Think of all those “Help Wanted” signs you see on storefronts and restaurants. To Eric Louet, that signals that it’s not easy for businesses to find workers. Some are so short staffed that any illness, vacation day or family emergency can leave a shift unfilled.
Now think about students who want work experience, retirees who wouldn’t mind some extra income, stay-at-home moms, part-time workers and the unemployed. Louet estimates there are 73 million of them in the U.S.
UFlex can match so-called casual or contract workers with employers quickly and efficiently, said Louet, who won the FIU track of the Miami Herald Startup Pitch Competition. While he will first target the often under-staffed hospitality and retail sectors, he believes the UFlex matching platform could help almost any industry, from healthcare to logistics. UFlex could help a company scale up for a special event or a big project, too.
“That’s our market — companies looking for candidates for a specific time or a specific shift. We help them to find the candidate,” Louet said. “Small businesses are hiring but most of them don’t have the time or money to engage in a hiring campaign. They can subscribe to our service for a period of time for unlimited use or they can buy the profiles of the candidates they are interested in.”
Pitch Competition judge Orlando Espinosa said Louet sold his concept with his knowledge of the industry and passion to help both the casual employee and businesses who need hiring flexibility. “This stood out to me: UFlex simplified the hiring process for short-term on-demand employment,” Espinosa said.
Louet is a senior director for a large logistics company. He holds two master’s degrees in IT and an MBA. For UFlex, Louet has teamed up with his daughter, Charline Louet. She’s a recruiter for a large research company in Washington, D.C., and understands firsthand the demand for UFlex.
With the rise of the gig economy, she said, “It’s like the Uber for work. More and more employers are looking for employees short term. This bridges the gap in the market.”
The UFlex service (UFlex.work) is free for job candidates. Registered and vetted employers can post jobs for free and view matches, but if they want to reach out to a candidate, they need to subscribe to the service or purchase profiles of candidates at $2 each. UFlex plans to offer three monthly subscription plans, starting at $49.
UFlex will work like this: Employers can see every match, or they can filter for specific experience, time availabilities, etc. In time, the UFlex platform will also pre-fill tax forms. Ultimately UFlex could perform all administrative tasks for the employer, including salary payments.
Candidates can set preferences, such as time availability, minimum salary and maximum distance they would travel for a shift. They build their resume on the platform and can add each job that they complete. Employers give them ratings.
Louet initially teamed up with an engineering school for the UFlex programming, but that didn’t work out. So he started from scratch – and programmed it himself. He has done it before – 20 years ago.
“The languages have changed, but the concepts are the same. And there is such a huge community on the internet now. If you don’t know how to do something, you Google it and find the answer.”
The platform is up and running. UFlex is beginning its pilot test in Miami-Fort Lauderdale and Gainesville, with Orlando next. UFlex has about 100 candidates and is beginning to promote for employers. Louet thinks UFlex will be in the piloting phase for six months before expanding its footprint.
The challenge now is to gain the trust of the businesses.
“People say it’s a fantastic idea, but until you have paying customers it is a different story. I will be happy when I see companies using UFlex,” Louet said. “I’m very excited to be doing what I am doing. It doesn’t feel like work.”