“I’ve proven a lot of people wrong, and I’m gonna keep proving them wrong. Just because I’m Indigenous, doesn’t mean I can’t do it too.”
In partnership with the Coca-Cola Foundation’s 10,000 Women Entrepreneurs Initiative, Startup Canada is celebrating and spotlighting leading Canadian Women Entrepreneurs. Startup Canada was pleased to sit down with Bobbie Racette, Founder & CEO of The Virtual Gurus to learn about their journey and the impact of their work.
The Virtual Gurus is a global online platform connecting freelancers with businesses for short-term contract work. After moving away from the oil and gas sector, Bobbi Racette identified a market gap that inspired her to create an easy-to-use and reliable service that benefits both the employee and the employer. In 2019, the company achieved more than $1 million in annual recurring revenue.
Bobbi is also the founder of the Alberta LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce and won the 2019 Startup Canada Indigenous Entrepreneur Award. By building a high-growth, inclusivity-first company, she is leading by example as a proud Indigenous entrepreneur and champion for the LGBTQ community.
SC: In one sentence, what does being an entrepreneur mean to you?
BR: Being an entrepreneur means somebody who is always testing the limits, and who’s really not afraid to jump in and find their MVP (minimum viable product). Someone who creates the hustle and the grind every day.
SC: Tell us about your entrepreneurial venture and what role it plays in your life.
BR: I call myself an accidental entrepreneur because I think entrepreneurship found me—I didn’t find it. I really didn’t think I was ever going to be an entrepreneur. I came up with an idea and realized that it was something that I could do, and I just started rolling with it. Then I got laid-off from my oil and gas job, so I just jumped in with two feet; I just went for it.
In year two, I was able to start really paying myself. Now in year three, here we are in one of the fastest-growing marketplaces; virtual-assistant-type platforms. I absolutely love it. I’m a totally different person than I was five years ago, that’s for sure.
I think it just got me out of my comfort zone and now I crave it; this is what I want for the rest of my life. I’m going to be an entrepreneur.
SC: You talked about it being accidental, but what motivated or propelled you to become an entrepreneur after it started happening?
BR: I ended up getting somebody else to help me run the business at first, because I had no idea what I was doing, and I quickly realized that that person’s vision wasn’t my vision. I’ve since learned to really be confident in my vision.
So now I own two businesses. Virtual Gurus is my main source of business. It’s full-time. I’m a CEO, I have COO, we have a team of 10 in the office, 150 contractors—so that’s my big focus. Now, it just propels me forward to being the entrepreneur that I want to be.
SC: What are you most proud of related to your venture?
BR: I started with $300 in my pocket, and ended up having to borrow money from the bank of mom. Three years later, I’ve given jobs to ten people in the office and 150 contractors, and I’ve won awards along the way. I think I’m most proud of how far it’s come in such a short time.
SC: What inspires you to keep going?
BR: The people that I’m providing jobs for. I focus on giving marginalized individuals work-from-home positions or just any jobs.
Everybody deserves a chance and all the jobs out there aren’t just for people who have degrees and education—there’s a lot of work for people that don’t. That inspires me every single day, knowing that I’m giving a job to somebody who has struggled to find work. Every single day I wake up and I think, “how many more people can I give a job to today?” That’s my end goal.
SC: What is the next mountain you are climbing and what is left undone?
BR: We realized that we have the potential to do a lot of social good. We’re working on a social enterprise where we’re going to be able to enter the Indigenous communities. We’re planning to work with a lot of Indigenous folks as well as people with disabilities to provide them with an accelerator program and help them go through our virtual academy. From there, we’ll be able to provide some work-from-home positions and administrative assistant training.
SC: Have you identified or confronted any systemic barriers through your journey? If so, how have you persevered through them?
BR: As an Indigenous woman that is part of the LGBTQ+ community, I check all the boxes of prejudice. My entire life, I’ve dealt with racism.
It’s been my number one goal since I was young to break down those systematic barriers. I have tattoos and this and that, and people don’t take me seriously, the way they do other people. I’ve proven a lot of people wrong, and I’m gonna keep proving them wrong. Just because I’m Indigenous, doesn’t mean I can’t do it too.
In terms of persevering, I focus on building my company with diversity and inclusion, breaking those barriers down, and showing other people that they can break them down, too. That’s a huge goal for me.
SC: Where can people go to learn more about your journey and organization?
SC: What do you think today’s entrepreneurs should be focused on for a better, brighter future?
BR: Just keep dealing with the changes. Technology is going to keep changing, so just keep rolling with the changes because 20 years from now, technology is not going to be like it is now—that’s for sure. Also, focus on growth.
I think that every entrepreneur out there—whether you’re new or seasoned—should never be looking down on the little guys. I know we all aim for the bright star in the sky; to be multi-billion-dollar companies—that’s great. But there are a ton of other people along the way that don’t have that option. So if you can create jobs, give jobs to those that need them.
SC: What advice do you have for those just beginning to embark on their entrepreneurial journey?
BR: Learn—learn everything. Don’t be afraid to learn everything that you possibly can, and take it all in stride. Three years ago, I would never have had any idea about KPIs, and all these statements that help a business to move forward. But now, that’s what my company thrives on.
The other thing is to get out there—get involved with communities like Startup Canada, Startup Calgary, different startup groups; get out there and get involved and get exposure, by pushing yourself!
Are you looking to get out there and get involved? Join the Startup Canada Women Entrepreneurs Network to gain access to resources, community events, and more!