Be a Taskmaster

Dallas-born entrepreneur helps the world delegate with virtual assistant business

Dallas-born entrepreneur helps the world delegate with Zirtual

Maren Kate Donovan, Founder and CEO of Zirtual
Maren Kate Donovan is founder and CEO of Zirtual, an online service that provides anyone with a virtual assistant. Photo by Jason Carter Rinaldi
Zirtual online virtual assistant company
Zirtual connects smart, motivated, work-from-home assistants with small businesses, entrepreneurs and busy parents in need of helping hands. Photo by Tyler McPherron
Maren Kate Donovan, Founder and CEO of Zirtual
Zirtual online virtual assistant company

Plano-born Maren Kate Donovan knows that most people aren’t such bionic multitaskers that they can do everything by themselves and still have time to shower. Donovan herself was in the habit of employing overseas assistants when she was launching a social marketing firm after college.

Actually, it was that first group of loyal, productive workers that convinced the young entrepreneur she needed to help others find such reliable assistance. So she launched Zirtual, an online service that hires, vets, trains and assigns virtual assistants to anyone in need of some extra help, to an invite-only market in 2010.

 Zirtual is an online service that hires, vets, trains and assigns virtual assistants to anyone in need of some extra help.

Now based in San Francisco, Donovan recently opened up membership to the public, allowing everyone — from private lawyers to big design firms to busy parents — to benefit from the unique, as-needed support on a regular basis.

The site enables potential employers from around the world assign all kinds of tasks to Zirtual Assistants (ZAs), thereby creating jobs for motivated workers across the United States. Donovan considers it “a great foray for small businesses and entrepreneurs to learn how to delegate and leverage their time.”

She also was eager to give people the opportunity to work from home, especially those with disabilities or parents who want to raise children and be with their families during traditional work hours. Donovan considers her hiring pool to have “some amazing talent.” She only hires ZAs with at least two years of college, and she focuses on strong communication skills and building trust, given the virtual nature of the job.

Dallasites only have to look at the rush hour traffic on Central Expressway to know the value of trading a traditional commute for a remote setup. And Zirtual is looking to hire more than 150 new full-time employees — all of whom will work from home — by the end of the year.

“Dallas is a fast-growing client market,” Donovan says, adding that she’s ramping up efforts to hire here in Big D. Zirtual has already brought on about 10 people from the greater DFW area, including a VP of sales. Potential candidates can apply through the site, and training takes place online.

With the focus on Dallas right now, Zirtual aims to hire mostly within cities so that groups of ZAs can meet in person and create a sense of community. That said, the company is also hiring in Utah, Georgia, and the Illinois area.

This feels like a big step toward increasing productivity for both employee and employer. And, as Donovan notes, “The most successful people in the world didn’t get there by doing everything themselves.”