Home People How This Founder Balances A Tech Startup and Her Military Career

How This Founder Balances A Tech Startup and Her Military Career

by Holly Beilin

Learning to manage time is a major milestone for many college students. But for some, it’s much more than just managing a class schedule. Katrina Townsend, a Kennesaw State graduate, had to balance her studies, a rigorous ROTC training program, and maintaining a part-time job to help fund her education. 

Townsend sometimes struggled to get it all done. “I found myself often quitting the part-time jobs because either I was tired of working them, or I always had to call out because I had other responsibilities,” she tells Hypepotamus.

Junior year, she found herself commiserating with friends who also had a hard time keeping regular jobs while maintaining their academics.

“We were all wondering, how come there isn’t an Uber for jobs?” Townsend and fellow KSU students, Christopher Dancy and Adam Rose, came up with a concept for a flexible staffing agency that allowed students to find and accept temporary work shifts on an on-demand basis. 

The three students entered KSU’s Top 100, a business competition held by the Coles College of Business. They placed in the top 12, but more importantly, the competition was an impetus to file for a business license and work with a tech team to build the first iteration of the Click-A-Shift app.

The app went live in May 2017, at the beginning of summer break. With no outside funding and very little marketing, Click-A-Shift immediately attracted a user base. The team brought in $7,000 in revenue in just one month, and realized they had found a niche.

Click-A-Shift runs on a B2B model, generating revenue from the companies who need labor. They currently specialize in event staffing.

“We could do just about anything that requires just a quick training before the job,” says Townsend. The students are employed by Click-A-Shift as W-2 employees and are fully insured.

To sign up, students create a free profile with their skill set, experience, and additional details. They go through a full background check, onboarding, and orientation to be approved to work. Once approved, they can select open jobs on a first-come, first-serve basis, just like Uber.

Clients, which currently include companies like Chick-Fil-A, event production firm Technical Elements, and KSU, pay an hourly (above minimum) wage per employee. Click-A-Shift simply tacks on their fee to that hourly wage and then pays the student out through the platform.

Once the job is finished, both the student and the employer rate each other and provide feedback (another feature borrowed from the Uber model) to ensure quality.

“It behooves them to do a great job,” explains Townsend about the Click-A-Shift students, “because this is another reference that you can add, this is another skill set that you can gain, this is maybe even a recommendation that you can add for something that you truly want to do.”

Her co-founder Dancy points out that students can even “try out” different work cultures by accepting gigs on Click-A-Shift. 

“Who knows? The student might love the culture of the job and want to stay forever. This helps businesses with retention rates as well as help them get the candidate they deserve,” Dancy says.

Currently, about 250 students in the state of Georgia are using the app to obtain work, though Townsend says they have other users from across the country signed up waiting for Click-A-Shift to come to their area. The plan is to saturate Georgia and then move on to other states.

The team has managed to hold on to all of their equity thus far — other than one loan, they have largely been operating off of revenue.

Townsend, who serves as CFO of Click-A-Shift, has another factor to contend with on her startup journey. After successfully completing the ROTC program and graduating, she is now a full-time, active-duty U.S. Army Finance Officer, stationed in New York.

In her free time or in between shifts, she works on anything the startup needs. That might be social media content, it might be human resources, it might be balancing the books.

“I make myself a resource to say, what else can I do with the company, how else can I help grow the company? What do they need help with right now? I’m just making the most out of my 24 hours,” Townsend says.

She explains that, although the military certainly remains her long-term plan, Click-A-Shift has also become an important part of that journey.

“I worked hard to be in the military, but I have also found a way to incorporate my business within the military as well. Everywhere I go I share my business.” It’s important to share her journey, Townsend says, to inspire and educate others.

Though many of the traits taught and most-valued in the military lend themselves well to starting a business, there has been a steady downturn in veteran entrepreneurship. The Coalition for Veteran-Owned Businesses says that while 26 percent of Veterans want to start businesses, only 6 percent do. For her part, Townsend tries to act as a mentor for her peers in the Army on how to start a business, particularly a tech-enabled startup.

“It’s really been a good balance between work and putting my effort into this company and making sure that I nourish it as much as I nourish everything else,” she says.

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