First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Anita Darden Gardyne: We live with an 86 year old, so we are focused on keeping the circle as small as possible while being productive and making it work. It is challenging, but we are still in the shell, slowing starting to come out.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Onēva.
Anita Darden Gardyne: I spent nearly two decades in leadership positions as CFO at Quantum (Seagate), leading a disk drive business unit generating $3.5B in revenue, and roles with Levi Strauss & Co, IDG, and AT&T (Pacific Bell). I was a working mother to my kids and caregiver to my own mom and found myself frustrated that I couldn’t easily find trusted care through the existing marketplace for my family. Believing both access to trusted care AND earning a living rate for delivering quality, professional care are human rights, I went to work and co-founded my company Onēva to reimagine the career for caregivers while providing an enticing and essential employer-provided benefit to client employees.
I collaborated with Microsoft to build Onēva’s technology platform, welcoming them as the system’s first customer in 2016. Onēva now plays a critical role in providing access to safety compliant in-home care for businesses, customers, and caregivers.
How does Onēva innovate?
Anita Darden Gardyne: It is my personal mission to extend women’s careers, close the pay equity gap faster, and create living-wage jobs. Onēva offers an employer-provided technology platform that matches FBI background checked in-home care providers with employees to help them achieve greater work-life balance and peace of mind. Through the benefit, caregivers are able to set their own rates, choose their own customers, carve their own schedule, and pursue jobs that best match their skillset. Meanwhile, employees are comforted to know available caregivers have living FBI background checks, are fairly compensated, and are trustworthy to care for elders, children, those with disabilities, pets, and home needs.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Anita Darden Gardyne: Like all companies, our company was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. After spending 2019 on our technology, we had planned a more engaged roll out in 2020, which had to be put on hold.
CDC guidelines required everyone to close our homes to outside family, friends, and caregivers. For us, that meant a halt to revenue. We all watched horrible job losses mount. We immediately applied for a PPP loan and were blessed to receive one in the second round. We adapted our workflows to remove as much in-person interaction as possible and modified our technology to increase our focus on safety, including Coronavirus. Fortunately, we have a very talented, nimble team, and all worked together to modify our product quickly.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Anita Darden Gardyne: I am very goal-oriented. After a year of developing tremendous technology that we are very proud of, it was difficult to delay our plans to scale in 2020. That said, it was tremendous to see how quickly our team was able to adapt our technology and workflows for what we are still learning to be the new normal. Our partners were tremendous in guiding us and only further illustrated the importance of listening and responding to customer needs. Our partners reminded us that customers needed to see our hyper-focus on creating healthy care matches and really guided us to elevate our minds, our workflows, and our technology to compete in this new world. As a result, we narrowed our focus on these goals and earned our largest single investment to date.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Onēva in the future?
Anita Darden Gardyne: I remember my mission – the reason I created Onēva and all of the men, women, and children we serve with the platform. Even when times are challenging, I remind myself to never give up and never surrender because if your feet are moving, the ball is in play. As a Black business owner, I think about our ancestors and the hardships they endured. It empowers me to press forward. We are entrepreneurs, which, by definition, means we are great at solving problems.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Anita Darden Gardyne: Sitter City and Bright Horizons, Craigslist, Care.com, Urban Sitters and Cleo
Trust and safety are built-in from the start at Onēva. As proof, The US Patent Office awarded our technology platform a patent for “Trust and Safety in the In-Home Care Market” in 2019. Our competitors chose not to build in trust, which for us is paramount and begins with our living FBI and Department of Justice background checks, which are key and a 1987 CA Care regulation the competition chose to ignore.
Your final thoughts?
Anita Darden Gardyne: It is critical to remember that with any startup, it takes a village, and it takes time. But don’t give up. As long as your feet are moving, you are still in the game. If the door closes, look for a window. If the window is closed, look for a vent.
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