Ladies Who Launch: Jess Blomfield || Coworkally + HeyJess
12 months ago, Jess Blomfield was working on her PhD research in organisational behaviour. Working from home on this big solo project, she was starting to struggle with isolation and missing that vibe of working with other people. So she researched cowork spaces, but found they were all too expensive or too far from where she lived. She wondered if there was such thing as a "virtual cowork space", a place where you could log in, say hi and share what you were working on and maybe even get some high fives and cheers along the way.
At the same time in her research, I could see this growing global trend of freelancers and entrepreneurs, and the lack of tools and systems to support the productivity and wellbeing. And the idea for Coworkally was born - a virtual cowork community platform for free agent workers. She joined a startup accelerator program to explore this idea further, as she had no technical or coding skills. Through this experience, she developed and tested a range of virtual coworking interactions with limited success.
Interestingly, she found that free agent workers are saturated with tools and platforms, and don't want another thing to log into every day. Still determined to follow her curiousity, she started experimenting with a Facebook Messenger chatbot as a way to have direct engagement and interactions with users, focussing on daily motivation and accountability. As she started to see some early traction with the chatbot, she created Hey Jess as a mini-brand within Coworkally to explore this further. Hey Jess now has users in over 20 countries and Coworkally has expanded from the original idea to be the home base for people who want to thrive in the new world of work. She is now obsessed with chatbots as a method for engaging and interacting with users. It opens up a direct line of communication with your tribe and uses the power of conversation to deliver content and add value in new ways.
If there is ever an example of how you don't know where you will end up when you follow your curiousity, Jess' story is it. She knew that she had a problem that she suspected was shared by many other people who were doing what she was doing. She didn't have the skills or all the answers, so instead of abandoning, she just found people to help her. When things didn't work out, she released and continued, knowing the next thing she needed would reveal itself. In Jess' case, it was the discovery of chatbots, a next big thing AI tool that it is perfect timing to get on board with as Facebook pushes their messenger function as one of their key areas of expansion.
Along the way, her PhD has been taking a rest. I am always a supporter of knowing when to put something down and pursue the itch that needs a scratch. Grabbing curiosity and opportunity when it strikes is potent, and a dish best eaten steaming hot. The post grad study will be picked up later this year, and I can guarantee that the work that has happened with Coworkally and HeyJess will significantly contribute to the depth and quality of the write up and finished product. We can't be afraid to try something new, even if it seems incomprehensible at the time. We never know why that idea is knocking so hard to get our attention, and we don't have to. We just have to begin.
1. Describe your business in one powerful sentence.
Coworkally is the home base for people who want to thrive in the new world of work. Our first product, Hey Jess, is a motivation and accountability sidekick that helps you do your most important work every day.
2. How do you integrate service to others in your business model?
Service is core to the foundation of Coworkally and Hey Jess, and the reason behind its conception. The chatbot model, in particular, delivers relevant and personalised content to help users every day.
3. What were some of the highlights and lowlights of your journey to where you are now?
The highlight has been seeing users set and achieve their goals each day through the chatbot, and start to have more conscious thinking about their professional development.
But it's tough being a solo operator. Not only do you have to fulfil every role within the business, but you need to bring the pep, motivation and hustle every single day. There is no "team spirit" to latch on to for momentum when you might be having an off day. See tip below for an antidote to this.
4. Do you have a spiritual practice?
Aerobics with very loud music and good friends. Also known as Group Fitness Enlightenment. It might seem counterintuitive, but the intensity of the moves and music takes my mind to a place of focus that is very meditative and calming.
5. Advice for others who want to start their own good hustle?
Develop a small, trusted network of other business folks and mentors who can be your brains trust, collaborators and support people. Even if you are a solo operator, you can still build a dream team around you.