Kath Clarke, founder and CEO of BlckBx, talks about her innovative new company that provides on-demand virtual assistance.
What is the background to your business?
The corporate world has been debating the problem that 40% of women leave the workforce when they have their first child and never return and 40% who do go back work part-time which means less women are entering the C-suite.
McKinsey stated that it’s not a glass ceiling that’s the problem, it’s the broken rung on the ladder. I want to fix that broken rung with BlckBx and actually help make sure that both men and women are climbing the same ladder.
I started the company two months before the pandemic. When the pandemic hit and everyone’s lives truly blurred right before our eyes on back to back Zoom calls, juggling work, kids, elderly parents and all those daily tasks – I knew the time was right, and that businesses would be looking at how to support their working families – which went beyond just new parental benefits and emergency childcare.
BlckBx provides on-demand virtual assistance to carry out the never-ending to-do list of tasks outside work. We save 30 hours a month of employees’ time and provide our services as an employee benefit as well as to private professional families. Our company is 100% virtual and our employees can work anywhere in the UK.
What inspired you to create your business?
It was from my own frustrations as a working mother and seeing the inequalities that my female peers were dealing with in the home and the workplace. Women have been getting the short straw and this needs to change. But change won’t happen unless we look at the problem from both sides of life; you can’t have equality in the workplace until you have equality in the home and that means women and men having the same amount of free time to focus on themselves, their careers and their wellbeing.
Right now, women are doing extra hours a week at home as well as family tasks – and we know in most homes even in dual working couples it’s the woman who runs the home. But we want to change that and enable men to take control too and be equally involved.
We’re doing that with BlckBx and we have an equal number of male to female customers. It’s working. Parents just need access to the right support and tools, and we are giving that control to both parents with BlckBx.
What is your point of difference?
We’ve created a new service and a new market. There aren’t any other companies doing what we are doing. Our focus is giving back time and we have an empathy for family and a family’s ever-changing needs. We also provide BlckBx as an employee benefit and to private families.
We found that needing more time isn’t limited to just those with children either. We’re also working with employees who are simply time poor and need that support which is more apparent than ever in professional services especially in this unstable Covid world.
Importantly, when an employee signs up to BlckBx we are their daily support to life. If they do start a family or someone, they care for gets sick then we are there to support then too.
How do you spread the word about your business?
I have a big network in the corporate world, many in professional services. I started there where, for example, management consultants and lawyers are working harder than ever before. They are either working or parenting and so it was a no brainer they would sign up to BlckBx as we save up to 30 hours a month in tasks that they would otherwise do themselves.
We do things three times faster, we do them better and we use our extensive network in home care, health care, child care and elder care.
Word of mouth and recommendation about how we are “life-changing” is the best way BlckBx is being promoted and you can’t get better than that!
What’s the hardest thing about running a business?
The hardest thing must be the sheer number of hats you have to wear at the start and how much work there is to do. It’s hard but exciting too.
Being clear about what is priority in terms of tasks that day is what we do at BlckBx for our customers, so we’re naturally going to be good at that. For me, the wellbeing of my employees is what is most important. If they are happy then that’s going to come across to customers and that’s my number one priority.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
The biggest challenge has been the corporate decision-making life cycle and attached red tape. This is where smaller companies where the CEO can make a decision are going to have the upper hand over large enterprises. Smaller companies can decide to offer BlckBx to employees and take the talent away from large enterprises. For us it’s not a challenge, just a bottleneck.
What’s the best decision you’ve made so far?
The best decision I’ve made is hiring my CTO and co-founder, Digby Knight. Sometimes you just get lucky and get it right, and you only know what someone is like once they’re on board. That’s definitely the case with Digby and he’s added so much to BlckBx far beyond his technical abilities.
What is one thing that would make running your business a lot easier?
The one thing I’ve found hard is finding an accountant that really understands start-ups. We’re working with a great accountant, but they are mainstream. Entrepreneurs need to be as efficient and lean as possible and there are literally thousands of start-ups that would pay for that advice. If I was an accountant, I’d create a start-up arm and work for sweat equity. It could make the firm millions!
What’s next for your business?
My focus is on creating customer and employee satisfaction and everything else will grow organically around that. The nature of employee benefits means that it will grow globally anyway, just through customer demand. If one country has BlckBx then they’ll want to roll it out globally. Our long term focus is global but in the short term, we want BlckBx to be part of the fabric of every UK business.