Unprecedented with Anna Hernandez
At Unprecedented, we had the opportunity to speak to Anna Hernandez, Co-Founder of TaskHer, who spoke to us about how the pandemic was a catalyst in starting her business and how she has coped from a mental health perspective.
A background into you and your business?
My Co-founder and partner Paul Moynihan and I met whilst working together at a leading UK events agency - Paul as Strategic Director and myself as Group Head of Marketing. At the tail end of 2019, I went on maternity leave after our daughter arrived somewhat earlier than expected and a few months later the pandemic hit.
The effect of Covid 19 was devastating on the events world and quite quickly it became apparent that in order to survive, the company was going to have to drastically reduce headcount and that included both of us. We were fortunate enough to have enough financial resources to allow us essentially to take the rest of the year to spend with our new baby and work out our next moves career-wise.
In the November of 2020, we were planning some improvement work on our property (much like most of the country at this point!) and I was charged with finding contractors. Every few days a tradesman would turn up to give us a quote and would turn directly to talk to Paul. It was driving me nuts, mainly because Paul literally has no idea when it comes to home improvements. So I decided I was going to find a female kitchen fitter to see if the experience was different.
And that was the moment the idea for TaskHer was born.
There was little to no ability to book tradeswomen online, and as we dug deeper into the statistics around women in skilled trades, we were really shocked. The lack of representation of women in trades paired with an ongoing hatred of the levels of friction when booking tradespeople through the current online directories available, meant we had a business idea - and one with a purpose we were really passionate about!
TaskHer launched early 2022 with our MVP - a booking platform that connects you quickly and simply to tradeswomen with the expertise you need. Everyone on our platform is verified, so we know they’re highly qualified and expert, ready to do fantastic work – no drama. You just use our service finder to select the trade you need, answer some quick questions and your booking is sent out to tradeswomen who service your area. You get an immediate quote, can communicate directly with your tradeswoman and pay them securely through the TaskHer site.
TaskHer’s also totally free for tradeswomen to use - something that’s really important to us, as the booking site is part of our wider plan to play a significant part in addressing the gender imbalance in skilled manual trades.
Define leadership and what being a leader means to you?
Leadership for me is a clear vision, an open mind and the ability to listen. I believe there is a lot of self-reflection involved in being a strong leader. A real understanding of self - something that might often be ignored.
For me, a good leader is someone who can galvanise a group of people to achieve ambitious targets. Giving people the freedom to both succeed, to make mistakes in a supportive environment and be there to catch them when things go wrong.
What are the “non-negotiable” behaviours that you expect you and those around you to live by?
Integrity is a big one. I think that in most people if decisions and actions are taken from a place of integrity there is almost always a positive outcome.
What impact has Covid-19 had on you?
An oddly positive one. Obviously, it was horrific on so many levels, but on the whole, we were lucky to be a strong unit who enjoyed one another’s company when forced to spend 24 hours a day together. Without Covid-19 we simply wouldn’t be running an impact startup which we love, because we probably wouldn’t have had the headspace to get there.
When your world as you know it falls apart around you, it gives you a lot of confidence to take a leap of faith into something like starting a new business!
What impact has covid had on your business?
Other than being the catalyst for its creation, the trades world on a whole (in the UK) has been lucky enough. Government restrictions haven’t stopped people from having essential maintenance on their homes, and people spending so much time in their properties has made demand much higher for tradespeople.
How have you and your business coped from a mental health/stress perspective?
As soon as we were allowed and it was safe to, we started coming to a shared office space in Kings Cross, which is geared towards supporting impact focussed start-ups. Not sitting at our dining room table every day has significantly improved our mental health!
I’m also a huge advocate of talking therapy and will bang on about it to anyone who’ll listen so that in itself has also really helped me directly.
Looking back to March 2020. If you could change one decision that you made, what would it be?
To let go of the idea that being on maternity leave meant I was safe from what was about to hit!
Looking ahead to 2022, what are your predictions for the economy? For your sector?
Brexit and retirement have posed a real threat to the trades industry, with Europeans heading back to their native countries during the pandemic and not coming back to the UK. This is, however, a huge market growth opportunity for women in trades. It’s estimated that the UK will need around 15,000 extra electricians by 2024, so now is the time for women and girls to train and take a lucrative career path in the trades.
The Pandemic has caused many of us to reassess what is important in our lives. In what ways have you recalibrated your own priorities and goals?
Running an impact start-up was something we’d not ever considered and yet the purpose behind what we are trying to achieve had become a priority that I don't think we’d had when working in the events industry. That’s not to say that events don't have their place in having an impact (the amount we’ve all missed being able to socialise is proof of that), but it wasn’t something that was the priority for us that it is now. Also "work-life balance" is a classic for a reason, right? We get to both be home to pick up our daughter from nursery, we are there in the mornings with her and have the flexibility to put her first.