Startup Spotlight profiles startups founded by current Berkeley Haas students or recent alumni.
Before London Swift arrived at Haas, she raised $15,000 on Kickstarter to build a test website called Et al., a hub for women and gender-diverse creative freelancers.
Swift hoped the beta site would bring “creatives”—digital designers, podcast creators, photographers, artists, and writers—together to find gigs.
“We got a tremendous response,” said Swift, MBA 22, who is working with her partner and co-founder Sophia Wirth, a digital brand strategy consultant. “We had 100 people reach out but only had room for 25 people on the site.”
At Haas, Swift is building Et al. from a test site into a business—a place for many more freelancers to showcase their portfolios, and network about everything from collaborative opportunities to fair pay rates to administrative challenges. Employers will use the site’s bulletin board to post job jobs and view users’ creative profiles.
Female “creatives”often face a persistent pay gap in the freelance market, a problem Swift is working to solve with the startup.
“We wanted to build a community where women could better understand the pay issues and work together to close the gender wage gap in the gig economy,” said Swift, a ceramics artist who once considered a career in the arts, but, wary of the low pay, worked as a consultant at Deloitte after her undergraduate program.
“We wanted to build a community where women could better understand the pay issues and work together to close the gender wage gap in the gig economy,” —London Swift, MBA 22.
Part of Et al.’s strategy will be to keep customers’ costs low, by offering flexible monthly user subscriptions. Platform users will be segmented into professional communities, where they will have access to an exclusive Slack workspace.
Swift said she was inspired when one of their first test users, a new freelancer who had never written for a magazine, built her first creative portfolio and landed her first assignment with Elle UK, an article about how 1990s television sitcoms revolutionized Black beauty. “She is now working full-time as a freelance writer and we could not be happier for her,” Swift said.
Help along the way
Many groups have supported Swift’s startup journey since she arrived at Haas.
First, she was accepted into the Berkeley Student Entrepreneurship Program (StEP), a 10-week campus-wide incubator. Then she raised $35,000 last spring to build a new version of Et al.
She was also the recent recipient of the Hansoo Lee Fellowship, created to honor the memory of Hansoo Lee, MBA 10, and is among the startup founders joining the Blackstone LaunchPad Techstars summer fellowship program for entrepreneurs. There, she’ll work with a mentor and bounce new ideas off other founders.
Last spring, El al. also participated in the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership’s Investing in Inclusion pitch competition, coming in second. “It’s so unique to have a startup space that’s focused on social impact and profitability,” she said. “It felt really special for us.”
Swift is also working with Berkeley Female Founders and Funders to find a few undergraduates who might be able to work with the team this summer. “We have an incredible network of entrepreneurs here,” she said.
Outside of the startup world at Haas, Swift is a member of the Consortium, an organization that recruits qualified students who can demonstrate a commitment to its mission of enhancing diversity in business education and leadership, and Q@Haas, the LGBTQ+ MBA community at Haas—and the vice president of academic affairs for her MBA class. She said she’s looking forward to returning to campus this fall. “I’m definitely an extrovert and love being with people,” she said.
Meantime, Swift will focus on her company—and a new ceramics wheel she just bought, getting back into pottery and her creative side.
“Having the opportunity to study at Haas, support women in the arts, and address pay inequity is such a privilege and I cannot wait to see what the next few years bring,” she said.