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

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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.”

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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.

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“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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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

A Michigan dairy worker has been diagnosed with bird flu — the second human case associated with an outbreak in U.S. dairy cows.

The male worker had been in contact with cows at a farm with infected animals. He experienced mild eye symptoms and has recovered, U.S. and Michigan health officials said in announcing the case Wednesday.

A nasal swab from the person tested negative for the virus, but an eye swab tested Tuesday was positive for bird flu, “indicating an eye infection,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.

The worker developed a “gritty feeling” in his eye earlier this month but it was a “very mild case,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive. He was not treated with oseltamivir, a medication advised for treating bird flu, she said.

The risk to the public remains low, but farmworkers exposed to infected animals are at higher risk, health officials said. They said those workers should be offered protective equipment, especially for their eyes.

Health officials say they do not know if the Michigan farmworker was wearing protective eyewear, but an investigation is continuing.

In late March, a farmworker in Texas was diagnosed in what officials called the first known instance globally of a person catching this version of bird flu from a mammal. That patient reported only eye inflammation and recovered.

Since 2020, a bird flu virus has been spreading among more animal species — including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises — in scores of countries.

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The detection in U.S. livestock earlier this year was an unexpected twist that sparked questions about food safety and whether it would start spreading among humans.

That hasn’t happened, although there’s been a steady increase of reported infections in cows. As of Wednesday, the virus had been confirmed in 51 dairy herds in nine states, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Fifteen of the herds were in Michigan.

The CDC’s Dr. Nirav Shah said the case was “not unexpected” and it’s possible more infections could be diagnosed in people who work around infected cows.

U.S. officials said they had tested 40 people since the first cow cases were discovered in late March. Michigan has tested 35 of them, Bagdasarian told The Associated Press in an interview.

Shah praised Michigan officials for actively monitoring farmworkers. He said health officials there have been sending daily text messages to workers exposed to infected cows asking about possible symptoms, and that the effort helped officials catch this infection. He said no other workers had reported symptoms.

That’s encouraging news, said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist who has studied bird flu for decades. There’s no sign to date that the virus is causing flu-like illness or that it is spreading among people.

“If we had four or five people seriously ill with respiratory illness, we would be picking that up,” he said.

The virus has been found in high levels in the raw milk of infected cows, but government officials say pasteurized products sold in grocery stores are safe because heat treatment has been confirmed to kill the virus.

The new case marks the third time a person in the United States has been diagnosed with what’s known as Type A H5N1 virus. In 2022, a prison inmate in a work program picked it up while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered. That predated the virus’s appearance in cows.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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At collapsed Baltimore bridge, focus shifts to the weighty job of removing the massive structure

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At collapsed Baltimore bridge, focus shifts to the weighty job of removing the massive structure

BALTIMORE (AP) — Teams of engineers worked Saturday on the intricate process of cutting and lifting the first section of twisted steel from the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge, which crumpled into the Patapsco River this week after a massive cargo ship crashed into one of its supports.

Sparks could be seen flying from a section of bent and crumpled steel in the afternoon, and video released by officials in the evening showed demolition crews using a cutting torch to slice through the thick beams. The joint incident command said in a statement that the work was being done on the top of the north side of the collapsed structure.

Crews were carefully measuring and cutting the steel from the broken bridge before attaching straps so it can be lifted onto a barge and floated away, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath said.

Seven floating cranes — including a massive one capable of lifting 1,000 tons — 10 tugboats, nine barges, eight salvage vessels and five Coast Guard boats were on site in the water southeast of Baltimore.

Each movement affects what happens next and ultimately how long it will take to remove all the debris and reopen the ship channel and the blocked Port of Baltimore, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said.

“I cannot stress enough how important today and the first movement of this bridge and of the wreckage is. This is going to be a remarkably complicated process,” Moore said.

Undeterred by the chilly morning weather, longtime Baltimore resident Randy Lichtenberg and others took cellphone photos or just quietly looked at the broken pieces of the bridge, which including its steel trusses weigh as much as 4,000 tons.

“I wouldn’t want to be in that water. It’s got to be cold. It’s a tough job,” Lichtenberg said from a spot on the river called Sparrows Point.

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The shock of waking up Tuesday morning to video of what he called an iconic part of the Baltimore skyline falling into the water has given way to sadness.

“It never hits you that quickly. It’s just unbelievable,” Lichtenberg said.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT

One of the first goals for crews on the water is to get a smaller auxiliary ship channel open so tugboats and other small barges can move freely. Crews also want to stabilize the site so divers can resume searching for four missing workers who are presumed dead.

Two other workers were rescued from the water in the hours following the bridge collapse, and the bodies of two more were recovered from a pickup truck that fell and was submerged in the river. They had been filling potholes on the bridge and while police were able to stop vehicle traffic after the ship called in a mayday, they could not get to the construction workers, who were from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

The crew of the cargo ship Dali, which is managed by Synergy Marine Group, remained on board with the debris from the bridge around it, and were safe and were being interviewed. They are keeping the ship running as they will be needed to get it out of the channel once more debris has been removed.

The vessel is owned by Grace Ocean Private Ltd. and was chartered by Danish shipping giant Maersk.

The collision and collapse appeared to be an accident that came after the ship lost power. Federal and state investigators are still trying to determine why.

Assuaging concern about possible pollution from the crash, Adam Ortiz, the Environmental Protection Agency’s mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator, said there was no indication in the water of active releases from the ship or materials hazardous to human health.

REBUILDING

Officials are also trying to figure out how to handle the economic impact of a closed port and the severing of a major highway link. The bridge was completed in 1977 and carried Interstate 695 around southeast Baltimore.

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Maryland transportation officials are planning to rebuild the bridge, promising to consider innovative designs or building materials to hopefully shorten a project that could take years.

President Joe Biden’s administration has approved $60 million in immediate aid and promised the federal government will pay the full cost to rebuild.

Ship traffic at the Port of Baltimore remains suspended, but the Maryland Port Administration said trucks were still being processed at marine terminals.

The loss of a road that carried 30,000 vehicles a day and the port disruption will affect not only thousands of dockworkers and commuters, but also U.S. consumers, who are likely to feel the impact of shipping delays. The port handles more cars and more farm equipment than any other U.S. facility.

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Collins reported from Columbia, South Carolina. Associated Press writers Sarah Brumfield in Washington, D.C.; Kristin M. Hall in Nashville, Tennessee; Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tennessee; and Lisa Baumann in Bellingham, Washington, contributed.

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The Texas attorney general is investigating a key Boeing supplier and asking about diversity

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The Texas attorney general is investigating a key Boeing supplier and asking about diversity

DALLAS (AP) — The Texas attorney general has opened an investigation into a key Boeing supplier that is already facing scrutiny from federal regulators over quality of parts that it provides to the aircraft maker.

The office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said it began looking into Spirit AeroSystems because of “apparent manufacturing defects” in parts that “have led to numerous concerning or dangerous incidents.”

In a statement Friday, a Spirit spokesman said, “While we do not comment on investigations, Spirit is wholly focused on providing the highest quality products to all our customers, to include the Boeing Company.”

Paxton asked the Wichita, Kansas-based supplier to turn over documents produced since the start of 2022 about communication with investors and Boeing about flaws in parts and corrective steps the company took.

The request goes into detail in seeking internal discussions around Spirit’s efforts to create a diverse workforce “and whether those commitments are unlawful or are compromising the company’s manufacturing processes.” Paxton asked for a breakdown of Spirit’s workforce by race, sexual orientation and other factors, and whether the makeup has changed over time.

Since a Spirit-made door-plug panel blew off an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max in January, some conservatives have tried to link aviation safety to diversity at manufacturers.

Paxton is a conservative Republican who this week agreed to pay $271,000 in restitution to victims and take 15 hours of training in legal ethics to settle felony charges of securities fraud. Paxton did not admit wrongdoing in the 9-year-old case.

The Federal Aviation Administration launched an investigation into Boeing Spirit after the Alaska Airlines incident. An FAA audit of manufacturing procedures in Spirit’s factory gave the company failing grades in seven of 13 areas.

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Boeing is in talks to buy back Spirit, which it spun off nearly 20 years ago, as part of a plan to tighten oversight of manufacturing in its supply chain.

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