February Blog: A Young Entrepreneur’s Look at 2015
Welcome to our newest Blog post for 2016! In this post, our President and Founder (Jessica Cafferty) takes a reflective look at her first 10 months as a business owner. Sit back, grab a cup of tea, and enjoy!
Just over a year ago today, I had an epiphany that would change the course of my life (dramatic, I know). Sitting in a bar, atop a sticky bar stool, drinking an even stickier, pink drink, I was faced with the question that I think every entrepreneur faces in the early stage of their endeavors: “Who better than me?” Granted, the sticky, pink drink in my hand was certainly goading my confident, self-assertion that “NO ONE” was better, but when I woke up the following morning (yes, with a mild ache behind my temple), and still had that same level of confidence, I knew I had to be on to something…
So, what was it that I thought “no one” could be better at than me?
Recruiting. More specifically, creating a recruiting agency focused on careers in Idaho, for Idaho companies.
But, before I get into that, I’d like to take a bit more of a reflective look at how I got here.
The Wind Up
Well, where do I start? Let’s clear the air first and foremost with a little admission: never in my life did I plan on being a Recruiter. Seriously. In fact, like many of my generation, I had a crystal clear view of only about two things when it came to my future: 1- I wanted to make lots of money, and 2- I wanted a lot of vacation time. #YOLO
Ok, but in all seriousness, I never set out on a specific path to where I am now. Instead, life happened and I decided to “Carpe” the f#$% out of that “Diem” when the chance arose. So, where was I when that opportunity arose? I was sitting in Dallas, Texas (the fourth city I had lived in since leaving Boise in 2007), working tirelessly for an employer who I believed had lost touch with any sense of business ethics (one of our mottos was “What’s a good margin? As much as you can get!”), slowly losing faith in any kind of corporate/professional integrity. Needless to say, I wasn’t the happiest of clams, but life wasn’t terrible. My job was stable, I had a paycheck every two weeks, I was putting money into a 401k, I had medical insurance and a nice apartment–by so many metrics, it made a lot of sense for me to keep on “keeping on” and building a career in sales/sales management.
However, I couldn’t shake a looming hesitance in committing myself to that company, that career, and that geographical location.”
Having been born and raised in Boise, a large part of where this hesitance stemmed from came from an awkwardly closeted desire to return home. Why so awkward and closeted? Great question. I had this feeling that I would have somehow “failed” by coming back. Like somehow, returning to my “small town” home was an admission of giving in to a “simpler” life. That after living in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Dallas- moving back to Boise would be taboo and “uncool.” Funny how hindsight really is 20:20, because as I headed home on a plane from Dallas to Boise for Christmas last year, I had a sinking feeling that I just didn’t want to have to travel “home for the holidays” every year; I wanted to be home. Which is why when I arrived (and admittedly, even a little before then), I started casually looking for new job opportunities.
Alright, so even with the relief of having given in to the desire to move back to Boise, there was one small problem: I needed to land a job…back up…I needed to find a career! Remember all those cushy benefits I mentioned earlier? Yeah, well, I wanted those… and more! I didn’t want to have to take a step backwards in my career, just to accommodate a new geographical location. I had (have) skills! I was (am) marketable and valuable! And, for those reasons, I thought it would be relatively easy to find my next position (that would also, lead to 1- a lot of money and 2- a lot of vacation time, remember?!).
Unfortunately for me (at the time), I was wrong. The opportunities I did come across were mediocre or required a very specific, targeted set of skills I didn’t yet have. And even when I did apply, the fact that I was looking to relocate (even at my own expense) was a huge disadvantage to me. Companies wanted local talent. So, what was a gal like me to do?
Well, work with a Recruiter of course!
So, I set out to find a recruiting agency to help me in my endeavors to find such a career. Having worked with one in San Diego, I knew how helpful they could be and how they often had insight that a general candidate might not. However, after several phone calls, resume submittals, and a handful of emails, I found myself looking at:
- A secretarial position, paid hourly, with no benefits and no guarantee of how long the position would last.
- A laborer position, also paid hourly, but no guarantee of work each day.
- A bookkeeping position, part-time, with no benefits and no real job description outside of “handle the company’s monies”….by the way, accounting experience was nowhere to be found on my resume…
- A sales position, with great benefits and promising development opportunities….in South Dakota.
Needless to say, the horizon was looking pretty bleak on the recruiter’s landscape. Which is how I found myself perched on my bar stool, drinking my sticky, pink drink, complaining about the lack of reliable, local recruiters in Boise. And, having spent the last 10 minutes describing these frustrations to my girlfriend Laura, she looked at me and said in her most obvious and honest way, “Well, you should probably just start one!”
Fast forward 45 days from that point and I found myself sitting in front of my boss in Dallas, telling him that the following two weeks would be my last. Two weeks later, I’d packed my Subaru to the brim and set out on the 24 hour drive back to Boise.
But let me back up–getting to this point was no easy or spontaneous decision. Within the 45 days since the “pink drink epiphany”, I spent countless hours researching what my gut was telling me. I’d set up conference calls with the Small Business Administration’s SCORE office for advice. I’d consulted with friends, family, and mentors. I’d scoured local census data, newspapers, and online publications in order to develop a strong, quantitative backing to what I believed to be true–that Boise both lacked and needed an agency like the one I wanted to create. I’d read books and used my research to write an extensive business plan. And, after all of this, as well as a big dose of “#YOLO”, I decided that yes, emptying my 401k and using all of my savings to start this company was a “reasonable” decision.
Then, there was the actual “doing” it.
Well, here we are almost 10 months later and still standing. And the thing is, when I’m really honest with myself (and now, all of you), when I look back at these months, a part of me can’t help but think, “Crap, we should have done so much more.” Sure, we saw some traction; we placed candidates, we connected with some of Boise’s most well-known companies, we built some great relationships with local groups and organizations–but the type-A in me can’t help but point out—baby steps aren’t going to get you where you want to be.
Admittedly, we’ve also made quite a bit of progress. (Cue brag train) We’ve proven ourselves to be a helpful, credible recruiting resource here in the Treasure Valley. We’ve proven the value in being local and focusing on local companies. We’ve proven that we can recruit for any size company, any type of occupation, in any industry. We’ve proven that we can fall flat on our face and get back up again. We’ve proven that we can. Period. And when I start to consider those things, I’m pretty darn proud of what we’ve accomplished. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made. I’m proud of the team we’re building and, more than anything, I am so grateful to those who have helped us get here.
When I first contemplated the idea of starting Route, I told very few people. One of those was my friend Abby, from Dallas. Abby is as wonderfully Southern as it comes–warm, welcoming, the first to greet you with a, “honey, ya neva looked betta!” and she’s been one of our greatest supporters (despite being extremely disappointed in my leaving Dallas). Upon my first telling her of the idea, Abby and her equally vivacious mother, who are deeply familiar with Jewish faith and culture, approached me with a thought that solidified my passion for starting this company: according to the Jewish faith’s “Maimonides’ 8 Levels of Charity”,
“The greatest level above which there is no greater, is to support a fellow Jew by endowing him with a gift or loan, or entering into a partnership with him, finding employment for him, in order to strengthen his hand until he needs no longer be dependent on others”.
Thus, to them, starting a recruiting agency was one of the greatest “mitzvahs” (good deeds/good karma/positive juju for all you gentiles out there). And that conversation always struck me–because it reminded me that what I was doing was more meaningful than just becoming an entrepreneur, or starting a business. It was about helping people and empowering them to pursue their career and life goals.
With that said, as I look back at 2015, I can’t help but think of all the “mitzvahs” from others that have brought us here. And for those, I want to extend a formal “thank you”. Thank you to the individuals whose tireless support, faith, and words of encouragement have helped propel us forward, even when it’s over shaky ground. Thank you to our customers, who have been a part of the growth of this company and whose partnership has allowed us to exist. Thank you to those who’ve come out of the woodwork to offer a helping hand in areas I never even thought to consider. And thank you to those who’ve doubted us, or taught us difficult lessons along the way–you, too, have been hugely influential and helped stoke the fire that keeps us burning. We are sum of all of you, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude for you all.
Now, I turn to 2016. Oh boy. Bottoms up, because we’re ready to take all the lessons of the last 10 months and put them to work. As I look to 2016, I do so with a reverberating passion for helping our customers and our candidates find the Route to one another. And, beyond that, a passion for serving others. There’s a quote I came across as I was writing my business plan (I believe it was heard on an EntreLeadership podcast) “Money is made when one human being serves another.” Well, here’s to serving a lot of people in 2016. A lot. And here’s to having you along with us. Cheers to #FindingYourRoute!