QuickHire’s launch was spurred by the pandemic, but it’s really been years in the making.
Angela Muhwezi-Hall, 32, first came up with the idea in 2017 while working as a college and career counselor for high school students in Los Angeles. She had plenty of resources to offer those heading to college, but few for students heading into service or skilled trades jobs. Around 108 million people, or 71% of the labor force, work in the service sector. Surely there had to be a better way to set young adults up for success than helping them fill out paper job applications.
When the pandemic hit in March 2020, she saw tens of millions of Americans like her students lose their essential jobs during the pandemic – disproportionately black, Hispanic, Asian, Native, female, ungraded and low-income workers. salary.
Muhwezi-Hall enlisted his sister Deborah Gladney, 34, and got to work on a solution: a hiring platform that would connect historically overworked and neglected people to solid jobs in the service economy and of skilled trade as it recovered from the pandemic shutdowns. Muhwezi-Hall moved into Gladney’s basement in Wichita, Kansas — an underserved market on the tech scene — so they could build it together. (Muhwezi-Hall has since moved to Chicago with her husband.)
After two difficult years, the founders of QuickHire and their users come out on top.
Underserved workers get their due
Gladney and Muhwezi-Hall spent the summer of 2020 taking their idea from pitch to product. The beta version of their app was launched in the fall – “it’s like someone hearing their song on the radio for the first time,” Muhwezi-Hall says of its release – and officially to the masses of by April 2021.
The positive response was quick: people were getting their first jobs since losing their jobs during Covid, landing jobs within a day and getting their families back on their feet.
“We were helping people find the right fit, where they could stay and grow with this company. It was just a proud moment to hear,” Muhwezi-Hall said.
Over time, especially during the Great Resignation of 2021, they found that the once plentiful job seekers were becoming scarce. Candidates could be more demanding. They were looking for better pay, yes, but also health insurance during a global pandemic, and more predictable hours so they could plan their lives outside of work.
“Gone are the days of thinking you’re going to have an endless number of people applying for your positions,” says Muhwezi-Hall. “People think differently about their careers now. They have more power than ever. This is how it should always have been – people should always feel like they have power over their careers and what they really want to do.”
“Employers need to step up their game”
Today, QuickHire connects more than 11,000 job seekers with jobs at 60 mid-sized and large service-industry companies, including Fuzzy’s Taco Shop and Homewood Suites by Hilton. They are concentrated in the Wichita and Kansas City metro areas and plan to expand into the Midwest this year.
Record turnover in the service sector has been slow to arrive, says Muhwezi-Hall, “so now employers need to step up their game in terms of what they offer their employees.”
QuickHire has the data to help companies do better with their employees, says Gladney. “We can see what the average salary is in an area for a certain role. This type of information can help employers know, if they try to insert a low hourly rate, our system can detect it. We can tell : it’s actually $4 less than the average for your area, so you probably won’t get good candidates.”
In November 2021, QuickHire raised $1.41 million in an oversubscribed funding round, making Gladney and Muhwezi-Hall the first black women in Kansas to raise more than $1 million for a startup, according to AfroTech. .
But getting there was not easy. For one thing, they’re based in Wichita, not exactly where venture capitalists are looking for the next big thing.
And second, as black women, they are building in a world that notoriously excludes people who are neither white nor male. Black female startup founders received just 0.34% of total venture capital spent in the first half of 2021 in the United States, according to Crunchbase. And before 2021, only 93 black female founders had raised $1 million or more in venture capital, compared to 34 female founders in 2018, according to ProjectDiane, a report on the state of black and Latina female founders by the organization DigitalUndivided.
Gladney and Muhwezi-Hall funded QuickHire first with $50,000 of their own savings and then through an angel investor. But to really scale it, they would need venture capital. They applied for accelerators, but “it felt like we had all the cards against us,” Gladney says.
“We were turned away, and it left a bad taste in our mouths,” she adds. “The reasons we were turned down just weren’t very clear. And it made us wonder, is it because we’re black women doing this?”
They were thinking of going back to self-funding until they had a motivational meeting with a general manager from the accelerator TechStars Iowa. They entered the accelerator in July 2021 and their growth took off.
While they’re proud of how far QuickHire has come, Gladney says, “At first, we felt like we had to come to the table with more revenue, more validation than our peers, because we knew we didn’t. We weren’t going to be able to raise if we didn’t make it even more comfortable for them to try their luck with us.”
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