools right now for just like team collaborate or not really collaboration, but like team I guess culture supports is a platform called Icebreaker. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it.
[29:13] Anil Hemrajani: No.
[29.13] Brooke Markevicius: icebreaker.video. It’s actually founded by a female founder and you can go in and do just about any type of event. So you can do like one-on-one connections or like the speed dating approach, but doing it with all of your different, like we do it with our experts so they can network and get to know each other. We also, you can run like happy hours, but it’s nice because it’s not in Zoom. So you’re kind of getting a different fun platform and they even will like give you questions that you can ask while you’re a part of it. And it really just leads it into good conversation. So that’s a new platform we’ve been liking and utilizing on a regular basis.
[29:53] Anil Hemrajani: Yeah. I need to check that out. I haven’t even heard of it, but it sounds interesting. So switching gears to, you know, how you personally work, I mean, you know, you definitely have a really interesting background. I mean, you know, coming from like, from everything from technical recruiting, biz-dev to then going into web marketing and then TM consultant, and then obviously, you know, all the way up till now. But like, so for you personally, I mean, like, what are your top priorities and challenges, you know, in relation to Allobee?
[30.22] Brooke Markevicius: Yeah, I joke that those were just all my connected dots that led to show where I am and I think they all taught me something which is pretty, pretty crazy. It didn’t seem like that was all going to connect until now. But I think my biggest, you know, challenges I think just in general as a female founder, it is a different experience going for funding. It’s a different experience just for all of it than a male founder. And I think I knew that early on and so I didn’t have a different expectation. So I’ve just always forged my own kind of path with going into building this company and not focusing on trying to be like another female unicorn company or be like another male company, just doing my thing and staying very mission focused, always, and just making sure that that’s at the forefront. And I think that’s been really helpful for us.
But then also I think, I mean, it’s just navigating this year, just scaling that while still, you know, being a busy mom, luckily my kids had been at school since August because they’re able to go to a private school. So thank goodness because I’m pretty sure I would not have been able to build this company or race around. But just navigating all of that and going from having been one person running a company to now over five full-time and 10 internal contractors and 250 experts, it just a huge blown up company, which is amazing. But learning to navigate that while still doing some product and all of the other things, it’s just, it’s an adventure, but I’m really lucky to be able to be building this company.
[32:405801] Anil Hemrajani: Yeah, no, and it sounds like, I mean, you’re enjoying it too, you know, I mean, it’s always a lot of work, but at least, you know, you seem to be enjoying it. How do you figure out solutions to some of your challenges? I mean, and how do you know you’re on the right path? Like, do you know, rely on your team, is it mentors, is research?
[32.23] Brooke Markevicius: Yeah, I think a combination. We’ve worked really great, we haven’t built a full advisory board yet. We have an advisory group in this way that some of our investors, some of other people that have been super supportive of us from the beginning. And we try to have like just short 15 to 30 minute chats, a few times a month with various ones of them, depending on what struggles we’re dealing with as a team and our leadership team we’ll chat with them. And that has been really helpful to even just get an outside opinion on something ‘cause you can be so in it while you’re there and so just trying to do that.
I think another thing is that I’ve finally been kind of getting out of the weeds of the every day, so I’m able to see more 10,000 foot view as a founder and CEO and I think that that’s been great for me because now my mind space is able to kind of think for the future instead of what’s happening currently. So just, you know, using some time to not be on Slack and really just connect as a hard thing to do as running a company. I always say that I will be as my third kid, so I might not have a third kid because it’s definitely like 20 kids maybe in one. But it’s been good for me to intentionally take like even a 30 minute lunch break and just rest my mind so I can actually come back to it with fresh eyes. And then I’m constantly reading stuff. I’m a big book nerd and reader in general. So I have read probably everything about the future of work and marketplaces and all of that and I’m constantly staying up to date on those kinds of things.
[34:05] Anil Hemrajani: So that’s a great segue to my next question. I mean, how do you stay current? You mentioned books, like, do you do blogs, podcasts? I mean attending right now, I guess virtual conferences like-
[34.15] Brooke Markevicius: Yeah, kind of a combination. I’m a really … I love to read, so I’m usually read at least one non-fiction book every week. So that kind of helps me stay like whether it’s leadership focused or over the holidays, we were really trying to figure out our best approach for client success. So I think I read every book about customer service, that there was over the holidays. It is not the most enjoyable reading, but it helped me to figure out the next steps for us. All the information is already there and someone’s already tried it and you know, you’re not, you don’t need to reinvent the internet or reinvent companies when you’re starting a company.
So I try to gain from other people’s, you know, failures or missteps and use that to figure out the best path for us as a company. And then I used to listen to way more podcasts, but now that I’m not really going many places, I don’t have as many or as much time to really listen. I have been trying to do a little bit more in Clubhouse recently, especially kind of giving back in some capacity to a lot of female founders that are asking about fundraising. Not many people raised in 2020 as a female founder. And so I kind of feel like it’s my duty in some way to kind of give my tips and tricks back to the community ‘cause then I know they’ll give back to me too in some capacity.
[35:36] Anil Hemrajani: Yeah. And speaking of community, I mean, do you belong to … So Clubhouse, yeah. I mean, you know, there’s a reason there, got a billion dollar valuation within a year or so. I mean, it’s insane how fast it grew.
[35.47] Brooke Markevicius: There you go [inaudible 00:35:47] dollar evaluation. No, no, they are definitely rocking the boat and doing some cool things.
[35.56] Anil Hemrajani: Yeah, no, I love Clubhouse and just trying to find time like this, anytime I dial in there’s something going on or the other, but so what communities do belong to, or groups, you know, for like the founder groups? Is it for, you know, education? Is it emotional, you know, support or is it to give back, like, where do you belong to and you know, know for what purpose?
[36.17] Brooke Markevicius: So I have like about three groups that I’m in very often. So I was an On Deck fellow last year. And so I’m a part of the On Deck Fellowship and community, which is insanely wonderful. One of our advisors, Andreas Klinger is the CTO for them now. And I’m really glad he recommended me to do it because one, I’m able to get my like technical founder fixed by being a bear and getting to be with a lot of technical founders, but also just brilliant minds of a whole bunch of people that are starting startups. And I can give back just as much as I get every time that I’m like a part of some kind of event for them. So that’s a big one. And then I’m a part of an organization called Dreamers and Doers. That is a pretty highly selected group of female entrepreneurs, predominantly C-suite, a few momtrepreneurs from all over the world. And I love that community. There’s like super supportive and always helping out with things.
And then I’m also a part of, HeyMama, which is a organization for moms that are working and that’s been a great community to kind of have more so as that I’m a mom working and then just want that support instead of the founder angle. But it’s also led to tons of clients and lots of other things as a part of it as well.
[37:40] Anil Hemrajani: Wow, and just a couple more questions and start winding down here. But like, do you pay for any of this, like on deck, you know, I know it’s a paid thing, right. But like for coaching or these kind of communities, what do you pay for?
[37.51] Brooke Markevicius: Yeah. So Dreamers Endures is a quarterly fee of about $300 and then on deck, yeah, I paid the initial fee for that. Honestly, it’s dirt cheap compared to a lot of other things that are out there and I got way more value in that than other things. And same thing with Dreamers and Doers and HeyMama is like $30 a month, but what I … Like a lot of people will pay … I’m also do have a high performance coach, so I should have down coaching, but I needed it in a different part of that like as I’m growing into leadership and trying to achieve there. But in the early days of starting as a company and starting a founders, it’s all about networking, to be honest and if you can get something and network at the same time, even better. So that’s kind of my approach and probably will always be my approach to which groups and organizations I join.
[38:49] Anil Hemrajani: And on the like, you know, work-life balance side, I don’t know if there’s even such a thing, you know, it was like but because, you know, they ended up being silos and all that, but like, what do you try to do to kind of just, you know, put work aside just to get that balance?
[39.04] Brooke Markevicius: Yeah, so really early on I told her team that I refused to stamp on their flexibility and I hope that they would do the same for me. Because the reason I left my job at Postmates it was because I wanted a more flexible life and I just was like, I can’t start a company and go backwards and then hate it. And so we Friday usually not to leave at like eight or nine o’clock, but we shut down on Friday night and then we are all off on Saturday. No experts work, no clients, the clients know, it is written in their contract that we are not going to be working on the weekend. And we do have a line that if they need to call or if there’s like an emergency but then I stay offline all the day, Saturday.
So that is just like, I am not on it. I don’t answer any Slack messages and they know if they really need me, they can call me. And then on Sunday I don’t check in until the evening. And that’s when I just kind of get myself ready for Monday so I can start ahead instead of behind. But we really try to stay off unless we absolutely have to be there. And that’s just the culture that we’ve set for our team. So I hustle a lot during the week. But I still try to take off. I have to pick up my kids most days, me and my husband around three. And so I try to spend a little bit of time with them until they go to bed. And sometimes that involves a meeting here and there. That’s just founder life, but I do try to be intentional about it when I can. And then I usually do have to jump back on and that you’ve means to work a bit, but I am a early riser. So I am in bed by nine o’clock every night.
[40:41] Anil Hemrajani: That makes me feel better too, ‘cause I got mean, I go to bed by like 10 and then my kids are like, you know, it’s like but dad. So, but yeah, I mean, you know, it’s founder’s life, but, and then last two quick questions. So what sort of advice would you give to other entrepreneurs or even, you know, a young, your younger self?
[41.03] Brooke Markevicius: I think to just be really confident about your idea, like toot your own horn, like you have the power in you. And I think that, especially as a female founder, a lot of people I see are just like timid about going into or AP business owner really do I really know all this stuff? No one knows all this stuff and no one knew it when they started. And Jeff Bezos didn’t know everything and neither did Bill Gates, but they just went for it. And I think that that is just keep showing up. That’s what I always tell people, just keep showing up your momentum will gain and just keep going. Even if you hit a brick wall, like figure out why there is a brick wall there, iterate and keep going if you really believe about what you’re doing. And then also be ready to call it quits, if it really is time to call it quits and then think of something new.
[41:57] Anil Hemrajani: Yeah. And then, I mean, what are your plans for the near future for yourself and for the company?
[42.03] Brooke Markevicius: Yeah, for the company, I mean, we are tracking along and doing good right now. I’m hoping that in a year we’ll be able to raise again with series a, but keep growing and expanding which is exciting. And then for me personally, I’m actually releasing a book this year that has been a long time in progress, which is a compilation of my interviews that I did on my podcast with a bunch of mom entrepreneurs that helped to inspire me as well as a little bit of my founder journey. So that’s coming out and I just hope to continue to be able to grow this company and stay kind of in that thought leadership for this space.
[42:48] Anil Hemrajani: Yeah. You’re a busy person, you know, book too on top of everything else, but you know, it’s super-
[42.52] Brooke Markevicius: I know. I’m crazy. I’ve already pick on that I’m crazy. I also like, you know, and you just like have something that’s like there and you need to get it out to the world or just like, get it off of your to-do list. That’s how I feel about the book right now. So I’m very motivated to be done. My transcript is due April 1st and I am ready to hand it over.
[43:11] Anil Hemrajani: No, you’ve inspired me. And I’m a published author too and I’ve been thinking about this one book, but yeah, now listening to you, I’m like, I have no excuse now. You know, but you have such an impressive background. This was a great conversation. Looking forward to getting this out to our audience, you know, and best of luck. I mean, I really like what you’re doing.
[43.28] Brooke Markevicius: Thank you. Thank you so much. And thank you for having me. It was a pleasure.
[43:32] Anil Hemrajani: Thank you.