29 March 2021|Latest Posts, Meet the Successful Founder
In another of our super popular Meet the Successful Founder Series, we caught up with the inspirational Jessica Heagren, CEO & Cofounder of That Works For Me.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I’m Jess, I’m in my late 30’s, I’m a Mum and the CEO and cofounder of That Works For Me.
Six years ago, I was working as Strategy & Distribution Director in Direct Line Group having progressed quickly up the ladder from starting there while I was studying at uni. I had recently launched two new businesses and was responsible for 50% of the division’s income and 80% of the profits. On the Commercial Board, I managed 600 people all over the UK. I ran talent programmes, I mentored young, upcoming women and latterly set up a group wide Diversity Board. I was leading the Women and Family strand when I had my first daughter.
I did a staggered return to work after 5 months on an agreed 4-day week. I was on calls at 7am until 7pm. I was driving at all hours of the day and I didn’t see my baby from Monday to Thursday. Over the next year my husband and my Mum brought my little girl up and when she was with me, she mostly watched Peppa Pig. When I fell pregnant with my second child, I’d had enough. I couldn’t maintain that pace so I left.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
At one point I was headed for the Board, but because I couldn’t fit the standard 9 to 5 model I ended up leaving. After that, I met so many more women like me and that was what inspired me to start That Works For Me.
My lightbulb moment came when a very brave and successful friend of mine called in tears one day on the brink of going bust. Her under qualified finance resource had miscalculated her cash flow. I asked why she didn’t have a CFO and she said she was too small and didn’t have enough work for someone that senior.
“Why not recruit a Mum who’s done it before at a really senior level but only wants a few hours work each week?”
I joined forces with my best friend and my sister and we built a platform that brings small to medium businesses the skills they need when they need them – on terms that work for both parties.
How did you achieve awareness?
We focused on social first and worked to build a community. We’ve also been incredibly honoured to win a number of awards. I was named Enterprise Nation’s Female Start-up of the Year winner 2020 and we also won the Tech Nation Rising Stars Award for Leading the Way on Diversity and Inclusion 2021.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
I used my redundancy money to self-fund the launch but we’re currently in the process of going out for investment which is incredibly exciting.
What are the key successes?
The Diversity and Inclusion award meant a great deal to us and is something we’re incredibly proud of, as did winning Female Start Up of the Year. Mainly it’s been fantastic to be able to connect people for work opportunities, especially in today’s climate, and particularly for working mothers. We have thousands of members and a 90% success rate. We’ve managed to build a really wonderful community that continues to grow.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
The platform development was quite tricky. We used overseas developers who promised us a three-month delivery that ended up taking a year.
We then had to do a lot of work on the platform when it came back onshore so our launch took a lot longer than anticipated. We had made the smart decision of launching our blog and social media 11 months earlier, so we had a bit of a following to launch to, which made a big difference.
There’s also the daily challenge of our time as I’m working around three young children, and Nicola and Gemma both have full time day jobs. We practice what we preach though and work flexibly, when we can!
The pandemic threw us a curve ball to say the least. With my children at home that balance became even more of a challenge not to mention the added pressure that all businesses were facing, particularly small businesses and start-ups. We had to completely change our sales strategy due to COVID.
What are your plans now/for the future?
We want people to think flexible working – That Works For Me! We want businesses to want to work with us because they want to support their employees holistically and care about them outside of, as well as in, work. We want freelancers to come to us knowing it’s a trusted environment that values quality over price. We want people to know that they can come to us to find work that fits their lives.
We’re really keen to keep growing and help even more people find work that suits them. Securing funding is a big part of that as well as getting the brand out there as much as possible.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
I can honestly say there’s nothing more rewarding – it’s like having a baby, (I should know I have 3) but it needs resilience in spades!
Also think it’s super important to remember to talk to people. The early days can be very lonely but talking to other people gives you the confidence – and often connections – to move things forward. It’s all about community.
Can you share you top 5-10 tips for entrepreneurial success?
1. Get a good supportive group of people around you
2. Learn how to pick yourself up quickly, you’ll need it on bad days
3. Celebrate success! No one else will do it for you so take the lead
4. Stick to your principles, that’s what makes you different
5. Talk to people, as many as possible, then make your own decisions
6. Give things the right amount of time, don’t change too fast but equally don’t change too slow!
7. Keep an eye on competitors but don’t get obsessed. You do you!
8. Make time to work on you. You need to grow with your business, and you need space to do that!
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most?
1. Lauren Currie – she is amazing. She’s principled, supportive of women in business and dedicates herself to growing women’s confidence – https://twitter.com/_laurencurrie_
2. Joeli Brearly – another woman doing it for the women! Joeli is founder of Pregnant Then Screwed who have worked tirelessly over the last few years to avoid the Motherhood Penalty. She’s just released a book which I can’t wait to read! https://twitter.com/_laurencurrie_
3. Alex Head – my dear friend and amazing businesswoman who is in the events and catering industry. COVID has absolutely battered her business in the last year and yet she still has a smile on her face and is determined to build it back up. She’s one amazingly resilient woman! Alex employs ex-offenders in her business. I love her fearlessness and how different she is to what people expect. https://www.instagram.com/social_pantry/?hl=enand https://www.instagram.com/alexhead_sp/?hl=en
4. Kathryn Tyler – cofounder of Digital Mums and all-round good egg! Kathryn has been so good for support and asking stupid questions of! Having someone a few years ahead of you on your business journey is really a blessing. https://twitter.com/kathryntylerDM
5. Nina Malone – founder of Dope Black Mums. I saw Nina speak on stage at Pregnant Then Screwed back in the times we were allowed to see people face to face. I felt a real affinity with her as she seemed like a similar personality type. She’s amazing, she has dedicated herself supporting black women, particularly from poorer socio-economic backgrounds. https://www.instagram.com/dopeblackmums/?hl=en and https://twitter.com/DopeBlackwomen
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
“Live and learn”
“What’s the worst that can happen?”
“Growth is growth, no matter how small”
These three things remind me to take risks, to learn from my mistakes and to celebrate every success, no matter how small!
What are your social handles and website links so our readers can connect with you?
Clubhouse – @thatworksforme