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Entrepreneur Jacqui Bull. Source: supplied

Founder Friday with Jacqui Bull: transforming Australia’s staffing market

Recalling that she was “always trying to scheme up ideas for businesses” as a young girl, one of entrepreneur Jacqui Bull’s first successful ventures was a dog walking business.

Decades on, she’s the co-founder of Australia’s and New Zealand’s largest online staffing platform, reinventing casual and temporary staffing in industries like aged care, retail, hospitality, promotions, warehousing, and events.

Some of Sidekicker’s big-name clients include influential industry leaders like AusPost, Crown, and AirBnB.

“We came up with Sidekicker from the premise of empowering people to choose where they work, what they want to do, and how much control they can get over their work,” Jacqui said.

“Our product solves staffing problems while adding a lot of value to our customers. We found that competitors or incumbent providers in Australia weren’t innovating or adapting their business model in line with what we were seeing globally.”

Since launching in 2013, Sidekicker has provided work opportunities to over 40,000 casual workers at more than 5,000 organisations. They estimate placing an average of 2,500 ‘Sidekicks’ into jobs per week.

Most recently, Sidekicker secured $20 million in funding from SEEK investments to accelerate expansion across Australia and Zealand, and toward platform upgrades.

“I’d definitely credit our obsessive focus on being the best place for workers to get jobs,” she grinned. “We’re focused on being the best place to get the best rates, with quick response times.”

Why Sidekicker works

Jacqui first met Sidekicker co-founder Thomas Amos while completing her degree in accounting and marketing at Monash University. While her curiosity was piqued then by presentations around entrepreneurship in the tech sector, she chose the more traditional path of a grad role in accounting at Deloitte.

She decided it was time to take the plunge into the tech space when the idea for Sidekicker came about.

Jacqui elaborated, “I didn’t have a background in tech so there was a lot to learn! My naïve understanding as a 22-year-old was that you go to a development agency, you build a product and take it to market, and the rest is sales and marketing.  A decade later, I learned my lesson that tech and development remain an ongoing process.”

Sidekicker’s technology disrupts the traditional recruitment model by providing a platform for Sidekicks to access casual work as and when they choose. It also provides a two-way rating and review system for businesses, which drives the reliability and accountability of staff.

Sidekicker co-founders Jacqui Bull and Thomas Amos. Source: supplied

However, as Jacqui candidly admits, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing.

“One of our biggest mistakes at first was launching into cities too quickly. We launched in Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne as opposed to really focusing on building a hyperlocal marketplace first. We’ve had to relaunch in Brisbane a couple of times now,” she said.

“We also tried out a number of different industries, such as cleaning, but those roles can be very subjective. The idea of cleanliness really differs from person to person, so finding the right person for these roles was really labour intensive and time consuming.”

Instead, they decided to pick a handful industries they could service well.

“In terms of staffing, there are certain roles that can be objectively assessed, for example aged care where there’s a huge demand for workers and certain qualifications to be met. We realised we could really work in this market by attracting workers with a wealth of experience who are looking for the best rates.”

As an entrepreneur, one of her happiest milestones was the realisation that they truly had a good, successful product.

“It was a really special moment when we got our first seed investment and the investors could really see that we were disrupting and innovating the staffing market,” Jacqui smiled.

“Now as we get bigger, it’s a mark of pride to see our team living and breathing the values of Sidekicker. Seeing them understanding what we’re trying to build and being as passionate about the business.”

READ MORE: Conquering adversity: Female leaders reflect on resilience in the face of overwhelming odds

The team at Sidekicker. Source: supplied

The importance of representation

As a woman in the tech space, Jacqui is often asked if she’s had to ‘prove’ herself to male counterparts.

“There are a lot of statistics that show that women are underrepresented in this space and underinvested from a VC perspective,” she agreed. “For me personally, I do like to put pressure on myself to ensure I’m treated with the same level of respect and authority as my counterparts, which I don’t think you have to do as a male.

“At Sidekicker, we’re lucky to have built a very diverse business and leadership team. I work with incredibly talented men and women every day. And importantly, having that kind of representation attracts more women to the business. Our heads of engineering and product are women – unheard of in the tech sector – and this helps us attract more women to the tech industry.”

The best advice received

Ultimately, she breaks down the best advice she received to ‘knowing where you can add the most value and doubling down on that.’

Jacqui explained, “In business, it can be tempting to try to meet every demand and broaden your scope. When you’ve got a creative mindset, it’s easy to think ‘this will work’ or ‘this person will love this and this’. But it’s a lot of work to get a product up and running in the market and you can end up stretching yourself too thin. It’s a skill to know when to say no.”

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READ MORE: Founder Friday with Liz Agresta: the secrets to building a $15m beauty empire 

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Rhea Laxmi Nath

Rhea Laxmi Nath

Rhea L Nath is a Sydney-based writer and editor. In 2022, she was named Young Journalist of the Year at the NSW Premier's Multicultural Communications Awards.

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