I think the ‘instagramation’ of being an entrepreneur makes it look super sexy to be a founder. In my/our case, it has been the hardest challenge I’ve ever faced and if I didn’t truly love and believe in our mission it’d be tough to have made it this far.
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 doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
Thank you for having me! For a tech founder, I had an interesting path to getting here. 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 partner in life — 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 thy work and getting paid — fast.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
So, at Hyr we connect workers to businesses looking to fill shifts, at any time. For example, your dishwasher called in sick and you need someone, fast. This all happens on an app — a business posts a shift, workers apply to it, then the business accepts the worker that best fits their need. Early on in the business, we had a worker — let’s call him Bob — who applied to an open shift at a popular high-volume restaurant. Bob was new to Hyr and was keen on working the shift. The restaurant was in the weeds, so when Bob arrived, a host showed him to the dish area. At the end of the shift, the manager at the restaurant noticed that there were two dishwashers on shift, which confused him. He knew he had selected one through the Hyr platform, so talked to both of the workers that were finishing up. Bob was in a rush since he was on his way to another shift — through the Hyr app. That’s when the manager realized that Bob was not selected by him to work the shift. Bob saw on the app that the shift had a “filled” icon next to the posted shift on the shifts screen of the app and assumed that meant it was “filled” by him. But he has not actually been selected. What’s awesome is that is that manager had not figured it out, Bob would have gone to the next business on the app that he applied to thinking that he has another shift. In great news, the businesses was so understanding of the misunderstanding, paid Bob for the shift, and today he is one of the superstar Hyr Pros that continues to pick up shifts with the platform! And he now knows that when he is accepted for a shift he receives multiple notifications that he gets that shift… it is not as simple as him just applying ☺.
What was your biggest challenge to date either personally or professionally and how did you overcome it?
TBT, there’s been so many challenges as we’ve built this business. And I am so happy that you’ve asked this question. I think the ‘instagramation’ of being an entrepreneur makes it look super sexy to be a founder. In my/our case, it has been the hardest challenge I’ve ever faced and if I didn’t truly love and believe in our mission it’d be tough to have made it this far. This all leads to the toughest challenge/decision that we made, over a year ago, when we were still early on in raising money. Raising money may be the hardest thing to do, you hear a lot of no’s and even more “have you thought of X” from a lot of people who are not experts in your business need. During this time, we had staff working for Hyr, as well as businesses using the platform, meaning Hyr workers that we were being paid. During the fundraise, we saw our bank account getting smaller and smaller (personal and professional). We were confident we’d find investors, but we also were cognizant of that bank balance. So confident that Josh (my co-founder and partner in life) and I had sold our condo and put all of our savings in the business. And during this time, we had to make payroll — for our own staff and those workers. And we were still waiting on some investment. So we took out all of the money on every credit card we had to make sure that happened. Which left us with 8 cents in our combines bank accounts. For 6 days. It was legitimately the hardest time I’ve ever encountered, knowing that if that wire transfer did not land in our account for some reason, we’d be absolutely destitute. But we made payroll. And we didn’t tell anyone the position we were in. And the wire ended up coming. I still think of that stress and wonder how we had such calm faces…
What does leadership mean to you and how do you best inspire others to lead?
Leadership to mean means leading my example. In politics I learned one of my most valuable lessons, that there is no job too small or too big for a leader to undertake. I’d see my bosses in politics right along-side me (an intern!) making cold calls to voters, going out on canvasses, and putting up signs. That has always stuck with me in my work life, and why I don’t care what the task at hand is, if it needs to be done, then I roll up my sleeves.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Amen! I’ve been really fortunate to have a great group of mentors along my route — whether that be from politics to corporate life/lobbying, then from that corporate life to starting Hyr. But I have to thank Josh, my co-founder and partner, for pushing me to do this journey. I had been taught my whole career to climb the next ladder in order to achieve success. There was never a thought of starting my own business. When I initially turned to Josh with the nugget of an idea for Hyr, I told him he should run with it/start a business. And he had none of that — it was something we’d so together he said. It took him almost six months to convince me that starting a business could be a “career choice” for me, and I am so crazy grateful that he did!
Was it difficult to fit your life into your business/career and how did you do that?
Yes. It is an ongoing struggle. When you work 80+ hour weeks, and you live with your business partner, there is a VERY blurred line between business and personal life. We do our best to still have a life by making sure to pick activities we can turn off for a couple hours — like going to a movie or taking a class (gym) together. We also good at communicating with each other when we need some alone or off time!
Did you find that as your success grew it became more difficult to focus on the other areas of your life?
Yes. See answer above! I find as we grew the business and hired other people to work for us, the more the pressure is/was on since it is not just your livelihood but the livelihood of your team members. And that pressure makes it more difficult to turn off work, and turn on your “life.”
Can you share five pieces of advice to other leaders about how to achieve the best balance between work and personal life?
- Find something that makes you happy (in my case it is working out/going to classes) and schedule specific times for you to do that, every week. Do not let people pressure you into giving that time up, and don’t rob yourself from that time.
- Make sure to take time to unplug. Particularly at night.
- Take breaks during the day. No one can work around the clock, and everyone has an off day. Do what you need to be the most productive when you are on.
- I try to make a conscious decision not to send my team messages on off hours and particularly on Sundays — it also makes me less likely to be fully working during those hours.
- Schedule time/see your friends and family. And don’t talk about work with them.
What gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment and pride.
Being a stepmom and an aunt.
What is the best way for people to connect with you on social media?
@emozes is my IG and Twitter handle
About the author: Jacob Rupp is a coach, author, speaker, podcaster, and rabbi. He is the founder of Lift Your Legacy, a community that helps people live a more authentic life. He has a regular, syndicated column that appears in ThriveGlobal and Authority magazine. To learn more about him or to listen to the Lift Your Legacy podcast, search iTunes or visit his site: liftyourlegacy.live