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Gen George on building a business at 21

Gen George is the Founder of OneShift, a free resource for job seekers and businesses to find and fill one-off shifts, casual work and permanent positions. Launched in 2012 at only 21 years of age, Gen is absolutely killing it, and this is only the beginning. 

What has your journey to OneShift been?

I had finished high school and received a scholarship to Bond University to complete a degree in Property and Law. I was there for about 12 months before thinking, “I need to get a job or something!” so I moved back to Sydney and worked at Knight Frank for six months before heading overseas to work in the super yacht industry for about eight months.  My friends and I were just trying to get any old work as deckhands, waiters, bartenders, kitchen staff… anything they could throw at us really.

Coming back to Australia after experiencing the difficulty in finding (and managing) short-term work, I came to realise that there was nothing here in Australia that fills that need.

How have you brought your idea to life?

I started a WordPress site, and while working full time and at college, every night I would go to universities and put up posters trying to get students to sign up. On the weekends I would hit Oxford Street and Coogee- anywhere to try and get businesses to sign up to my ridiculously bad looking website. In the beginning I did some very stupid things like having business cards printed without the website or contact details- a very steep learning curve which I laugh at now.

From there, and working with a few clubs for promo nights, I had about 300 uni students using it and realised that I had something that worked, and it was a real concept. Since launching a real website on June 13, 2012, we are just hitting the streets everyday, doing what we can to get businesses signing up.

How has OneShift grown since your 2012 launch?

Today, we’ve got 300,000 jobseekers on board, and about 35,000 businesses around Australia. We’ve also launched in New Zealand with about 500 businesses and about 2,500 job seekers; and have soft launched in the US and the UK. The whole concept is for job seekers to be able to get off the plane and find casual part-time, short-term positions to suit their skillset, so we’re building something that means you could jump off in New York and work in a marketing agency for a month, then fly to London and do the same.

The beauty of a website is that we can just turn it on in the different markets using Google AdWords. There are a lot of benefits for having offices around the world. Depending on what you’re trying to do, overseas markets can allow you to be quite a competitive business and work 24/7 across different time zones. For us, it’s all about trial and error and I suppose our biggest business mantra is, “If you don’t try, you’re failing”. It’s better to fail quickly and cheaply and then pivot from there.

A lot of OneShift’s growth is about being around the right people who can help us become a household name. We fluctuate up to about 40 people in the office at one time, and we try to focus on the culture, and finding people as ridiculously passionate about OneShift as we are. We’re not a 9-5 business, so it’s about creating the right atmosphere so that we can grow as fast as possible, with a team that I can walk away from and be focusing on something else, knowing they’ll keep it all growing.

Have you always wanted to have your own business?

I’ve been fortunate enough for my Dad to have his own business, and so being around him at work I’ve grown to understand that if you want a 40-hour week, you don’t start your own business- it’s 24/7. You wake up at 3am going, “ Hell, this hasn’t worked.” The results have just come in, or someone’s just emailed, and you’re the only one who can fix it- so you definitely need to have that passion and drive to keep going.

It’s always interesting where people come from and why they start a business, but I think it comes back to having that one idea that you’re so passionate about, whether you are brought up as an entrepreneur or you come up with something at uni, or at your full time job. It’s inspiring if someone finds something that they think is really cool and they have the courage to step out from what they’re doing, and put their attention into making it what it is.

Any advice for other young entrepreneurs?

Be 80% ready for a race, not 100% ready, because if you wait until you’re 100% ready you risk missing the race all together. If you’re 80% ready and give it a go, you’re in the race and can just figure it out as you go.

I think it’s more about not being afraid to take the leap of faith and making those failures because you only get to where you are by making those mistakes. Celebrating, and not freaking out about them is really important, because it’s actually a good thing. If you fail, it means you know where not to step and how to get their quicker, and next time you’re going to run twice as fast. It’s a lot more fun to fail than to just not do anything at all.

You received a $5 million investment at the end of last year, how has this affected the way you work at OneShift?

After signing the papers on October 1st, my Dad (the other Director), and our CFO got into the lift and I was like, “Did we just rob a bank?”-could hardly believe it — it was exhilarating. We had a glass of champagne and then it was back to work thinking, “We’ve actually got to do this!”

We were fortunate enough to have varying businesses wanting to be involved with OneShift, or take us out completely. We made the decision to have a strategic partner, and taking on Programmed has given us the benefits of a partner that could bring us the knowledge and the history to the table that we didn’t have. There have been a lot of shared services that have been brought across, above and beyond the monetary investment, which means we’ve been able to grow the business more than we would have thought in the last 6 months.

Where is OneShift going in the future?

We have lots of really cool features coming out (which I can’t tell you just yet!), but I think the benefit of having it the way it is, and this culture, is that it’s a culture of ‘Give It A Go’- allowing us to grow a lot quicker and in different ways that we wouldn’t have thought.

Yes, we are called ‘OneShift’, but from where we started, we aren’t physically OneShift anymore, we’re casual, part-time, and we get a third of our work fulltime. Allowing our product to grow to suit our user base and what they’re actually using it for is so important, we need to adapt and change. Equally important is staying true to our core values, developing and being as scalable as possible.

Are you a OneShift user?

Yes, except for senior management level, pretty much everyone within our company has come through OneShift. You have to use your product- live and breathe it- if it doesn’t work for us, then it’s not going to work for anyone!

If you’re looking for casual, part-time or full-time work, head to as there’s a good chance you will find what you’re looking for!


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