As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Erika Mozes. Having experienced the struggles of hourly paid shift work first hand, as well as working in a corporate environment where access to labor was an increasingly pressing issue, Erika looked to solve the gap and co-founded Hyr in 2015. Prior to jumping headfirst into startup life, Erika had an extensive career in the public and private sectors. She was a public affairs executive with experience representing multinational corporate brands including McDonald’s, GlaxoSmithKline, and Coca-Cola. Erika also served multiple senior communication and issues management roles in government and on campaigns. In this capacity, she also acted as a political pundit for national TV, radio, and print.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thank you for having me! My career has been more of a jungle gym than a ladder. Prior to co-founding Hyr, I was a political staffer turned lobbyist. I like to think being in politics is the best training to start your own company, since as a staffer there are no jobs too little or too big, and you get very used to working 80+ hour weeks. After politics I turned to lobbying and got to work at some awesome companies — like GlaxoSmithKline, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. It was at McDonald’s that I saw the struggle of restaurant owners when it came to labor needs — everything from rising labor costs, the changes to scheduling laws, and the ever shallow-labor pool. My co-founder — who is also my husband — and I were talking about these issues on a patio three years ago when our server told us she was slammed, and service would be slow. We decided on that patio to help solve this pain point for businesses, while also helping workers get what they want — choice of where and when they work and getting paid, fast.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Great question. I’ve been an issues manager in politics, a political pundit, a campaign manager, and a lobbyist for really big companies. And throughout it, I think the most interesting thing was how, when I first came up with the idea for Hyr, I did not immediately think that I should be the one to build it. I used to sell my ideas to the companies I worked for and it hadn’t occurred to me to start something on my own. I believe that is a combination of being taught to climb the corporate ladder as a way the way to succeed, and frankly the lack of like-minded role models who have built businesses ahead of me. I’m very lucky that when that lightning bolt came about for Hyr, that my co-founder (and husband) turned to me and said let’s do it. Then continued to push me to show how Hyr could, and is now, my career path.
Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?
The idea that I know will change the world is what we are building towards at Hyr — skill sharing. In today’s version of the gig economy you need to own an expensive asset to participate like a home (home sharing) or a car (ride sharing). The idea of skill sharing is that you can do just that, share your skill amongst multiple businesses, locations, maybe even countries. Let’s say you know how to bartend. Today, you are likely employed at one business and work full-time or part-time hours for that one location. But maybe you are not getting enough hours, or you want to earn a little extra to pay down your student debt or go on a vacation. Or maybe, like my situation when I first started out, you were a bartender in college and now work your first 9–5 job but want to earn some extra money. With skill sharing you can easily, and on your terms, pick up shifts at multiple locations, earn money (fast) and — with Hyr at least — earn portable benefits as you do so.
How do you think this will change the world?
Think about how ride and home sharing changed the landscapes for those industries. The idea of skill sharing is much bigger. We are talking about any hourly paid work, across multiple industries and sectors. With Hyr, we started in retail and hospitality, but the possibilities are endless. The idea gives power back to workers — on where and when they want to work and earn. And for businesses provides them access to workers in an ever-shallow labor pool. It will fundamentally change the employee/employer relationship.
Absolutely. With a platform like Hyr there could be unintended consequences for the worker. At Hyr, we are strongly committed to a worker first platform, and that is why from the get-go we built in a form of portable benefits for the workers who pick up Hyr shifts. That said, if the platforms were not worker focused there could be a future state where workers are no longer employed in more permanent employment and all work is done ad-hoc thereby eliminating the securities they get with a traditional employer/employee relationship.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?
100%. I was working at McDonald’s on issues relating to labor reform. Outside of the legislative concerns of business owners — like higher wages, scheduling restrictions and access to labor due to the shallow labor pool — I was also a former hourly paid worker myself. I knew all too well what it was like when there was too much month at the end of the money. The “tipping point” came when my co-founder and I started talking about these issues on a patio on a late Fall day. The patio was understaffed, we were talking about access to labor, and a lightbulb went off — why can’t that business get the extra hands they need, right then? And why can’t a worker pick up that shift and earn extra money? We talked it through for a few hours, and Josh went home to immediately start working on a deck that would become our first business plan.
What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?
Awareness. We have the worker demand, they come to the platform by very strong word of mouth driven by our brand — about what work can do for them. On the business side, it really is about awareness. We find that once a business knows about Hyr, and how easy it is for them to connect with a worker, that they do adopt — and quickly. But as a seed stage startup we are still
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- It’s harder than you think: There’s a lot of hype around being an entrepreneur (I like to say it is the instagramation of being a founder). It’s really. Hard. Work. And when you can’t think it gets any harder, it does. Early on in the business, my co-founder and I had to live off eight cents for five days because all of our money (including personal funds) had to be put in the business to make payroll. And if the investor we were waiting on changed their mind about investing in those days, we literally would have been destitute. That was a really, really hard time — and decision to make.
- Be prepared to hear a lot of “no’s.” I was not ready for how many “no’s” we would hear. Whether that be from an investor, a potential customer, or even from friends and family. When we first started we probably heard at least 100 “no’s” or passes from investors who thought our idea would fail. But what kept me going was hearing the “yes’s” from our potential customers. Remember, most potential investors are not your target customer/or market, so take their “no’s” in that context.
- Stay on course. When you first start building it can be easy to get distracted and go the easier route. That happened to us when we were in the early days. We saw a path to potentially build an easier product, then we would layer on our initial idea after the fact. We had a great investor who read us the riot act when we told him we were thinking of going down that route. He made sure we stayed on course, and built the original product, and not get distracted.
- Self-motivation is key. It can be easy to decide to work on the easy things first then get to the harder things later. You have to stay self-motivated and not get distracted.
- Don’t worry about competition. When we first started I honestly wouldn’t even tell people the idea for Hyr in fear that someone else would “steal it.” There are going to be others out there that have thought about, or are currently building, your idea. If you worry about them too much you are not going to scale quicker than they do. Talk about your idea, get feedback, iterate, build. Don’t get distracted by what others are doing.
The future of work is a common theme. What can one do to “future proof” their career?
Keep learning. I learn constantly. And if I can’t do something, I endevour to find someone I know who can to teach me or I learn it myself. Being a founder means you need to wear a million different hats — some will fit better than others — but to stay relevant you need to keep learning.
Based on the future trends in your industry, if you had a million dollars, what would you invest in?
Hyr. Seriously. We sold our condo and seeded the business for a reason! That said, if I had a million dollars to seed a business that was not ours, I would look for driven, awesome, female founders. There is a massive gap in female founders being able to access capital, and I want to be part of the solution when I am in the position to do so. It is proven time and time again that diverse teams succeed, better. But more, it’s time to work towards fixing the problem instead of simply identifying the issue.
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?
There is never a task too small or too big to take on. I mentioned it earlier in this interview, but being a former political staffer really teaches you to hustle. I truly believe that it was the best training ground to be a founder. Work hard, hustle, do anything that needs to get done.
Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?
Hustle! You need to get up every morning in that mindset. Even on the days that you are glum. Success breed success, and it all starts with that hustle mindset.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?
Skill sharing will be the way that my step daughter’s generation works. She is 14, and already wants to work multiple gigs — and unlike me, she does not want her first job to be at a fast casual restaurant or in retail. Businesses don’t have enough workers to fill their schedules, and increased regulations are strangling their ability to access labor. With a platform like Hyr, both parties in this equation can meet each other, on their own terms. It’s the future of hourly paid work.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
@HyrWork (IG, Twitter),
@emozes (IG, Twitter)
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.