Talk about a jack of all trades or maybe just in art and the entertainment industry. She’s previously worked with the likes of Adidas, Toyota, and Serena Williams and also been a music producer, blogger and DJ.
And it was the perfect shift when she decided to launch her own company last year called The Backscratchers, a platform that connects innovative brands, agencies and companies with creative freelance talent for short-term projects and collaborations.
I invited Jody Orsborn, co-founder and CEO of The Backscratchers over on YHP to share her story.
Hi Jody, Thanks for doing this. How are you doing today?
I’m doing great, thanks.
Can you give us some background information about yourself?
Sure, I’m from the states, California and Tennessee to be exact, and moved to London two and half years ago. I’m a music producer, blogger and DJ by trade. I’ve done things ranging from travelling across America on a train blogging for Mumford and Sons and organising 1000+ person parties at car washes with the likes of Adidas and Toyota to producing music for tv adverts staring Serena Williams and DJing for Secret Cinema. I founded a company in 2012 called The Backscratchers.
What is Backscratchers? And what are you trying to solve with it?
The Backscratchers is a platform that connects innovative brands, agencies and companies with creative freelance talent for short-term projects and collaborations. Essentially, we are just bringing a bunch of people together who we think are amazing and should know and work with each other. They can do that via paid projects or collaborative projects.
How did the idea for Backscratchers come about?
I was doing a Masters with Patrick Elliott, one of my co-founders. We had both worked in the creative industries before and connected over our shared passion for music. We started chatting and realised that though we came at it from different angles (myself from the business side and Patrick as a musician), that we’d both come up against the same roadblock when working on projects.
That roadblock was always a person, or more specifically, the lack of a person that could help bring our projects to fruition. After hearing from lots of other people and companies that they also had the same pain points, we decided to do something about it and attempt to solve the issue.
Tell me about the early days, what was the hardest part of starting the business?
Reinforcing the reason that we wanted to start The Backscratchers in the first place, the hardest part was finding a third partner that 1) understood and bought into the vision and 2) could help us develop and build the site as neither Patrick nor I were coders. After quite a bit of trial and error and false starts, we lucked out when we found Leo Critchley. Not only is he a talented developer, but he’s also a published author and illustrator, so he understands our business on multiple levels and has experienced the same pain points as us.
How have you been able to fund it?
We received funding through Springboard, the startup accelerator working out of Google Campus in London and then we raised a small convertible note round post- Springboard. Now, we’re raising a seed round.
What sorts of advice do you having for entrepreneurs looking to raise money for their startups?
Not all money is the same. Make sure it’s coming from people that are passionate about what you are doing and who adds value. Also, it takes a lot longer than you think it is going to take so make sure you give yourself ample time.
About the first few months, how excited were you, tell us about how those months felt, what happened?
It was so exciting! Still is really. I loved seeing our idea come to life and take form. It’s so cool to see a finished project and to be like…yeah! We helped make that happen. It’s a great feeling.
How did you initially get traction?
We focused on London and went out through our own networks and contacts.
What are the most crucial things that you have done to grow your business?
Choosing the right team. Everyone that we work with is passionate, flexible and willing to take risks. People have said it before, but it really is true that even if you have a great product, if you don’t have the right team, it’s really all for naught. We also aren’t afraid to put ourselves out there, to cold call, email, approach companies that we want to work with, etc. Some amazing things can happen just by walking up and introducing yourself to a random group of people.
What would you say has been the highlight of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
Seeing the product up and running and having people use it is the tops. Springboard, the accelerator, was a really amazing experience as well. We got to work for three months out of Google Campus with 10 amazing companies and were mentored by people from Google, Microsoft, Shazam, etc. It was a real game changer for us.
What should we be expecting from yourself and Backscratchers team for 2013?
We will be expanding UK-wide and expanding the range of skills on the website. We are also going to be participating in the BBC Labs programme, which is six months of working out the BBC’s offices in London and working closely with a number of their department, so there should be some cool things coming out of that!
Lastly, what three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
Don’t be a jerk.
Don’t get hung up on any particular highs or lows. Running a startup really is like being on a rollercoaster and you just gotta keep on keeping on.
Be obsessed with solving the problem, not your exact solution. Your solution should constantly be evolving.