COVID-19 has impacted everyone’s lives in some way—from those directly affected by the virus to people working from home. Due to the economic effects of the pandemic, many workers have been laid off, causing the Texas Workforce Commission phone lines to be busier than usual.
John McCarley is one of the millions of Americans that have been laid off due to the ongoing pandemic. After struggling to connect to the Texas Workforce Commission for unemployment assistance and only reaching a busy line, he thought there must be a solution.
As a life-long entrepreneur who started his first business at the age of 12, McCarley is no stranger to creating companies. In 2010, he started his own digital marketing company called Jolt Social Media, which counted the Dallas Regional Chamber among its clients.
After working in social media for a while, he made a move to the fashion industry by working at Burberry, then went on to be a clothing representative for Beretta, a firearm company. Most recently, he worked at a startup called Bevy, but was laid off this past March.
“I was one of the unfortunate few that got laid off back in March due to coronavirus, and it was when I went to go apply for unemployment, it was an absolute nightmare,” McCarley told Dallas Innovates. “The systems were antiquated, they weren’t prepared for what was happening, and I called like 200 times over the course of 10 days and couldn’t get through.”
McCarley says he wanted to find a solution to “having to sit there and redial and listen” for someone to pick up the phone at the unemployment office. The time-consuming process could be better used to network on LinkedIn, review your resume, or look for jobs, says McCarley, all while waiting for the call to be connected.
After searching the Internet for a solution to automatically redial a business or service, McCarley couldn’t find what he was looking for. But as a self-proclaimed “nerdy entrepreneur,” McCarley decided to create his own web-based application to allow people to automatically redial the Texas Workforce Commission.
After going through a request for proposal (RFP) process with Amazon and the app not developing to McCarley’s liking, he found a team of developers in India to create the web application, which he named Stay A-OK.
The web application was originally created to automatically dial and redial an unemployment office based on a person’s state. Customers can select their location, then the platform offers the office’s hours of the operation. To ensure the safety of others, customers aren’t able to dial personal phone numbers through the platform and will offer set numbers to unemployment offices and other businesses.
Stay A-OK has evolved to offer more flexibility for not only people in search of work, but also for those who need to connect with businesses that often have busy phone lines, such as banks, airlines, and telephone companies.
The idea of including airlines and banks came from people’s requests in the early days of the app’s development along with the idea to record calls, a suggestion he hopes to add to the app in the future.
“All of these options came from people’s requests. We’re 100 percent open to adding new numbers because I can only go in and add as many numbers as I can find,” McCarley says. “We want to hear user suggestions on what numbers to call.”
Stay A-OK has a variety of online memberships based on a customer’s needs. The base memberships offer 10 calls a month for $4.99 or unlimited calls each month for $9.99 with advertisements. For $19.99, customers can make unlimited calls without advertisements.
“I seem to have 10,000 ideas that are always going on at once,” McCarley says. “But this one just seemed right place, right time, and we were able to make it happen.”
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