How I became an entrepreneur, and how that’s going
As a restaurant professional for over 20 years, working every position from regional manager, beverage director, sommelier, server/captain, to broiler cook and dish washer (and everything in between!), I experienced the frustrations of an unstable work schedule at every level. Not knowing what your schedule will be next week, not being able to plan days off because of on-call shifts (when you want to be off, you’re invariably called in; and when you need to work and make money, they always tell you to “enjoy the day off”), and wanting to change in-times, etc. are just some of the pain points involved in being a “shift worker” with a changing work schedule. Online scheduling platforms have been the saving grace for millions of restaurant workers, and workers in many other industries as well. You can view, access, and interact with your changing schedule from your computer, or remotely from any tablet or phone. You can request time off, request to swap shifts or in-times with coworkers, message one another, and much more. Shift workers with changing schedules depend on being able to access their schedules digitally and remotely. It all but saves their lives. But the current companies offering this service are all fairly expensive, and not very good. It’s hard for smaller businesses to justify spending the money to schedule their small staffs online, and the larger companies can’t get around it, but the service comes with a hefty pricetag.
My team and I at a high-end prime steakhouse almost lost our privilege, as our new ownership reviewed our financials and deemed online scheduling a luxury, and too expensive - and we started freaking out. We all searched for a platform we could leverage for free, or much cheaper, and realized that there weren’t any available options. So we decided to offer to pay to keep the solution we’d been using at the restaurant (the industry leader, at least in restaurants), and were told that it was nearly $400/month! We did the quick, simple math, and decided that we were willing to pay nearly $20 a month each just to keep the software. Problem solved? Foruntely (in retrospect) — NOT! When our management presented our creative solution to the thrifty ownership, it was shot down. The concern, from the ownership perspective, was the cost line on their P&L statement. They couldn’t show maximum revenue with a nearly $5,000 line item for scheduling, regardless of who paid that amount. As a side, that $5k was just for our single unit! They have over a hundred restaurant locations! I realized that if I could create a similar product to the one we’d been using, but offer it for a significant discount, or better yet, for free, that I could save our frugal ownership more than $100k annually.
I looked into what it would take to create such a solution, and realized that it would expensive to launch. To make it happen, I’d have to figure out how to monetize. That’s when it hit me: online schedules would be the best place to display relevant ads. Ads that could eventually help workers make more money at work (through product knowledge, sales contests, etc.) and optimize their lives away from the “office”. They are actively planning their work/play lives while they’re using online scheduling, so the placement would be optimal! Armed with a game plan, I set out to make my dream a reality.
I have great stories about finding a mentor, building our tech team, and ultimately turning my hand drawn wire frames into a product that is now live cross platform (web, iOS, android) and the journey from transitioning from an MVP (minimum viable product), to closed alpha, to open beta. If I perceive any interest in those based on this post, I’m happy to share them in subsequent posts. We are currently in an amazing venture accelerator program that believes in what we’re doing, and actively helping us grow the brand and user base, and scaling up to be a major player in the online shift scheduling sector of the HCM (human capital management) market.
I hope that this article was inspirational — my newfound perspective is that everyone should follow their dreams and make them a reality! Please follow me and my company on social media (@ShedWool) and check out our product (https://www.shedwool.com) (App Store and Google Play: ShedWool) and let me know what you think! Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I look forward to connecting with you. All my best. Truly,