Forge is creating an entirely new way for companies to source, hire, and schedule their hourly talent while providing complete flexibility to the employee.
When young people—and young women, in particular—consider an entrepreneurial path rather than the rote route of college, they are encouraged and inspired by the story of Stacey Ferreira, who left New York University at age 18 to cofound MySocialCloud with her brother Scott Ferreira and Shiv Prakash and successfully exited two years later when the company was purchased by Reputation.com. In the three years since then, Stacey co-wrote a book that challenges stereotypes about the millennial generation, appeared on many stages and in the media as a millennial thought-leader and young entrepreneur, and developed a startup that seeks to revolutionize the relationship between traditional employers and part-time workers. As this new concept begins its first 90-day test in quick-service restaurants in Salt Lake City, Utah, Stacey shared her vision exclusively with HatchPad.co.
HatchPad: Your latest startup is Forge (formerly Forrge). Tell me about it.
Stacey Ferreira: Forge is creating an entirely new way for W2, part-time employees to schedule themselves and work on-demand at the businesses where they currently work. One of the things I learned while writing “2 Billion Under 20: How Millennials Are Breaking Down Age Barriers and Changing the World” (with co-author Jared Kleinert) was that one thing millennials want most in life is flexibility. They want to be able to work when they want to work. They don’t want a manager telling them, “You have to work these hours.” This more fluid kind of work structure [pioneered by such companies as Uber and TaskRabbit] is what the future of work looks like.
Instead of the uncertainty associated with [IRS form] 1099, one-off job opportunities, we are giving people the ability to get hired and work on-demand at these traditional companies—starting with restaurants, retail, and distribution warehouses.
HatchPad: As a 2015 recipient of a Thiel Fellowship, your “job” was to create a new type of business. How did you come up with the idea? What problems does Forge solve?
SF: My best friend from Arizona, where I grew up, graduated from college and started working in retail. She loved talking to people all day, not working 9 to 5 in a cubicle, but she had no control over when she worked and no flexibility. For example, when she needed to take her dog to the vet, her manager said, “You can’t. I need you.”
Since I was interested in the on-demand economy, I started thinking about ways an on-demand model could apply to her work. I started doing research and realized that anyone running these traditional businesses is in a squeeze. Labor is a huge cost center for them, and with things like the Affordable Care Act, the cost associated with each employee is increasing. Some companies are looking for ways to cap hours to get around providing benefits, but that leaves the worker in a hard spot and causes turnover. There really wasn’t a good solution for either party.
That’s when I decided to accept the Fellowship and start Forge to help both companies and employees.
HatchPad: How does Forge solve these problems?
SF: Forge is creating an entirely new way for companies to source, hire, and schedule their hourly talent while providing complete flexibility to the employee. In the Forge model, [multiple] companies in a [single] geography are using the Forge shared scheduling ecosystem, which allows them to upload the available hours when they need individuals to work in their stores. They’re then onboarding their existing workforce; those workers have access to see all the hours and select which hours they want to work.
Businesses can also leverage the Forge shared talent pool to find new people who are interested in selecting their own hours to work at their locations.
For people who want to be a part of the shared talent pool, Forge has a common job application process. They fill out information about themselves, such as prior work experience, education history, all those sorts of things that all employers want. Each employer has certain unique supplemental questions, so the applicant can answer those via text or in a short video interview. Or, if desired by a hiring manager, the individual can schedule face-to-face interviews through Forge.
Once applicants are approved, they can sign up for on-site trainee shifts to learn the basics. After being fully trained, the employees can select the shifts they want to work each day or week through the Forge web platform or mobile app. If something comes up and they need to change or cancel their shift, they can do that through Forge, and the shift goes back into the ecosystem so that it can be picked up by someone else.
HatchPad: I’m sure some shifts are easy to fill, but some are very hard. How can Forge make sure all the hours are covered?
SF: For companies that opt into it and set their upper and lower [payment] bounds, Forge can solve the supply/demand problem through dynamic wages. Wages fluctuate up and down depending on time of day and supply of talent in the ecosystem. For hours that are more desirable, companies pay less. For hours that no one wants to work, companies pay more. But the employer always decides what the minimum and maximum hourly wage will be.
HatchPad: Aren’t employers worried about giving this much control to workers?
SF: Implementing a system like Forge isn’t like adopting other software; it is a huge cultural shift. All the companies we work with value their employees and understand that giving them flexibility ultimately helps create a level of trust and a longer lasting relationship. Some companies are worried about the change enabled by everyone having a smartphone in their pocket. But most companies (especially ones with millennial workforces) understand that on-demand autonomy is the future of work, and they won’t be able to continue being a competitive employer with other on-demand options that allow this complete flexibility.
HatchPad: Which companies have stepped up to work with you?
SF: Right now, we’re working with a host of franchises in Salt Lake City, Utah, and San Diego, California. To start, a group that operates several Dunkin Donuts, Sizzler, Red Robin, Little Caesars, and WingStop locations invested in Forge as part of our $1.5 million seed round in December. That got the ball rolling.
HatchPad: If Forge catches on in Salt Lake City, what’s next?
SF: We plan to roll out city by city to ensure the workforce has ample cross-location work opportunities. We started in Salt Lake City in July. California will be the next location of choice.
Name of Business: Forge
Founder: Stacey Ferreira
Age of Founder: 23
Business Type: Human resources application for hourly workers
Location: San Francisco, California
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