Here at creme we are always looking forward, working to grow, progress and learn! We are passionate about people, art, design, business, the lot and we thought you might be too. In light of this, we have created a mini series, Coffee with Creme, throughout this series, we will be interviewing friends of the business to hear more about what fuels their fire, their career and what we can learn from them...
Now it's time to tune in with our first guest, Jess Ruhfus, founder of Collabosaurus.
Tell us about your pre Collabosaurus days:
Well aside from one hand modelling job when I was 13 (I’m on the back of a board game!) & graduating to working at ‘Surfside Video’ through highschool, I started out really wanting to work in film.
I lied my way onto the set of The Great Gatsby, worked on music video shoots & dabbled in a few short film & script writing projects. However, it was well known at the time that succeeding in the Australian film industry was no easy feat, & I didn’t fancy moving my life to LA, so I changed my major to public relations & communications.
Starry eyed, I landed my first ‘big’ job at a boutique fashion PR firm in Sydney - where my expectations were turned upside down as long hours, a 3 hour commutes, low pay & big KPIs became the reality. I learnt so much in this role & had some incredible co-workers who I still call friends today, but it was clear that fashion PR wasn’t for me! I was a fish out of water.
Something that stood out to me in the PR days was the amount of opportunities getting missed. There were media events happening nearly every day of the week, where brands & publicists sought out ‘free stuff’ from other brands to help both make the event memorable, & reduce their costs. As someone new to the industry with zero network, this stood out to me as a problem! I’ll never forget going to a Watson x Watson industry fashion show, where they had partnered with Vittoria coffee. On entry, everyone (even the lowly junior burger) had a personalised coffee cup with their name on it from Vittoria. That stood out to me! Why weren’t more brands doing it?
From this job, I hopped a little closer to home & got a role working at a marketing education company for small businesses. Here, we taught business owners about brand collaborations & partnerships - but few people were actually doing them. Either because they’d been taken advantage of in the past, or because they didn’t know where to start at all.
One day in 2014 I had the idea for Collabosaurus as I was going off to sleep. I think it was a culmination of all of my previous frustrations with brand partnerships, but also because I’d hijacked a co-workers Tinder to ‘swipe right’ on a few suitors on his behalf. Then, boom! Somehow, about 9 months later we launched Collabosaurus - the matchmaking platform that connects over 8000 brands like The Iconic, Sofitel & Marks & Spencer for clever marketing collabs.
What do you feel has changed in the digital industry?
Two of the major things that stand out are
1) The change in the media landscape and the need for ‘PR’ to be so multifaceted in approach (i.e it’s not just about media placement anymore, one of the reasons multichannel reach through brand collaborations is so powerful!)
2) Consumers are savvier than ever & can spot blatant promotional material. Storytelling & authentic content is more important than ever for brands!
Biggest highlight with Collabosaurus?
There have been so many highlights! I won a B&T 30Under30 award for entrepreneurship in 2019 & spoke at Vogue Codes to an audience of 900 people - these two were definitely some of the highlights. ASOS signing up out of the blue, bootstrapping our success so far & FINALLY launching the Collabo-App 6 years into the journey also are high on the list.
What’s been the biggest challenge with the business to date?
As the company grows & enters new stages, the challenges change. I remember thinking “everything will be less stressful when I can hire more people” (hahaha - not the case at all!) From cashflow, to technical glitches, to difficult clients, to hiring, firing & people management - running a business isn’t for the faint hearted!
I suppose to date it has been the challenge of burnout - at the end of 2018 I returned from the US absolutely broke & dejected after unsuccessfully attempting to raise capital for months. Coming back from burnout & the ego shot of all of the rejection was super hard & probably has been the biggest challenge to date.
What fuels you with regards to business? and how do you re energise?
Coffee is definitely a fuel! Funnily enough, so is sleep. Those two things are my non-negotiables! When I need to re-energise I block ‘me-time’ in the diary & also try to focus on my favourite kinds of work - the work that lights me up & that I enjoy!
What are your top tools you couldn't run your business without?
Toggl is SUCH an amazing, free tool. It’s fantastic for productivity & time management for the entire team.
If you could share one insight or learning with regards to business, what would it be?
My two favourite quotes: 'Don’t wait for opportunity. Create it.'
'Great things never came from comfort zones.'
Both have been incredibly true & helpful on my business building journey thus far!