Bobbie Racette is founder and CEO of Virtual Gurus.
Calgary’s Business: What’s the history behind Virtual Gurus, how it came to be and when?
Racette: I founded Virtual Gurus by myself. I started thinking of the idea in 2014. I really started putting pen to paper in 2015 and even did a pre-launch to see if it would work.
The only problem was I didn’t have any virtual assistants yet, so I was the one doing the work when the requests were coming in. I would do my 12-hour shifts as a safety inspector in the oil and gas sector and then do assistant work, basically utilizing that time to build out the idea more.
What inspired me to launch it was knowing that I would be laid off my oil and gas job as the recession hit and I kept thinking I would have to go back into administration. But it was always so hard for me to find a job in administration so I thought I’ll just do it on my own and build a company that can hopefully create jobs. We officially launched in January 2016.
CB: Tell me what Virtual Gurus does?
Racette: As part of the gig economy we provide a wide range of virtual support services to companies that are at various stages of growth in their business. We provide support from administrative and executive assistants to medical, financial, real estate assistants and more.
Multiple businesses share one assistant who works on a timer base; therefore they are 100 per cent productive while creating a cost effective solution for the client.
But we didn’t just build Virtual Gurus for the business owners and entrepreneurs. We also built it with Canadian remote workers in mind. The original plan was to give jobs to people who struggle to find work or have been laid off due to the recession. But because of our growth anyone can apply to work here as long as they have experience.
CB: Why is there a need for this in the marketplace?
Racette: The way we work is changing; businesses and entrepreneurs don’t always necessarily need someone in-office full time. The average administration worker is busy for two hours and 53 minutes of their day. Give them multiple clients and that number increases massively. Busy entrepreneurs and business owners don’t have the time to manage them but when you sign up with us, you get a full management team behind you.
There are a ton of companies out there that are doing this but they are offshoring. Working with overseas assistant companies certainly does fill a specific need at times, but for a lot of our clients who need us for client facing work it’s an asset to have an assistant who is familiar with the Canadian marketplace and can work into a client’s company culture and brand. Right now, we are one of the only North American virtual assistant firms that doesn’t offshore.
CB: How has your business grown since its inception? Can you quantify the number of people who are using your services?
Racette: Well, we started in January 2016 with one contracting assistant and myself and my business partner at the time. We now have 40 virtual assistants, 140 virtual call centre agents and a management team, as well as sales team. As in any startup, the number of users changes daily. Right now we average between 120 to 180 monthly clients. Our packages range anywhere from $350 a month to $10,000 a month (for the larger corporate accounts).
CB: What are your plans for the company’s future?
Racette: We have just restructured to scale, so we are now able to focus on signing up the bigger corporate and Fortune 500 type clients by being their go-to virtual agency. It has become evident since we launched that people want to work from home; we now have more than 15,000 people in our database who have applied to work with us. So we are launching our Virtual Gurus Academy, where unlimited yearly courses will be supplied to all Canadian remote workers to give them the skills required to work from home. We’re extremely excited for this.
– Mario Toneguzzi
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