Lauren is a marketing specialist with a Masters of Commerce from Sydney University. Her career started out in advertising. She then moved into film, where she directed and produced a documentary in Cambodia on child trafficking which was screened at many international film festivals. She has also held in-house marketing roles at various start-ups and not for profits both in Sydney and in London.
Lauren is passionate about social enterprise and using businesses for social good. After a varied career in marketing and advertising she and her co-founder sister Marissa, decided to go out on their own and start Careseekers, an online marketplace that directly connects in-home care workers with people who need care such as the elderly, ill and disabled.
Could you tell us a little bit about what helped you decide to take the plunge and make your idea happen?
The idea for Careseekers came from personal experiences Marissa and I had when our grandparents fell ill and needed more help at home. They struggled to find suitable and affordable care and it was only through our personal network that we were able to find the right care worker. We realised that there were plenty of other people probably facing the same challenge and knew there needed to be a better way.
Using carers directly meant that they were much more affordable than what agencies had quoted. They were also much more flexible than the rigid care that community organisations were offering and we could find someone for the hours we needed. Finally our grandparents were able to forge lovely relationships with their carers, as the care remained constant.
We decided to use technology to create a platform that could facilitate connecting qualified care workers with people who need in-home care, and so Careseekers was born.
Could you explain your business model to us?
People needing care workers can post their first job on the website for free and we then charge a fee for subsequent job posts.
We also have a unique CarePay system which allows care workers to be paid online using a credit or debit card. Care workers can use the system to log hours and submit timesheets. It also allows other organisations such as insurers or providers, able to pay for the care with ease. To use this CarePay system we charge a small admin fee, which is a percentage of the hourly rate.
We also recognise that not everyone is technically savvy enough to recruit online, or they may be very time poor. For these customers, we offer a concierge service where we do the hard work for them and recruit on their behalf. We do this for individuals and organisations for a fee.
Can you share with us what your working on right now and what are your excited about in the next year?
We have just launched our new website with a payment system and loads of new features and we are working hard to get the word out about the site and how we can work with the different players in the aged and disability sectors.
In the next few months we are going national, which is very exciting! We will be launching in other capital cities including Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth and then going state-wide across Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia. We are very passionate about rolling this out in more rural areas where often there is a very limited amount of services and our platform can play a huge role in connecting people.
We are also launching an app very soon for our users.
How do you make your ideas happen?
My co-founder and I are not perfectionists when it comes to ideas. We are quick to think of them and quick to act on them. I think this is how we managed to get funding to make our documentary in Cambodia and then got the idea for Careseekers off the ground and running in less than a year. What we lack in deliberation around an idea, we make up for in the dedication we have for it. Once we have an idea out in the world we put 200% into it and don’t stop until it is a success.
Have mentors had a role to play in your business life?
A good mentor is very hard to find. Whilst running Careseekers we tended not to use the same mentor ongoing, but have had the opportunity to sit down and have some high-quality discussions with successful entrepreneurs. We always come out of these meetings with at least one or two takeaways and often refer back to their advice as we continue on our start-up journey.
What does your typical day look like?
As co-founder and CMO, every day is so varied. My day is made up of creating content, managing the site which involves everything from finding bugs, testing new features, iterating the website to what customers are telling us they want, managing our SEM and Facebook agencies, analysing the marketing channels to assess what’s working and what isn’t, and doing clever and creative growth hacking.
We all answer the phones so I could be talking to care workers or clients or having a meeting with another organisation who we can partner with to get the word out about our service. This is all done whilst sitting opposite my co-founder who is also my sister and best friend so the day is not only productive, but fun as well. We always manage to have a few laughs every day!
What challenges have you faced when you started your business in Australia?
I think the main challenge for us has been how hard it is to find government grants and funding that support innovation and start-ups. Although we got some initial funding from the corporate world, it would be great if state and federal governments had more grants for those of us building business to solve problems in society, that will one day be an employer to lots of people.
What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?
Drive through coffee stations… no one in Sydney is yet to come up with one.
What people or organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry in Australia at the moment?
My Care Space has created an awesome marketplace platform for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Jordan O’Reily from Hire Up is a very inspiring social entrepreneur
What about internationally?
Do you think business has a role to play in affecting social change?
I think business is a very important driver for affecting social change. When I was in the UK I worked for one of the Prince’s charities called Business in the Community and it was all about using the power of business for good.
The idea was born out of the Brixton riots in the 80’s where the CEOs of high street chain Boots Pharmacies, realised that healthy high streets lead to healthy back streets. The big companies need to give back to the community who support them through employee engagement, workplace giving, strict environmental procurement and supply chain policies, healthy workplace policies and diverse boards and senior management.
On the other side of the spectrum, small companies can “grow up” by being responsible. They can make a difference by taking a moral stance on different issues from the beginning such as diversity, environmental impacts, healthy and flexible workplaces. For small companies, this should be part of our DNA so that when we become large companies, it is just the way we operate.
Is there a particular charity or social enterprise you support?
Within our own business, we deal with individuals every day in tough situations. We therefore try and support these families directly by doing pro-bono services for them. As a small company, this is the best way we can give back to the community. As we grow we hope to support families who need respite care even further by being able to subsidise their care.
What are your favourite websites?
What 3 Australians do you think we should follow on Twitter?
Rachel Botsman is a thought leader on how technology intersects with trust in society.
Bernard Salt is a demographer.
Do you have any opportunities for people to get involved with your idea?
We are always looking for people at any stage of life who either want to intern with us or join us in a junior role and grow with the company.
As co-founders, there is nothing we don’t do in the business and we expect the same of our staff. It means you get amazing, hands-on experience in all aspects of running a company.
We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, marketing or social media, what would it be?
How do you guarantee your ads are shown on Facebook?
What’s your favourite bar or café?
La Piadina in Double Bay in Sydney – its my local!