She’s savvy, supportive and sunny. And she’s out to change the way businesses collaborate. She’s even created a digital platform to prove it. Please meet Jessica Ruhfus, founder of the online collaborative service Collabosaurus.
Having worked in PR and marketing for a few years, Jess saw an opportunity to help businesses better connect with likeminded brands to reach more people and create memorable brand experiences. So she took the leap from a full time day job in PR into tech entrepreneurship. Securing an early investor to help her launch a online match-making platform for brands, she now harnesses her passion for strategic and creative brand collaborations to build a modern businesses of all sizes. Collaborosaurus handles all the heavy lifting stuff (screening potential connections, asking the right questions, formulating agreement terms etc), so that you can find who and what you’re looking for quickly. And you can stay anonymous until you find the right match. I could say it’s a little like Tinder for brands… but without the awkward dates – Jess is always up for a coffee and a chat and there’s nothing awkward about her!
I know from first hand experience collaborations are essential to making great leaps – we don’t often succeed in isolation or survive solely on our own. We are hard wired for connection, so finding other businesses who share our visions and have aligned goals, can help both businesses to keep moving forward.
I love that Jess is so early in her career and has taken such a big and bold leap – especially one that helps businesses take leaps with others. As the saying goes, ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’. In making her own leap, Jess will invariably help many others make their own.
What did you want to be when you grew up and why?
All through high school I wanted to be an actress. I was such a drama kid and I maintain Jennifer Lawrence stole my thunder. I went to university to study film and cinematography but quickly realised it was a whole lot of footage editing in front of a computer! I transferred to study marketing and PR, the Devil Wears Prada interested me until I actually had to work in that environment! I started Collabosaurus wanting to be like Richard Branson (almost there, an airline is on its way) and here we are! I still think I’d make a good actress, but now I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. I’d like to be lots of things!
What did/do you study?
Interesting fact, I studied 17th century literature for years after school (it’s fascinating, but don’t ask me why). Now, I study Instagram mostly! I love keeping my eyes open for amazingly clever, inspiring, left-field marketing ideas – I’m addicted.
What has been your most scary/courageous leap you’ve ever made (preferably in your business/career/life direction)?
I’ve made a couple now of all different kinds and I think ‘leaping’ becomes easier the more you do it. The unfamiliar is always scary until you’ve experienced it and you’re ready for the next leap. I’m a ‘safety net’ kind of person and every time I make a leap I obsess over the safety net! With Collabosaurus, there wasn’t too much of a safety net and that scared the sh*t out of me. But hey, I lived to tell the tale didn’t I?
What were you doing before you made your leap?
I was working full-time for a marketing education company, tutoring high school students at night, working a cafe job on the weekends and trying to get Collabosaurus moving all at once! I’m used to working hard and get bored if I have nothing to do, although my body disagrees and I burn out from time to time!
Who have been the biggest 3 – 5 influences in your life, in terms of your career and doing work?
There are more than 5! My parents have been amazingly supportive, so have my old work colleagues and close friends. Everyone plays a different part and gives a different perspective which is just the most valuable thing you can have in business and personally.
My partner Michael has been through the whirlwind of Collabosaurus, supporting me through every high and low, late nights and crazy busyness. I’m so so grateful to the amazing circle of people around me who catch me when I fall and feed me cake and champagne on the successes.
What did you have in place before you made the leap?
Not enough! Looking back, I rushed a few key things due to excitement – but it’s all a learning curve. I had all of the things that outwardly looked perfect and organised, I just wish I’d created more content and implemented a content marketing strategy before the launch.
What was your defining ‘I can’t do this anymore’ moment that lead you to the leap?
My defining moment came about 6 months before I made the jump actually! I completely burned out working so many jobs at once and it really hit me how much my full-time job wasn’t fulfilling my passions. I’m a very impatient person so the waiting game was difficult, but accumulating some safety net funding before leaping was worth it in the long run!
How did/do you overcome/work with the fear that comes with leaping? How do you decide to choose courage?
I think the leaps you take in life end up defining who you are as a person. A lot of self respect and pride comes from taking leaps, and this is certainly what I have experienced launching Collabosaurus. If I had stayed comfortable and not taken a risk with something that I was completely obsessed with, I wouldn’t be respecting myself or have anything close to something I could be as proud of.
Tapping into who you are, what you want and how you want to be seen by yourself and others is how I constantly overcome the adrenalin that comes with leaping and taking risks. And really, what’s the worst possible outcome? It’s never that bad and there’s always a way out.
How did you fund your leap?
I was lucky enough to get an investor on early (it was a complete fluke!). But this made leaping a whole lot easier, and the journey a little more fun.
What other leaps have you made in the past?
Leaps come in all different shapes and sizes and I think any situation where you need to pluck up courage and jump into the unknown is essentially ‘leaping’. I started high school not knowing a single person, I leapt from the fashion PR space into marketing education, I leapt into a mortgage too – I guess these are all moves that felt like a big deal and required some guts!
What leaps didn’t work out? What did you do about it?
Everything happens for a reason, and I don’t think any leap hasn’t worked out when you really look at what everything leads to. Everything is a learning curve and there’s no such thing as ‘utter failure’!
What are you most fearful of? How do you deal with it?
I guess my biggest fear is being unable to pay the investment off! I think that comes down to my own values though, I hate having to owe anyone anything, so I’m very determined to succeed in this sense. I deal with it by continuously moving – trying new things, keeping momentum going as much as possible so that if one strategy doesn’t get traction, another one is already underway.
How would you rate your level of happiness about making your leap?
1 being sad, 10 being rad.
10! I had coffee with a friend this morning and we were saying that “even if I work my butt off and I’m the poorest I’ve ever been financially, I’m so happy doing this for myself, rather than pouring my heart into a business that makes someone else happy.” Speak to me in 12 months though, I’m sure my answer will have changed. 😉
What’s the biggest upside to making the leap?
The flexibility! I’m busier than I have ever been but I have the choice and power to be able to structure my day entirely on my terms (occasionally I allow for a sleep-in to recoup).
What’s the biggest downside to making the leap? And how do you get through it?
It’s ironic that the biggest downside is in fact the biggest upside too! The emotional highs and lows of having a business – that business being your baby, your responsibility and your love – means that the wins are the most thrilling adrenalin highs I’ve experienced. Unfortunately in turn, the down days are super hard and I’ve only got myself to blame! (Lucky for cake and coffee, right?)
What might be your next leap?
I’ve got the taste up for leaping now and I think I’ll leap all over the place! Next, I’d love to launch the platform overseas, so stay tuned on that one!
What are your favourite words to live by?
Don’t wait for opportunity. Create it.
Who do you admire who also made the leap?
I admire every single person who has stuck with their new business and done those hard yards – it’s flipping exhausting and amazing. It’s honestly too hard to single them out!
A piece of advice for someone with an itch to leap?
Financially it’s worth battling out the full-time job until it’s feasible. I wouldn’t have agreed with that at the time, however launching always takes longer than expected, and money disappears quickly!
Right now I’m:
Jess has a terrific breakfast event in Melbourne coming up on Thursday 8 October for people interested in finding out more about collaborations. You can check it out here for more info.
I’d love to know who you’d love to collaborate with. In your wildest dreams, who would dare to approach to work with? Leave a comment below and let us know!
Much love & courage,