Localwise Connects Cal Students with Jobs at Local Businesses

Maya Tobias, MBA '14, and Ben Hamlin, MBA '14, are co-founders of Localwise, a local job marketplace connecting students and community members with jobs at local businesses. 

Maya and Ben met while pursuing their MBAs at BerkeleyHaas, and soon discovered their shared passion for local business. The children of local business owners (Maya's family owned a balloon printing warehouse and Ben's ran an architectural practice), Maya and Ben have each started their own local businesses as well (a catering enterprise in Ben's case, and a handmade jewelry business in Maya's).

Inspired by their local business roots, Maya and Ben founded Localwise immediately after graduation, starting with the philosophy that local businesses would be stronger if they collaborated. “We are all about supporting local businesses and getting more people in the community to recognize the importance of shopping at local businesses," Maya told the Daily Cal. "We believe stronger local businesses create stronger local communities.”

Maya's commitment to her community extends beyond her work for Localwise. She has also made the Berkeley Founders' Pledge, committing to help strengthen the UC Berkeley community through philanthropy when the time is right.

We sat down with Maya to learn more about Localwise and its Cal roots:

Q. What significant challenge is your company working to solve, and how are you doing it?

Finding good employees is a huge challenge for local business owners. The local/hourly hiring market is stuck in the 1990s on Craigslist—and both employers and job seekers are ready for a change. We’ve created a marketplace that just focuses on jobs at local businesses. We vet each job that goes on to our site, which means that applicants no longer have to sort through all the scams and junk on Craigslist. We market the site to students, which gives employers access to a group of job seekers that they were not effectively reaching before.

Q. What are you most proud of in your work with Localwise?

I’m proud of the community that we have built around Localwise. We’re not only helping local people get jobs at local businesses; we’re also getting people excited about shopping and eating at local businesses. We use our Instagram feed, blog and other social media channels to highlight all of the cool things that local businesses are doing in the community. That means people can spend their newly earned dollars back in the local economy, which creates a very harmonious cycle. 

Q. Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently at Cal, or what programs/activities/etc. would you have taken advantage of to prepare for your career in innovation?

I would have tried to meet more people on campus, especially from other programs. There are so many smart, talented, and interesting people of all ages at Cal. It’s good to get your peers and professors excited about your startup early on, because down the road you never know who will make an invaluable introduction.

Q. What advice would you offer Berkeley students just beginning their careers in the startup world, either as founders or as early team members?

Own it! Confidence is one of the most important things you need to succeed in the startup world. Instead of saying, “I’m working on this little project to try to help x, y, z,” just say “I run a company that does x, y, z.” The more you say it, the more it will become true. 

Check out the site in action at www.localwisejobs.com to learn more.