As a working mother, I know how hard it can be to delegate your time between work and family. Many find themselves leaving careers that they loved deeply because it just wasn't practical while raising young children. Arathi Narasimhan found herself in the same boat after she because a mother. Despite the obstacles she ran into, she co-founded SkillQuo, a business dedicated to helping other businesses online. She is now able to follow her dreams while parenting at the same time.
Inspired by her passion and success, I was lucky enough to get an interview with her to pick her brain a little.
Welcome, so it looks like your catching on the wave of 'on demand' companies... tell us about your platform/what is SkillQuo.com?
We are more than just a virtual technology platform - we are a community in the truest sense, and this is what sets us apart from the competition. We bring together the highest caliber of business minds with the businesses that need them the most, businesses of all sizes from bootstrapping startups to mid-size multimillion dollar companies.
The backbone of our American economy is entrepreneurship comprised small- to mid-sized business. These companies are overlooked by traditional consulting firms that tend to overwhelmingly work with clients, whose revenues are at least $1B. At Skillquo, we have recruited ex-employees from these exclusive consulting firms (McKinsey, Deloitte, Bain), and have made their incredible talent, brainpower, and experience accessible to businesses of all sizes.
It also benefits our consultants, because they embrace the challenge of working on intellectually challenging business problems, without the heavy Mon-Thursday travel - and with the freedom and flexibility of being their own boss.
What makes you different from the competition?
We bring prestige, pride, and a sense of community to freelancing. With many of our competitive online freelance platforms, it tends to be a race to the bottom. $20 business plans anyone? It tends to be a price war where the lowest bidder wins, where quality and satisfaction are sacrificed. We protect our consultants and businesses alike, by focusing on quality, value, and a 100% satisfaction rate. We feel we have the 'Goldilocks' formula where we neither cater to the bottom feeders, nor do we charge the $350 per hour with 200% mark-ups that is typical of the traditional top 5 consulting firms. Our consultants take great pride in their work and their professional trajectories, and we encourage them to set prices that reflect the value they offer.
Also, SkillQuo's unique competitive edge derives from our truly collaborative spirit. Unlike other online workplace websites, we have worked diligently to build a distinct corporate culture among our consultants, with SkillQuoCares.com
Oftentimes, especially for individuals who are new to the freelance world, working independently can feel isolating. This is why we feel it is of utmost importance to create a sense of belonging. Here, a consultant can access insightful articles and white papers relevant to the freelance management consulting industry. We also proudly feature consultants who have tackled a particularly difficult project, or have received rave reviews from his or her client. Sweepstakes or other rewards are posted here as well. Additionally, SkillQuoCares.com hosts forums, polls, webinars, videos, and chat rooms where consultants can freely connect with one another.
What made you come up with this idea?
We saw a need in the American and Global economy, for businesses and consultants alike. Small-to-mid sized businesses, that comprise the backbone of our nation's prosperity and sense of entrepreneurship, were underserved by top 5 consulting firms, due to their revenue minimums.
It also arose from a sense of vulnerability, that Corporate America did not have a place for someone who was in my particular stage of life. As a working parent, it becomes increasingly hard to travel, especially in our children's formative years. My co-founders and I have client-facing, consulting backgrounds. In varying degrees, our jobs are laden with travel. One of our co-founders, also a parent to a young child, traveled every week, Monday-Thursday, and occasionally two weeks at a time to international clients.
After taking time off to be a mother, I wanted to re-enter the work force. However, the companies that took a deep interest in me, also required that I travel at least 35-40%. As a mother to a then one-year-old, I found this unworkable. And, I was not alone. Many mothers and fathers feel an intense and obvious need to be present for the children on a daily basis. So, we came up with an idea that empowered individuals like us, who were weary of living out of hotel rooms and airports, but still wanted to put their incredible talents and experience to use.
I've focused on parenthood because I am a parent. However, we recognized that there are so many other changes in life that would make traveling or even a rigid local work-schedule, unsustainable. SkillQuo was created to provide employment for those individuals.
Who are your clients?
Our clients range from boot-strapping individuals to mid-sized companies whose revenues are in the multi-millions. Our client post a range of projects from business plan creations, pitch decks, digital marketing strategy, Mergers & Acquisitions management, pricing strategy, competitive analysis, market research, and so on. Our clients span an array of industries from the online music industry to brick-and-mortar retail-stores to financial services.
Do you really think you can solve complex business projects fully online?
Thanks to the speed-of-light advancements in technology, we are able to shop online, socialize online, and even educate ourselves online. We are fully utilizing online collaboration tools like our instant chat, instant messaging, interviewing, email, project-milestone tracking, and secure online payment. On SkillQuo.com, a business owner can easily post projects, interview, hire, and work with their chosen consultant.
What are you most proud of?
We are proud of surpassing the usual technical platform and being a true collaborative community of the highest caliber of consultants, worldwide. We are proud to provide access to the best and brightest minds in consulting, that was previously unavailable to the American businesses that needed them the most.
We are equally proud of our ability to provide gainful and meaningful employment to consultants who are most deserving of such opportunities, while still enabling them to control their schedules- providing a new degree of flexibility and empowerment to their lives.
What is your advice to other startups?
Being an entrepreneur is a humbling and trying, yet incredibly rewarding process. Stay curious, be flexible, and build a team of mentors and well-wishers. The more we got into the process of building our own company, the more we realize how much we didn't know or think about from the beginning. Our ability to seek advice from individuals smarter than us, along with our ability to stay flexible in the process, helped the most.