It took a "journey to self-discovery" and the pursuit of purpose for accountants Aaisha Martin and Nisa Nathu Hari to hang up their 8-4 corporate hats and embark on their entrepreneurial drive with the launch of their start-up, skillpik – an online marketplace for service providers.
The budding entrepreneurs believe their company’s online platform is the perfect place for people to shape their passion into lucrative careers.
“In our continuous journey to self-discovery, we met a couple stumbling blocks on the way but landed on an idea that turned into a business. For us, this was about influencing the way we think, the way we work and the way we dream – helping others through their process of self-discovery,” said Martin.
“How do we find a purpose? Were we alone in this thought process? Can we support others who were just like us? These were a few of the many questions that plagued our minds in the years leading up to the formation of the skillpik platform.”
Put simply, skillpik is a place where you can digitally buy and sell almost any service. The company provides a plethora of services, whether they're something as simple as filling out a visa application form or as complex as developing a mobile application.
Basically, once you provide a service, you can offer your skills on skillpik to anyone visiting the skillpik.com website. Also, people looking for any service can use skillpik to find numerous service providers to choose from.
Martin said, “We are changing the landscape of the job market, changing the way we work. We are drawing the attention to skills, not roles, and we’ve realised that people overlook their skills, the simple things that can add value to someone else’s life.”
From A-Z, skillpik is the ‘Amazon of services’
Since launching skillpik in August last year, the company has registered over 200 service providers and is currently focused on getting a foothold locally.
“We are currently on a drive to create brand awareness so that service providers know that there is a platform like skillpik out here where they can now have a home to offer their services. As we grow, so too does our team, some of whom have been outsourced using the platform,” Martin said.
“As a marketplace for services, we provide service seekers with an accessible place to find just about any service – from A to Z . What skillpik does is make the reach a lot easier for both parties. We also simplify business by offering a safe e-commerce feature to our users with built in layers of security, an important aspect for any virtual business.”
The co-founders who dubbed skillpik as the ‘Amazon of services,’ said they created the company to bring solutions to real problems by connecting real people with real opportunity.
“Skillpik is a movement. It was created with the local and regional service provider in mind. The skillpik platform is the Amazon of services! A very apt name we created to describe the depth of the platform,” Nathu Hari said.
For the two-woman team, the name they chose for their business was crucial, as they wanted to ensure that it encapsulated everything their company represented. Martin and Nathu Hari brainstormed over 100 names and even bought five different website domains in a bid to find the perfect name.
“I remember saying, when the right name comes, I will feel it, I will just know,” Martin said.
“We wanted a name that would be clear with what our company represented and then finally it landed – skillpik. You can ‘pik’ just about any ‘skill.’ It was synonymous with everything we envisioned our brand to be and wanted it to represent. A quick poll with a few of our friends confirmed it.”
Since skillpik’s launch, Martin and Nathu Hari, like most start-ups, have encountered their fair share of challenges, including delays in their product launch, financial limitations and team constraints.
“One major learning point for us is that you just have to start and you will get better at outing the fires as they come,” Nathu Hari said.
The covid19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on lives and livelihood, but Martin and Nathu Hari prefer to look at the glass half-full. They had no qualms about launching skillpik in the midst of a global pandemic when many businesses were shutting down.
For them, the timing was perfect to launch skillpik to capitalise on the digital shift exacerbated by the pandemic.
“Skillpik is promoting a different type of work and covid19 has forced both organisations and the workforce alike to realise that flexibility is paramount to the new way of working. Our technology allows for this,” Martin said.
“In every crisis there is opportunity. It really depends on which end of the table you want to sit. Covid is here, it’s happening and it’s going nowhere in a hurry. We can choose to get tumbled with the waves or we can choose to ride the waters, manoeuvre through the tides. We chose the latter, to find the beauty in the discomfort.”
Nathu Hari said skillpik can help people who are suffering from job and income loss.
“The ripple effects of covid19 continue to be heartbreaking. We must adapt in this ever-changing market! The skillpik platform is the perfect place to start. Any person has the ability to conduct business at their fingertips in the convenience of their home. Once you have a skill to offer, we created the place for you to offer it without the need for significant capital outlay, resulting in notable cost savings.”
Despite not yet having reached the first anniversary of their launch, Martin and Nathu Hari are already looking to the future and have ambitious goals to tap into the regional market.
“We plan to be the number one marketplace for services in the Caribbean. We envisage a skillpik community that allows people to find each other, connect through a common purpose and build together,” Nathu Hari said.
'My passion is the pursuit of purpose'
Martin and Nathu Hari met 13 years ago, when they worked in the accounting unit at the same company. They became friends and quickly realised they had a lot in common.
After spending most of their adult lives working in corporate environments, they found themselves struggling to promote their skills and service offerings on the job market, and were further disheartened to find that most opportunities seemed to be centred on traditional 8am-4pm-type jobs.
Martin, from Laventille, said she decided to transition to the next phase of her life, in pursuit of her own purpose, which sparked her passion to team up with Nathu Hari and create skillpik.
“My desire for my own self-discovery does not stop with myself. Born and bred in St Barb's, Laventille, a known ‘crime hot-spot’ in our country, I have an urge to see others want and get more out of life. My passion is the pursuit of purpose and my mission is to help others find their purpose.
“I envision a society where we learn together, we build together, we grow each other. My desire to see hard work meet opportunity is what fuelled my drive towards entrepreneurship.”
Nathu Hari mirrored Martin, saying, “Oprah Winfrey said ‘Passion is energy, feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.’
"This is the very essence of where skillpik originated. Throughout my life and career, I have encouraged people to find their passion and follow it.”
She had this advice for women who aspire to start their own business but are afraid to do so.
“I think we as women place limitations on ourselves. We tend to question our competencies, ‘Are we good enough? Are we ready for such a move? Can we handle it?’ – when the reality is we are many times even more capable than our male counterparts, who just go for it.
“To women who aspire to start their own businesses: it takes time. Be tenacious and do what is needed to find your audience.”