Q&A: How Bobbie Racette is adapting to a new normal.

Bobbie is the Founder and CEO of Virtual Gurus, a Talent as a Service platform that matches its users with Canadian and US-based virtual assistants and freelancers, a proprietary matchmaking algorithm, and curated client success managers. Recently named both Canada’s Indigenous Entrepreneur of the Year and Woman Entrepreneur of the Year, Prairies Region by Startup Canada, Bobbie is an unstoppable force in the Canadian startup community. She is a Cree-Metis woman who prides herself on building an inclusivity-first company, championing for indigenous people and the LGBTQ+ community. She is a natural leader, sharing her passion by mentoring First Nations youth who have demonstrated interest in Tech and Business. Bobbie shares how Virtual Gurus has been adapting to the pandemic, including how she stays connected with customers and her advice to fellow entrepreneurs.

 

What area of your business is getting your most energy and focus?

Right now I would say our new Slackapp, askBetty, which is launching very soon. We leverage human-powered assistants through our Slackbot, giving you easy and instant access to a live virtual assistant whenever and wherever you need for one-off tasks.

What is the most important problem you are trying to solve?

We want to be a cost-effective solution to entrepreneurs, business owners, or someone who is just super busy to allow them time to spend on ​the routine tasks that keep the business running.​ While doing so we want to provide work to marginalized folks who have struggled to find work. Virtual Gurus is one of the largest freelance teams in Canada and is made up of 95% who identify as Female, 65% are People of Color while 45% are part of the LGBTQ2+ community.

What has been your most successful solution so far?

Freelancers & Virtual Assistants have been around for a while now, but we found that our clients like that we provide onshore dedicated Assistants based on the skills they need. Providing full back-office support to clients who may not need a full-time Assistant while providing work-from-home positions to hundreds of Canadians has really worked well for us. Through the pandemic, we, like many others, had to pivot so we launched our people over profit program and provided free services to 110 startups that were affected by COVID-19.

 

We can’t plan for a pandemic or any sort of economic crisis but we can plan to help others through it…

 

How have you been staying connected with your customers and employees?

​We reach out regularly to our clients, whether it’s just to check-in and see how they are or checking if they need any further assistance. We also make it easy for them to access any of our staff or their VA through our messaging system. With our contractors, our client success team contacted them via telephone throughout the pandemic a bit more than usual to check in on them. We also had a channel set up in our Slack titled “Values Check-in” where we would all check in regularly on how we were doing – it was a safe space for us to just talk and get support from our colleagues.

What financial resources are you tapping into?

 We closed a $1.25M equity round right before COVID-19 hit which put us into a good position. We have accessed NRC IRAP IAP wage subsidy funding through COVID-19. We also have been lucky to receive grants from IRAP and Alberta Innovates and we have a few other grants that we’re in the second and third approval stages of.

What has surprised you?

Even when the times get tough the grind never ends.

How far ahead are you planning?

I always plan ahead even in my personal life, but in the startup life you can try and plan ahead but really you have to go day by day and you have to be able to adapt as you go.

What keeps you positive?

My team – the client success managers, the sales managers, the dev team behind the technology, our COO – we are united as a team and I am extremely proud and thankful for that.

What message do you want to share with entrepreneurs right now?

We can’t plan for a pandemic or any sort of economic crisis but we can plan to help others through it whether it be supporting a local restaurant to purchasing apps and services that are local.