Personal experience prompted Marissa and Lauren to start Careseekers – an online marketplace for
in-home carers. Read about their journey to help address a real need in our society.
Tell us a bit about Careseekers and how the idea came about.
Careseekers is an online marketplace connecting people needing in-home care with care workers who are qualified and available to work. Our grandparents were adamant about staying at home, but finding the right care for them was challenging. Agency care was prohibitively expensive and government care had long waiting lists and was inflexible. It was only through word of mouth and a bit of luck that we found the right carers. We created Careseekers because we felt that luck should not be the determining factor in finding in-home care.
When did Careseekers start?
We officially launched in May 2015 but began working on it from May 2014.
What were you two doing prior to starting Careseekers?
We’re sisters with quite different professional backgrounds. My (Lauren) background is in marketing and video/film production. My first job was at a start-up with the Australian version of Netflix. I then worked for advertising agencies producing TV commercials. It was when I moved to London that I became interested in social enterprise and worked for the Prince’s charity called Business in the Community, which was all about motivating businesses to have a positive impact on society.
Marissa has 15 years experience as a human rights and disability discrimination lawyer. She has represented clients at, and undertaken law reform and public policy work for, organisations including the NSW Ombudsman and Intellectual Disability Rights Service.
Marissa also co-founded the Women in Prison Advocacy Network (WIPAN), an organisation that mentors women leaving prison. The WIPAN mentoring program matches women leaving prison with a community-based mentor and is highly successful in reducing recidivism among participants. Marissa was a WIPAN board member for seven years.
Marissa and I have worked together in the past. We produced and directed a documentary about child trafficking in Cambodia. It was from this experience that we decided we worked pretty well together and always had an eye out for our next project.
Today you have hundreds of qualified carers on your site ready to provide in-home care, what kind of impact is Careseekers having?
Careseekers is having a positive impact on so many families in many ways. The first is the families who need care. By using carers from our site, families have managed to keep loved ones at home in a sustainable way. Family members who have the burden for caring receive some much-needed respite and people with disabilities have managed to maintain or create independent lives.
We’re also helping many care workers find more work – whether they’re looking for extra shifts, more local work or are new/returning to the workforce by connecting them to families who can use their help.
What’s next for Careseekers?
We have so many exciting things happening in 2017. We are launching a new website where people will be able to pay carers using our site. This is very important for families receiving NDIS funding as it gives them a lot more choice when it comes to choosing support workers.
We are also developing products that we know customers need from speaking to them day in and day out.
Who or what inspires you?
I am inspired by the resilience of many of our users, both the recipients of care and the primary carers who have so many more hurdles to overcome and yet still go out in the world every day and achieve great things.
I recently watched a moving video about the life of Jo Cox, the MP who was shot in the UK this year. She achieved so much in her short life and was such a fighter on behalf of marginalised communities, I love how the digital world continually gives me access to see the amazing things changemakers around the world are doing.
What is one quality every social entrepreneur should have?
What keeps you going?
I love the idea of creating something that if it wasn’t for me and my co founder would not exist, relationships would not have been formed and there would be one less disruptor in the industry. That definitely keeps me going. There’s no backing down now!
Biggest lesson you’ve learnt so far as a social enterprise?
To accept that the start up journey is filled with extreme highs and lows and not to get too caught up in either but focus on the long term goals.
What are you looking forward to?
A quiet January. It has been a busy 2016 and we need to recharge for an even busier 2017.
It saves me from feeling guilty about all the housework I am NOT doing when working from home. But in all honesty when you find the right co-working space it is a wonderful way to work. At the same time the wrong co-working space can be a nightmare.
What do you enjoy most about co-working?
The random conversations you have with people that can lead to opportunities that would never have arisen were it not for the co-working space.
Lastly, how has the Social Impact Hub community helped you in your journey as a social enterprise?
In so many ways. We’re actually going to be partnering with the Social Impact Hub in the coming months on another project that we are very excited about, so watch this space!
Located in Edgecliff, the Social Impact Hub offers co-working opportunities to Sydney’s changemakers. If you’re in the business of creating social impact check out our start-up friendly rates and consider joining our vibrant community. Contact us to arrange a tour.