Job matchmaker: Spruce marketing firm founder launches job board for freelancers and nonprofits

Six years after launching Spruce, a full-service marketing and PR firm in Tremont, founder Tom Sarago—always thinking about his clients’ needs—started hatching an idea for a new company.

Watching the business trends and talking to his colleagues, Sarago says he began to realize that no local job board exists solely for nonprofit companies looking for freelancers and contract employees. And, he says there are plenty of nonprofits companies that want to hire people on a project basis.

“Independent contractors looking for work didn’t know where to turn,” Sarago says. “Nothing’s worse than going to a traditional job board and hunting down a diamond-in-the-rough that meets your needs.”

So, Sarago created Trialogue—a service that matches up contract workers and nonprofit organizations, with Sarago serving as the matchmaker. He says the service works with contractors in all business areas, including marketing, public relations, graphic design, web design, video and photography.

“What prompted me is the general issue of contractors—myself and several colleagues included— who all know how many hours we as small business owners and freelancers spend searching for new projects,” he explains. “[We know] how difficult it is to find new opportunities, because traditional job boards only really speak to employment, not the growing industry of contract-based temporary work. So, I’m building a better job board.”

Sarago says estimates show the number of freelance workers grew 8.1% between 2015 and 2019, and the number continues to grow (some estimates have as much as 50% of workforce as freelance by 2027).

“While I fully understand the desire of working for a company that can provide traditional benefits, I also understand that's not for everyone,” Sarago admits. “Trialogue exists as an alternative to help people who choose that particular path.”

Additionally, the coronavirus pandemic could potentially further increase the numbers. “The first few months of lockdown, you saw a lot of people getting used to working from home,” Sarago says. “For a lot of people, it will be tough to go back.”

Sarago partnered with Darcy Zehe and Matthew Blazer of Brand Pivot, and the Trialogue website went live this past Monday, August 24. The group saw immediate enrollment from contractors.

“A few dozen already signed up,” Sarago says. “I’ve not received any negative feedback.”

Sarago says he opted to open Trialogue solely to nonprofit organizations because he saw the demand for contract workers in this sector and the sheer number of nonprofits—about 16,000—in Northeast Ohio.

“This idea is intentionally niche, to a specific market,” he says. “That's because it's what I know but also because of the high number of nonprofits here locally.”

Sarago is still working with potential clients on defining their needs. “I want to get a good understanding of what they’re looking for, their area of focus,” he says. Nonprofits will be able to search the database for the people who have the skills the organization needs.

Paired with an estimated 60,000 contract workers in the region, Sarago sees a good match. “Trialogue should be a place where everyone comes together,” he says. “My goal is to build a business that brings the community together.”

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.