Assistants are often seen as a nice-to-have, a luxury designed for successful, time-crunched business executives. For many, “assistant” conjures the image of a woman at a typewriter outside of a man’s office – helping him schedule meetings, take notes, and perform other basic administrative tasks that he doesn’t have time for.
This post is part of Designli’s “Entrepreneurial Insights” series – where we profile South Carolina’s most successful entrepreneurs, discuss topics that are critical to business-building, and pass those insights to today’s founders and business leaders.
Paige McPheely, who was recently selected as a Forbes Next 1000 honoree, is on a mission to change these stereotypes. She founded Base in late 2018 to revolutionize what it looks like to give and receive administrative support in today’s world. Ultimately, her goal is to make it easy for anyone – not just wealthy business executives – to receive reliable, affordable, and scalable support from an assistant.
In 2019, McPheely launched the Base software, the first-ever operating system designed specifically for assistants. By providing industry-specific tools and training, Base removes the common struggles assistants and their executives face and helps them work better together.
One of the biggest areas in which McPheely has seen opportunity is the remote assistant industry, which has grown 50% for three years in a row. She attributes this explosion not only to the rise of the remote workforce but also to a shift in how people perceive what it means to be – and to have – an executive assistant.
“It’s becoming more and more common in industries like business and entertainment to become an assistant as a form of apprenticeship,” McPheely says. “You’re behind or in almost every important meeting, so it can really help you spring into the job you want.”
Additionally, people are becoming more comfortable with outsourcing tasks to free up their time. McPheely is riding this wave to show people that hiring an assistant isn’t a luxury – it’s a smart use of money that can improve your quality of life, boost your productivity, and help your business grow and scale faster.
“People used to romanticize being busy and killing themselves to be successful,” McPheely says. She recalls all the times she has heard people bragging about working around the clock and burning the midnight oil. “I think we’ve felt the pendulum swing in the other direction,” McPheely says. “Today’s leaders are wanting to make sure they are there for their families and their own mental health in ways that weren’t necessarily celebrated a few decades ago.”
This kind of thinking has informed many of McPheely’s own decisions regarding how she runs Base – one of the most prominent being her approach to fundraising.
“I realized early on that there were several massive gaps in my knowledge and experience: how to raise money, how to hire and work with engineers, and how to do product roadmap planning,” McPheely explains. Instead of using up all of her time to learn and do these things herself, she looked for strategic partners and investors who could advise her.
That’s why, in 2018, McPheely made the decision to partner with High Alpha, a startup studio based in Indianapolis. “They have been a gamechanger for us,” McPheely says. “On day one, we had access to an engineering team and they helped source my cofounder Jeremy Wight, who has been instrumental to everything we’ve accomplished so far.”
Base raised a $2.6MM seed round in the fall of 2019 that added a few key partners to the team: Matchstick Ventures, Slack Fund, and Revolution’s Rise of the Rest. They’ve since seen tremendous user growth and have been laser-focused on validating key hypotheses while moving as fast as they can. Fundraising can feel like another job on top of an already daunting job, but it can often change the trajectory of a business and its growth.
McPheely advises other startup founders to think carefully about who they accept money from and to avoid the trap of jumping on the first offer they receive. “In many ways, your investors can become your bosses,” she explains, “so you should think carefully about if they will really buy into the mission of what you’re trying to accomplish and if they will step in as truly additive partners along the way.” It’s easy to accept money from anyone, but this can set you up for challenging relationships down the line.
For McPheely, money has never and will never be the primary driving factor in how she runs her business or lives her life. “I didn’t get into this to make my millions,” she says. “If that should be the outcome, cool. But entrepreneurship is way too hard to be doing it for money.”
“If you’re doing this to get rich, buy a lottery ticket.”
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