Catching up with Beantown Throwdown Winner – WorkAround’s Wafaa Arbash

Entrepreneurs, Public Relations Posted Feb 16, 2018 by Carro Halpin

CHEN PR recently welcomed local startup, WorkAround, at our offices for a PR brainstorming session.

A treat for us as well as Wafaa – and not only because of the world-class eats from neighbor Sam Lagrassa’s –  the strategic consulting was among the prizes awarded to WorkAround for winning the Beantown Throwdown. Featured during HUBweek and hosted by the MIT Enterprise Forum (MITEF) of Cambridge, the annual Throwdown is Massachusetts’ largest multi-school startup pitch competition.

As a MITEF of Cambridge sponsor, CHEN PR has helped run this event since its inception five years ago, when it only involved teams from MIT and Harvard. Since our clients are generally larger, more mature companies based outside Massachusetts and focused on cybersecurity/high-tech, it’s fun to tap in to other firms and market spaces – especially when our work benefits Boston’s local innovation ecosystem. Founder/CEO Wafaa Arbash is clearly passionate about her startup –  an online platform providing companies with cost-effective, high quality and fast micro-work by tapping the talents of the global refugee population.

As a globally-focused startup using tech to deliver its services – it was fitting Wafaa’s business partner Jennie Kelly, WorkAround director of operations and finance, joined our discussion via Skype from Cambodia. Despite it being very late due to the time difference, Jennie’s excitement and commitment to WorkAround’s mission was evident.

Like many startups, personal experience inspired the entrepreneurial endeavor. Wafaa witnessed countless friends and family members back home in Syria who were highly educated, with internet access, but lacked job opportunities. Her vision: fuel employment for those people by matching them with companies needing services such as language translations, machine learning data input, video uploads, customer acquisition research, and more.

Combining a compelling personal hook, a valuable service offering, and a charismatic spokesperson, Wafaa and WorkAround have landed a fair amount of media coverage. So, our discussion focused on the next chapter of the story WorkAround might consider telling. CHEN PR’s goal is always to support our clients’ strategic business initiatives – and facilitate sales – with ROI-focused communications programs.

To understand how strategic media and influencer relations could best bolster Wafaa’s goals, we first had to discuss where WorkAround is today and where it wants to go. So, we shared some questions for Wafaa and Jennie to think about before our meeting, such as:

  • How are you funded?
  • What are your top three customer/prospect segments? Who do you sell within them? How’s that going? Why should they care?
  • When prospects don’t buy, why is that? Any common obstacles? And when they do buy, any common drivers?
  • Do you sell your services through partners as well as directly? Revenue split? Anticipate changes in that mix going forward?
  • Any repeat/ongoing customers? Any that are expanding the amount of work they’re directing to WorkAround?
  • Can you quantify the business benefits they’re getting – anecdotally and with some numbers?
  • Will any of these customers speak with reporters or bloggers? Bolster your content marketing efforts by doing case studies for your site and social communication outreach?
  • Which firms/approaches are your most direct and serious competitors? How do you compare in terms of size/reach/capabilities? What makes your solution/approach superior?
  • What marketing activities have you undertaken thus far? Results? What worked and why? What didn’t?
  • What marketing activities will you use to complement the PR effort?
  • Do you have any significant/newsworthy announcements coming up in the next 90 days?

Responses to these types of questions enable us to gauge if, when, and/or how best a company might capitalize on strategic PR. A big investment in time as well as dollars, it’s critical to get answers to these questions up front. Doing so facilitates our ability to propose media and analyst relations activities. Alternatively, we might suggest other marketing communications efforts better suited to their goals, budgets and timeframes.

WorkAround’s in a fortunate position. The company has several happy and name-recognizable customers for which its network of refugees performed a variety of projects. There’s a wide and growing interest micro-work services across a range of markets, as well.

With WorkAround’s quick and prosperous start, Wafaa has made the leap –  recently leaving her job to focus on WorkAround full-time. Her dedication to her vision – equally balanced by a strong business value proposition and dedication to social responsibility – is one we’ll be watching. We’re excited to see where she leads her company next!