This scenario should be familiar to anyone who’s ever worked in the service industry.
It’s a busy Saturday, the restaurant is packed, and someone who was scheduled to help manage all the madness – right when you need them most – doesn’t show up for their shift. Now what?
Thanks to Fayetteville resident and longtime local DJ Bailey Mendenhall, there’s an app for that.
Mendenhall, well known as a personality with 3B Radio as well as through his work as DJ act Purp Loder, this week launched a new app called Swoop Jobs to help restaurants and bars deal with that no-show problem that so often causes all kinds of headaches for their businesses. The app is also designed to give those with experience in the service industry the freedom to set their own schedule and pick up an extra shift at a variety of places to make a few extra bucks when they want to.
Bailey Mendenhall, founder of the Swoop Jobs app
For restaurant and bar workers, the app is similar to Uber in that if you have some experience in a particular field and want to pick up an extra shift somewhere, you can work on demand.
For the establishments themselves, they can easily put out a call for extra bussers, dishwashers, bar-backs, and in some cases bartenders, cooks or hostesses, when they find themselves in a bind due to a no-show, or other unforeseen staffing issue.
Swoop Jobs just became available on Tuesday via the iTunes App Store. Mendenhall said he is expanding his limited, initial test of the app to include a real-life Beta right here in Northwest Arkansas.
If all goes well here in Arkansas, the sky is the limit to how many markets the app could serve.
We got in touch with Mendenhall to find out more about his plans for Swoop Jobs, and he was nice enough to answer some questions for us.
Tell us about how the Swoop Jobs app came about. How’d you come up with the idea?
About three years ago I was DJing a lot, mostly in bars and nightclubs. Before DJing, I never really had much experience in the service industry. Never worked as a waiter or bartender or anything like that but on nights I would DJ I started to notice when people didn’t show up for their shifts (bartender, bar back, dishwasher, etc.) it created a kind of backlog. Drinks would come out slower, customers would start getting impatient, the dance floor would start to empty and people would leave the club. Around the same time, I had just started using Uber when I would DJ in a city away from home and I just really got used to that kind of on-demand convenience. I saw how Uber was providing a solution for a simple need and to me it just made sense to try and transition what they were doing into the service industry.
Very cool. And once you’ve got an idea, tell us about how you were able to bring the app to life. How did you go about finding investors, developers, etc?
I feel like a lot of that was right time, right place. I knew that I had an idea that I thought might have some legs so I started detailing on paper how I wanted it to function. I started blindly looking for someone to help me develop it but I wasn’t really connected into the tech world in NWA so I didn’t really know where to look. My dad, who owned a local business around NWA pointed me in the direction of Stephen Cassar in San Diego. Stephen developed my dad’s website for his business and thought maybe he might be able to point us in the right direction. As it turned out, Stephen had created and developed ticketsage.com and his software company, BlazeTrail, had made some apps for some really big corporations. After my first conversation with Stephen, he agreed to be a mentor, develop the app and show me the ropes as far as what it would take to secure my first angel investors. Three months later I was on a plane to San Diego and we took about five days talking about how we wanted to execute a business plan, come up with a development schedule and get my pitch down for potential investors.
When I got home, I gave my buddy Ronnie Brewer a call. A mutual friend told me that he was involved with Startup Junkie and was looking for new tech opportunities to send their way. After meeting with Ronnie, he helped me set up a meeting with Brett Amerine from Startup Junkie. Brett was really awesome and receptive to my idea and although I was not far enough along for them to invest in Swoop Jobs, he was really helpful and put me in contact with some angel investors who might be interested. After about nine months of talking to potential investors, I was able to lock down my first investments and we hit the ground running on the development side.
How many folks / who is involved in the project now?
As of now, I (Bailey Mendenhall) am the CEO, April Mallord is our VP of Business Development soon to move into her position as COO, and Stephen Cassar is our CTO.
Tell us a bit about how the app works from the employer side. What kind of jobs does it work best for? And how do employers go about signing up?
So basically, if an employer has someone, say a dishwasher, not show up for a shift the employer can jump on our website and post a job for a dishwasher to come in for the day. The employer will have a list populate in front of them on the website of job seekers who have their app in the “discoverable” mode. The employer can then pick who they want to offer the job by looking at their profile to see job history, a picture and even see the potential candidate’s introduction video. The first job seeker to respond and accept the job, gets it. The app is really geared to mostly back of house jobs (Dishwasher, fry cook, bar back, etc.) as well as a few front of house positions (Host/Hostess, ID check, bartender). Right now, we have 11 different positions employers can choose from and job seekers will be able to list up to three jobs that they’re interested in working.
How many businesses are you working with so far?
Currently, we have about 25 businesses who have agreed to participate in our open beta that we’re doing right here in NWA.
What kind of folks do you think will enjoy using the app from the employee side?
I think this app will be used a lot by people who want to pick up extra shifts and make money that day. In addition, people who because of school or other circumstances that don’t allow them to go out and get full-time employment are going to really enjoy having a flexible work life. I could even see this working for white-collar professionals who have a 9-5 but also have experience in the service industry and want to make extra money on the weekends or at night. I’ve always just felt that making your own schedule and working when you want to is the easiest way to live your best life. I created this app for people like me who want to take charge of our lives and our schedules and work when we want to work so we can play when we want to play.
I know the app just launched this week on iTunes. What has been the feedback you’ve received so far from employers and employees so far?
We’ve actually talked to quite a few businesses when we were in the TestFlight phase. Every single business owner that we talked to love the app. It’s going to make keeping your restaurant, bar, nightclub or catering service staffed so easy and convenient. Every business we’ve talked to said that staffing was their biggest daily headache and if we can take some of that burden off of the business owners shoulders, they’re going to be really happy.
So, initially, where will you be focusing on launching the app?
Initially, we’re doing an open beta right here in NWA. Northwest Arkansas is a perfect snapshot of the rest of the country in terms of service industry locations per capita and the number of people available to work those jobs. Then plan is to iron everything out here before we start launching major markets so when we get there, everything is solid and good to go. However, my goal is to let the world know that Swoop Jobs was born in Fayetteville, Arkansas and NWA is a great place for tech.
The idea seems to have enormous potential to us. Now that you’re in the launch phase, what are your next steps, and where do you think things will go from here?
Well, thank you. That’s very kind of you to say and I really hope you’re right. Now that we’re launching I really just want to take time to get feedback from everyone using the app. Employers and job seekers alike. Currently, there’s not an app like ours out there so we’ll be learning as we go. Northwest Arkansas is going to be so important in how we move forward because the people here are really the ones pioneering this new technology. When we start launching major markets like Denver, Los Angeles, San Diego, Dallas, etc. it will be because people here are the ones who have helped us refine our approach and fine tune the way we operate. We want to take a few months here in NWA to work all of that out before we start dropping in the bigger markets but after we work out all the kinks, I think the service industry nationwide is going to embrace Swoop Jobs.