As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful Service Business,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Brooke Markevicius.
Brooke 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 joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
My worldview as the daughter of a preacher and teacher has always been serving others, so when I saw a video of how Microsoft was utilizing Tech for Good in low-income or third-world countries, I saw an avenue to pursue a career in tech. I went to grad school and got a Master of Science degree in computer information systems, which helped me land a job at Postmates and assist their Southeast region launch. When I became a mother, I realized fast-paced big tech and motherhood did not play well together.
Out of necessity, I ventured out on my own and built a freelancing business that connected me with other moms. It was through this experience that I saw other moms had created their own little economy buying and selling each other’s goods and services. I recognized the need for a single place where women who are experts but wanted flexible work, could be connected with small business owners that need their specific skills could find each other. Thus, Allobee, an end-to-end solution for both owners and skilled workers, was born. Allobee connects experts who desire project-based flexible work with clients who have vital projects for their businesses.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
I think my “Aha Moment” came pretty quickly after quitting my tech job. I loved the idea of working with other moms and supporting each other in a way that was flexible and provided income. Typical freelance is a hassle and I really wanted to hone in on a solution to make the process as easy as possible for both clients and experts.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I always tell the story about my very first pitch for Allobee (then called MOMentum Market). I had just finished nursing my little guy after he went on an almost month-long nursing strike. I was pretty exhausted and hormonal from the nursing woes, but I believed in this idea so when I was asked to pitch at Seattle Startup Week’s “Future Founders’’ event, I said yes.
I had to find childcare, take the train to Seattle, take a pitching class and pitch my idea for the first time to a room of mostly men. I got asked to pitch first at the last minute, which made me incredibly nervous, but I showed up, walked on stage, and did great. That experience propelled me to pursue Allobee and after two years, we are growing in ways I could not have imagined.
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
My vision was a new narrative around how we work. I’m a working mom and I needed more flexibility and I knew that I wasn’t alone in that need. The current lens of COVID-19 and the mass exodus of women from the workforce is further illuminating the problems with our work culture in the U.S. Even before the pandemic, I could see that more and more people needed this type of flexibility, not just parents, but caregivers for elderly or disabled family or community members, or those going through big life changes that need flexible work to facilitate whatever they’re going through.
What do you do to articulate or demonstrate your company’s values to your employees and to your customers?
We have an All Hive meeting every month for our experts, it is a time to update them on what has been going on, any changes we have implemented, but also a time to share our values and truly live them out. We also include as many human touch points as possible into our process and flow because we want our clients to see our values as well. We believe in flexibility and do not want anyone to stomp on it so we include in our contracts that we do not require weekend or holiday work unless agreed upon and with extra pay. We believe in equitable wages for freelance work and we make sure our experts are involved in all pricing decisions.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
I think my main principle for business is the same for my day-to-day life — realize that people are people. You never know what circumstances someone is in, but we should all have access to solutions that support us getting through whatever that is. Struggles are unavoidable in business, I think it really comes down to how a business handles the struggles together. At Allobee, I want everyone to all see each other through a human lens first. Things happen, there are always fires to put out, but at the end of the day it’s just business.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
It was really hard quitting my job at Postmates, I was so excited about working there, yet I knew that it was not going to work for my family or myself. I was angry about that for a long time and just tried to fill that void with diving into freelancing. Many times I wanted to throw the towel in and just be done with it, but I knew what the alternative looked like and I did not want to lose the flexibility. It was through that journey that I found a beautiful community of other entrepreneurs that were all wanting more flexibility. This community of other female entrepreneurs and mothers helped me to stay grounded and also gain momentum even when things got tough in my businesses. Today I get that from our amazing leadership team at Allobee and also from communities of female entrepreneurs I am still a part of. It takes a village to raise a business and a founder.
So, how are things going today? How did your values lead to your eventual success?
Allobee is thriving, and that success is bittersweet because it is due in part to the struggles women, caregivers, and small businesses have and are enduring during the pandemic. Allobee has seen continual monthly growth and engagement and a growing demand for our solution-based services.
Being a CEO obviously takes a lot of time and patience, but with the type of work environment we have, I’m still able to spend time with my kids and husband and that was the goal from the beginning. At the end of the day, I do the work knowing that what we’re doing at Allobee is also providing this flexibility to other moms, too.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a very successful service based business? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Not everything is an active fire, it can wait. When you are in a client/customer focused company, it is hard to not treat everything like a fire. Yet, I remember why I left non-profit work, I did not want to get burnt out by the fires. So instead, I prioritize and ask myself if it can wait or if I am the only one that can handle it.
- Empower others to do their job and do not micromanage. You hired talented people, let them do their jobs and empower them to do it even without checking in with you on everything. This goes for the clients as well — when there’s trust built between clients and experts beyond the business, a lot more meaningful work can get done.
- Delegate. Do this as soon as possible. You are not a superhuman, you cannot do it all and that is okay, you are not meant to. Delegate, empower, delegate, and repeat. In order for clients to be happy, you can’t be the one to take it all on. You need to trust your team and trust the decisions you’ve made in creating that team and network.
- You must take time for yourself, get a hobby! For me it has been reading a book every weekend and the last 30 minutes before bed. It forces me to disconnect, to take a step away from the client fires and requests. I also just dived into attempting cross-stiching! My grandmother used to cross-stitch and I have always wanted to learn.
- Enjoy the journey! You get to meet the most amazing people through a service based business. You get to create with them, learn from them and grow with them. Service can be beautiful!
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?
This might be a cliché but my husband has been my greatest support. He believed in me before I believed in myself. He was there through my darkest times and waited for me to pull myself out. He did not push me or make me take a certain path, he let me be me and do what I needed, but it was so much easier because I knew I had him no matter what. He was the first one to believe in Allobee and has been my biggest cheerleader. He went 100% remote over a year before the pandemic so he could help more with the kids and we could get closer as a family.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I honestly think that Allobee is the heart of a movement for better work culture in the U.S. So many people need the accessibility of a flexible working environment in order to receive income and make a real change in their lives. I would love to see how we work as a country change. It’s not necessary to be in an office working the strict office hours of 9 to 5. We should be able to choose the way we work and still be seen as professionals and successful individuals who provide for our families.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I have a few different platforms!
Allobee Twitter: @Hireallobee