Less than a year after sisters Deborah Gladney and Angela Muhwezi-Hall became the first Black women in Kansas to raise $1 million in seed funding for their startup, their rebranded Wichita company announced another $2.2 million investment for its rapidly scaling service industry career platform.
The new influx of funding — led by Wichita-based Tenzing Capital and including local investors KCRise Fund, Mid America Angels and Women’s Capital Connection — is expected to help WorkTorch (formerly QuickHire) launch in select cities where the need for service industry employees is surging.
Expansion targets include Kansas City, Kansas and Missouri, as well as Chicago, Denver, Dallas, Nashville, and Atlanta.
October employment numbers show people are leaving their careers faster than new hires are coming in the door, the company said, highlighting the need for WorkTorch’s new capabilities, which include cutting-edge recruiting and retention tools for hiring managers and career resources for service-industry professionals.
“Our country relies on skilled service workers, but existing career platforms continue to overlook them,” said Muhwezi-Hall. “WorkTorch is listening to the people in this sector. And it’s working. Today 60 percent of WorkTorch job seekers are happy with their jobs. The industry ‘happiness’ average is a mere 30 percent.”
Click here to explore the new WorkTorch, which is free for job seekers.
Since launching in April 2021, the WorkTorch platform use has grown exponentially — with more than 1,000 scheduled interviews a month. Today, WorkTorch has more than 60 paying corporate clients (from mid-size to national service companies like Dunkin’ Donuts and Homewood Suites by Hilton) who use the platform to fill open positions across the U.S.
“WorkTorch is growing because we empower both sides of the employment spectrum — the career seeker and the hiring company,” said Gladney. “We connect service industry professionals to the careers they want, as well as provide company support to ensure that their new employees feel empowered and nurtured.”
WorkTorch currently has a roster of more than 40,000 service industry applicants actively looking for jobs. To date, one in every three WorkTorch applicants finds a role — and stays three times longer than the average employee in the U.S., the company said. WorkTorch plans to add skilled-labor verticals to its platform soon.
Tenzing was among the first investors in WorkTorch. Other returning investors participating in the latest round include MATH Venture Partners, Sandalphon Capital, KCRise Fund, Sixty8 Capital, Ruthless for Good Fund (RFG Fund), Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, and angel investor Gene Camarena.
New investments came from Bloomberg Beta, Graham & Walker Venture Fund, GROWKS, New Community Transformation Fund-Denver, Mid America Angels and Women’s Capital Connection Network, and angel investor Jennifer Risher.
“Our focus at Tenzing Capital is finding and supporting go-to-market acceleration companies. This is our second time investing in WorkTorch,” said Josh Oeding, founder and general partner at Tenzing Capital. “The WorkTorch team is taking on internal growth and operational challenges with high levels of excellence — and creating long-term business client relationships that bring value to this needed space.”
Led by two African American sisters — Gladney, 35, and Muhwezi-Hall, 32 — the growing Wichita startup now has more than $4 million in total funding, making Gladney and Muhwezi-Hall two of the few black women to raise significant venture capital funds, the company emphasized.
In 2021, U.S. startups raised $329.9 billion, but black women received less than 0.35 percent of that amount, according to research firm JD Supra.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.