[quote style=”boxed”]I tell every entrepreneur I know to remind themselves of what they are achieving every day, because the power, knowledge, and freedom that comes from being an entrepreneur is something that can easily be taken for granted unless we stop to appreciate it.[/quote]
Laura Held is the Co-Founder of Burlingame, CA based Bluebelle Concierge, a lifestyle service that provides as-needed personal assistance, project management, and life organization to busy professionals, families, and small businesses from San Francisco to Silicon Valley. She is a Bay Area native and UC Berkeley graduate who started the company in 2010 with her best friend of 13 years, Rachel Shamash. Her strengths and interests lie in managing the operations of the business as well as building and maintaining client relationships-she is a true people person. When not working on all things Bluebelle, Laura is usually playing with her niece and nephews, going for runs at the Stanford Dish, improvising a recipe from her favorite cookbook, shopping on Burlingame Avenue, or relaxing at home with her husband.
What are you working on right now?
At Bluebelle, we always have multiple projects going on simultaneously, but the focus is on providing high quality service to our clients. As more and more relocation and home organization requests are coming in we have brought on a larger team to manage those projects which is allowing us to continue to grow steadily. We love making sure our team is happy and working to their strengths, so we are constantly featuring new packages that our team creates. We also just completed our company re-brand and launched our new website, so we are in an exciting development phase right now and really optimistic about the growth of our business over the next 6 months.
Where did the idea for Bluebelle Concierge come from?
Rachel and I were both working in consulting in San Francisco and saw that so many of the people around us were extremely successful in their professional lives but had no work life balance and were overwhelmed in their personal lives. They weren’t the type to hire a personal assistant but could majorly benefit from someone trustworthy who they could call when they needed a project managed, an errand run, or just an extra set of hands. We were both looking to switch careers into a field where we could have more direct impact and would be able to improve people’s lives and we felt that this would be a viable business and our skill sets combined would create something great.
When we first launched the business after a year of development, we were focused on working with older adults to improve their quality of life, but we found that the people who were calling and making requests were busy professionals who were overwhelmed and needed someone to come in and help manage their personal life, so we switched gears and have been going strong ever since!
How do you make money?
We charge hourly for our services. The other revenue stream is through referral fees from service providers who we bring business. Our target market is busy professionals from 35-65, people who value high quality, personalized service and just don’t have enough time in the day to take care of the items on their personal to-do list.
What does your typical day look like?
When we first started the business in 2010 Rachel and I were doing all of the client work, so there were times we felt like we were living a real-life superhero movie! Some days we would start the day in our business attire for a sales meeting, then change into our activewear to organize a client’s closet or garage, and then finally get all dressed up for a fundraiser luncheon. This costume change race defined the early days and we spent a lot of time laughing at how crazy it was. But now that we have a team taking care of most of the client work, our days and outfits are more “normal”. Rachel and I work from our office in Burlingame(along with Rachel’s puppy sidekick Finn), so we spend most days there unless we are in meetings or conferences, and our schedules are more manageable. We make it a priority to have a healthy work-life balance because we create that for our clients, so we want to practice what we preach!
How do you bring ideas to life?
Rachel is always getting inspired with a new idea and will present it to me with an action-plan of how it will take Bluebelle to the next level. I am definitely the more conservative one when it comes to new things, but I think we balance each other out perfectly. Rachel will give me all the reasons why a particular idea is as great one and m0re often than not, I soften up and see the benefits 🙂 We’ll have a brainstorm session together where we weigh the pros and cons, discuss the costs and the timeline associated with making the idea a reality, and then decide if it makes sense to move forward. We also like to run the ideas by our team and if someone is really excited about it, then we ask them to lead it forward!
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I love seeing companies and young people giving back to their community. In the beginning of the year, Rachel launched our 1% giving campaign where we give 1% of our profits to a local charity focused on education, and through this program it has been great to see that there are other young people making it a priority to also give back to their community. The SF Bay Area is a very socially conscious and philanthropic place, but seeing people in their 20s giving back makes me hopeful for the future.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
In college, I had my first(and only) job in retail one summer and had no idea what I was getting myself into. It was nice to have some extra money and an employee discount, but the company culture was pretty poor. There was no sense of teamwork or community which made it hard for everyone to work well together. Although it was years ago, the experience really stuck with me and we have made it a huge priority at Bluebelle to create a sense of community within the company, to have a strong culture, and to collaborate and care for one another.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Right now we are working with an amazing business consultant and if we were to start again I would have brought her on earlier so that she could have helped guide us through some obstacles we had in the first few years.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I am constantly reminding myself that I have the best job in the world–I love the benefits and challenges of running a business, creating something from nothing, and having a passion for what we are building. I tell every entrepreneur I know to remind themselves of what they are achieving every day, because the power, knowledge, and freedom that comes from being an entrepreneur is something that can easily be taken for granted unless we stop to appreciate it.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One failure that ultimately led to a success was that our initial target market didn’t work. We had to switch gears and alter our model to go where the market demand was, without straying from our core values and passion as entrepreneurs. At first it felt awful to think that our hard work hadn’t paid off, but in the end we were able to successfully shift our target while staying true to our goals and beliefs.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I would love for someone to come up with a user-friendly software that integrates contact management, project management, and employee time tracking all in one!
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I’m passionate about education and I would love to see widespread change in the allocation of resources to public education in the US. It would be my goal for people to not need to move in order for their kids to have access to quality public education. I have no idea where I would even start, but what a dream it would be for the future of our country.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I spent a year living in Chile after college teaching English and becoming fluent in Spanish!
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
1. Basecamp: We use the online and an app version (recently released!) to manage all of our projects and delegate tasks to our team–it’s a great, user friendly project management tool.
2. Dropbox: Dropbox is amazing–we just moved our entire company over so that we have an online “server” that our entire team can access. It’s also very user friendly and there is an app version which we use all the time internally and with clients.
3. TurboScan: This is the best on-the-go scanner–from quick receipt scanning to getting over a document instantly, it’s a game changer when it comes to back office efficiency!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy is a really interesting book that although focused in the hospitality world can be appreciated by anyone who has created something from nothing. The book was written by Isadore Sharp and shares amazing stories of his challenges and successes in creating a global brand with exceptional customer service.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
1. @7x7sf: A fun and current resource for all things San Francisco! 7×7 is always first to share behind the scenes tips on food, trends, culture, music, and more!
2. @pulsepad: Our favorite SF-based news app’s twitter feed–they offer highlights from popular news stories that are always a good read and pass along to our followers!
3. @GavinNewsom: Great updates & retweets on pressing CA news, politics, and SF local!
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Rachel constantly makes me crack up, and a few days ago she found old photos of us from high school that were absolutely embarrassing, and we could not stop laughing. There are so many joys of having your best friend as your business partner 🙂
Who is your hero?
My hero is my mom who I lost to breast cancer 6 years ago. She lived her life with purpose and confidence. She gave me everything that I needed to build the life that I have made for myself and her life lessons continue to guide me through my professional and personal struggles and successes. She inspires me to be happy, successful, confident, and most importantly, kind.
If your company could receive one professional award, what would it be?
I would love to be recognized as a Top Women Owned Business some day! It is something that Rachel and I are very proud of and we hope to inspire other young women to take a leap of faith and start their own businesses of passion.
What is on your bucket list?
I would love to ride an elephant! And sit courtside at a Warriors game 🙂
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.