You will need to lead everyone, even those you didn’t know needed a leader. I did not realize how much of a leader I would need to step up to be even when our team was so small. Yet, it has been essential and major for us.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brooke Markevicius.
Brooke Markevicius is the Founder & CEO of Allobee, a managed marketplace, that is a one stop business solution for small business owners and startups. She is a technical founder that took her tech skills and experience as a freelancer and business owner and merged them into her idea for Allobee. When not working, you can find her curled up reading a book, playing outside with her 2 young kids, or writing her book.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up as the daughter of a teacher and a preacher. My worldview was serving others. I had no idea about the world of tech and entrepreneurship until I stumbled upon it after years of my career dots not connecting (or so I thought). When I was watching a video of how Microsoft was utilizing Tech for Good in low-income or third-world countries, I knew that I would similarly pursue a career in tech.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time” by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In our society, we want instant gratification and want to see the fruits of our labor. Yet, sometimes it takes YEARS, and once I embraced that, I started to enjoy the journey more. I also started taking more risks as well as enjoying the present moments. We can be major change makers, but change does not need to happen overnight.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I was at home listening to the Sara Blakely episode of “How I Built This with Guy Raz” on NPR while I nursed my three-month-old, dealing with a lot of postpartum depression. I felt like I was losing myself and I was not sure how I would move forward as a mom of two little kids while making space for what I wanted to do. I heard Sara’s story of grit and hustle that spanned over years leading to her current state. She built a majorly successful company on her terms, over her own timeline, and in a location of her choice. She now has a beautiful family and runs a company she loves. I knew I wanted to feel that, and I was ready to hustle and use my grit to get there.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
After stumbling into tech and graduating with my Masters of Computer Information Systems from Boston University, I got a job at Postmates, a then up-and-coming startup. I helped launch their Southeast region and loved the fast-paced environment of this new gig economy. I then had my daughter and went back to work way too soon. I found myself frustrated that I loved my job, but it was so demanding and inflexible that I could not balance it with motherhood and keep my sanity. So after pumping in the bathroom or car for months, I quit.
That led me on a five-year path of entrepreneurship. I freelanced in web development and project management for years. I loved the flexibility of it as well as working with small business owners and entrepreneurs to help them launch their businesses. I then helped co-found a co-working space for moms in Tacoma, WA (The Pod Works). That is where I got the idea for my current company, Allobee.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
In March, when the world shut down, I was coming back from New York City after my first few pitches for Allobee’s (then MOMentum’s) first fundraising round. I knew I had to make a decision on whether to keep fundraising as the world fell apart or pause and pivot. I decided to pause. It took me about a week to look at all of our customer interviews, data and what they truly wanted. I also saw that we needed to focus on one area and become the best at it, so we pivoted and stopped offering products on our site. I redid our whole site in less than a week and prepared for a public launch at a virtual summit in May. I had never run a virtual summit and I had no idea how we were going to get our goal of getting 500 people to attend, but I had a vision. I started asking people to speak, and not just anyone, I asked people that normally charge over 40K dollars to speak. I asked TED speakers, famous fashion designers, authors, top entrepreneurs and more and they all said YES. So we had over 30 speakers, over 600 attendees and we launched our company to the world. We have not slowed down since then and we gained massive momentum from that pivot.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
I was sitting at my dining table with my husband trying to figure out how we would juggle two young kids and two full-time careers with no childcare. I knew if I did not make some major changes and pivots quickly we would lose momentum and fall apart as a company and a family. As I was making a plan of action for my family, I realized my husband and I are really good at delegating and supporting each other, which is not always the case in marriages or as teams at a startup. My company was different. Our little team, “the trifecta,” was GREAT at supporting each other. I knew in that moment that we could do this, we could be successful even in this crazy year, if we just supported each other.
How are things going with this new initiative?
Great! We have grown in revenue 107% month over month, we have established partnerships with major companies. Our clients come back and our expert network has grown each month. We even started raising our 500K angel round that had gotten put on hold in March, and we are about to close it out before the end of year.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am insanely grateful for my leadership team, Chloe and Anne. They took a chance on me and my idea of Allobee before anyone else. They jumped in and haven’t stopped since. They keep me positive, laughing and getting up every day to hustle with lots of grit. I would not be here without them!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
This has been an eventful year. If I had to pick it would be the power of the cold email with a solid ask. I sent a cold email to Reshma Saujani, a TED speaker who usually charges 40k dollars, asking if she would speak at our Future of Work for Moms Summit and she said yes.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- There is never a slow time in a startup. I think this speaks for itself, but things never slow down.
- You will need to lead everyone, even those you didn’t know needed a leader. I did not realize how much of a leader I would need to step up to be even when our team was so small. Yet, it has been essential and major for us.
- Trust your instincts more than any startup or self-help guru. You know everything you need to know, or you can learn it or find someone to teach you. You do not need to follow a checklist someone else created.
- Find the first 100 people that love your idea as fast as possible. I did not go as fast on this and wish I had, because once we had this, we started growing rapidly.
- There is power in the cold email. I sent multiple cold emails with a strong ask that led to scoring major speakers for events, wonderful clients, and investors.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
I only let myself look at the news once a day. I am subscribed to Hitha Palepu’s 5 Smart Reads and follow KingGutterBaby on IG for vaccine/covid info. I also keep up with the occasional New York Times read-through. I have a lot on my plate and I want to be informed but not overwhelmed. I also make sure to turn off social media completely for at least one day a week.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
The movement I am currently creating, a movement of a flexible future of work for caregivers. This pandemic has shown light on this more than ever. We must provide flexible work or all of the work we have done over the years to support women in the workforce will be taken away. With over 2M women being forced out of the workforce this year, we are in trouble. Through the work at Allobee, our podcast Allobee Radio, and everything we get involved with we are working to bring a movement of change, so that every caregiver has the option for flexible work.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Sara Blakely. She was the one who I heard on the podcast that prompted me to start working on the idea of my company. I feel like I owe her lunch, but also I would love to ask her questions over lunch.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!