A New Website Connects Small Businesses to Temporary Help
BY J.J. McCorvey
Urban Interns taps into a growing sector among new hires.
When Inaki Berenguer moved from Boston to New York to start Pixable, a company that prints photo albums from Facebook pictures, he wasn't sure if he wanted to take the chance on hiring a full-time employee. Realizing the odds for a nascent start-up staking claim in an economy that's still rickety at best, he decided to go the safer route: find interns.
'With an internship, if it doesn't work out, no one loses,' says Berenguer, who co-founded Pixable with two fellow M.I.T. graduates a year ago. 'But if a full-time employee walks out after two months, it looks bad on the company. We didn't want to lose money.'
That's when Berenguer decided to enlist the help of Urban Interns, a website that aids small businesses in finding interns, temporary workers, and part-time help. After posting a job listing on the site last September, Berenguer was linked with five impressive interns within three days – one of which, a 24-year-old University of Pennsylvania graduate named Loren Appin, is now fully employed with Pixable as a marketing manager.
'We started the site because we really felt like for small business owners, there was no niche marketplace focused on serving hiring needs for part-time jobs and internships,' says Cari Sommer, who founded the site with her partner, Lauren Porat, in February of last year. Through the site, employers pay $40 for a job posting and access to the candidate database for 30 days. Job seekers can search the listings for free, but also have the option of 'highlighting' their profile for $12.95. The site initially only posted positions in the New York City area, but now includes jobs in Boston, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., and boasts more than 200 listings in all four cities combined.
'I think it's about small business owners finding the help they need and realizing that doesn't necessarily take the shape of a full-time hire,' says Sommer.
Considering recent employment statistics, it couldn't be a better time for a site like Urban Interns to enter the recruiting market. For the fifth consecutive month, the temporary help sector added 47,000 jobs in December, while full-time employment capsized by 85,000 positions, according to data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And despite the economic uncertainty, the number of paid positions on Urban Interns has remained around 45 percent, the website reports.
Susan Houseman, senior economist at the Kalamazoo, Michigan-based W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, says increased activity among temporary agencies during a recession is not an uncommon phenomenon.
'Coming out of a recession, you usually see temporary help employment go up,' says Susan Houseman, who specializes in temporary hiring trends says. 'Employers want to take a look at people before committing to them and putting them on pay roll.'
Among Urban Interns' most popular listings are those for social media tasks, which, coincidentally, fall under Loren Appin's new responsibilities at Pixable. After interning for two months, he says he now feels he's doing 'high-level, influential' things to help steer the direction of the company.
'I'm very happy with the transition,' Appin says. 'Urban Interns set me up with a job I'm actually loving right now.'
J.J. MCCORVEY is a reporter at Inc. magazine, where he covers a wide range of topics, including technology and business research. He has covered metro news for The Detroit News, and his work has been featured in Men's Fitness. @jmccorvey