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Mission-driven businesses are the future of business

In this month’s True Connections Podcast, Alan Hooks is joined by Anna Maybank. Anna is the CEO and co-founder of Breakroom – a frontline job comparison site. In this episode, she discusses the inspiration for Breakroom, the importance of selecting the right investors and the power of feedback.

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Click on the player below to hear Alan and Anna’s conversation:

No stranger to tech start-ups, Anna Maybank explains she had an unusual path into the industry.  

After graduating university in the mid-2000s, Anna helped to edit a book about the future of the internet. At the time there was a wave of optimism around new technology and its power to change the world. While researching for the book, Anna learnt about start-ups and discovered that you could make an impact without having to work for a large organisation. 

In 2008, after immersing herself in the start-up world, Anna co-founded an accelerator programme called Bethnal Green Ventures which helped to build businesses that had a social or environmental purpose. At the time, purpose-driven businesses were few and far between and - in the early days - investors in the industry were hesitant to believe that a business could have a positive stamp on the world at the same time as making a profit.

Anna explains that thanks to ESG this perspective has changed and businesses now understand that it’s wise to put people and planet first.

Building Breakroom

Helping others to start purpose-driven businesses at Bethnal Green Ventures inspired Anna to start something of her own. She went on to complete an MBA and co-found a company called Poetica, which was sold in 2016.

For her next business venture, Anna was keen to tackle a problem the rest of the world was ignoring. The idea for Breakroom emerged after Anna and two friends thought about how they could tackle the rise in income inequality. The trio believed improving lower-paid and traditionally undervalued jobs in industries such as retail, hospitality and social care could be one way to do this. 

In order to work out how to do this, they began having conversations with those working within these industries. From this, they learned there was a huge information black hole. 

These conversations turned into surveys with questions all about shifts, pay, employers, team and customers. Anna and her co-founders discovered that workers were keen to know what everyone else was saying in the survey - and saw the huge potential sharing the results had.  

In recent years, the pandemic has revealed the true value of front-line workers and their importance to the economy. Breakroom’s mission, therefore, now resonates with many more people.

Today, Breakroom has an online quiz designed to get into the nuts and bolts of these front-line jobs. At the end of the quiz, each worker receives a score based on their answers, enabling them to compare their role to other jobs and find somewhere better to work. On the other side of the coin, Breakroom also helps employers understand how they compare in the market and in which ways they can improve.  

As Breakroom is a worker-first company that prioritises transparency by listing the best and worst places to work, Anna admits she was worried it would not be popular with employers. She was surprised to learn, however, that businesses understood the value of such feedback. She explains that in the light of the current recruitment crisis, many employers are open to improving the work they offer.   

The fundraising process

Breakroom successfully completed a fundraise at the backend of 2021. Breakroom now has 3 seed-fund investors and Anna feels lucky that they had a choice in who they picked. Their investors such as Resolution Ventures, for example, are a charity who exist to help change government policy around low- and middle-income workers and provide Breakroom with not only financial, but research, support.

Next for Breakroom

Anna explains that having more capital has massively helped boost momentum at Breakroom. Moving forward, she is keen to build out the site’s data collection capabilities for comparison purposes. She also wants to develop the product for employers to help them learn and recruit from the data Breakroom collects.

The team will also be expanding from 6-7 employees at the start of this year to 20 in the next couple of months. This team expansion has allowed Anna to introduce a marketing function within the business to tap into the ability of Breakroom’s data to tell stories. Anna is excited to supercharge the business with ‘marketing firepower’.

In the same way that Breakroom encourages employers to use employee feedback to improve their business, Anna’s advice to other entrepreneurs is to always return to talking to your customers. She emphasises that this is the most useful activity a business can do no matter how much growth it experiences.   

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