Real Career Girls: Allison O’Kelly, founder and CEO of Mom Corps
Before diving into Allison’s story, let me just say – I am very excited to bring back the #RealCareerGirls section of MsCareerGirl.com! As a part of the process of creating the best version of yourself, it truly helps to have role models that you can look up to and take notes from. Do you have a real career girl whom you feel should be featured n Ms Career Girl? Tweet us @mscareergirl or email us at [email protected]!
Meeting women who are able to keep a great balance between life and career can inspire anyone to want to do the same, but meeting someone who actively encourages others and makes it possible for the women around her to live a well-rounded and balanced life is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Allison O’Kelly is that woman.
It is already a feat in itself to keep a healthy equilibrium between your own personal and work life. Imagine having the influence and drive to make the same happen for more women out there! Allison is the founder and CEO of Mom Corps, a national professional staffing firm with a focus on flexible work. Launched in 2005, Mom Corps has helped champion the view that flexibility is a benefit to not only professionals but to the companies that employ them. Mom Corps also is helping professional women take control of their careers, finances, and health and wellness through Mom Corps YOU.
Many women struggle with the idea of “following your heart” when it comes to their careers. Allison explains how her business is sparked by answering that very call.
Unexpected career beginnings: “I was working in management at Toys “R” Us when I had my first son. The Toys “R” Us team was great to me – trying to work out a schedule that worked for both my career and my family – but I quickly realized that it just wasn’t working. I started my own contract accounting practice, and as the business grew, I found I had no trouble finding CPAs who were looking for better work-life integration to take on some of the work. At the same time, my business experience showed me that companies were struggling to find qualified employees. That’s when I decided to start Mom Corps – to help match these companies with the wide pool of talent looking for a better way to work.”
Allison also talks of one of her first milestones, making her first hire, Maria Goldsholl. Having a background in business and not staffing made her understand the need to learn more about the industry and to hire an expert. “Maria has a strong background in talent development and work-life program implementation – she was my first hire, and remains our COO to this day. Surrounding yourself with great people is definitely one of the keys to success.”
Allison on the fulfillment she gets from her work. Since starting Mom Corps, Allison has helped hundreds of women and has been given recognition for it. In 2013, Mom Corps was named as one of Inc.’s 500 fastest growing privately-held businesses. Allison adds, “Not only is that an achievement for Mom Corps, but it also shows that we’re making an impact in the business world as a whole – helping employers realize the benefits of implementing flexible work programs.” Earlier this year they also launched Mom Corps YOU, an online community helping professionals take their careers into their own hands with job search tools, career advancement seminars and access to leaders in the flexibility movement.
With all these accomplishments, she still says that there is one thing most fulfilling about creating Mom Corps: “Knowing that I’m helping to create a win-win for employers and their employees. Some people may think of workplace flexibility as a concession to employees, but employers are seeing real benefits, including improved retention and recruitment and decreased costs.”
On Being Superwoman
One of the greatest challenges of taking on an entrepreneurial journey is keeping that balance between personal life and business. So we asked Allison, how does a woman like her keep it together?
“I admit to myself that I just can’t do it all! I get help when needed (house cleaning, child care…), and I have learned to say “no!” I focus on what’s the most important to me, and I’m willing to let the rest go. In terms of a routine, I look at my day as a 24-hour clock – each hour could be work, family or for me. Each day is different, and I’m ok with that.”
When asked about her motivation, I am reminded of how much we women naturally relate to and help lift each other. She responds: “My three boys and the idea that all parents should be able to be there for their kids and have careers too.”
What I find really amazing is how she remains one of the girls despite all her successes. When asked, what’s her favorite ever ensemble? She responds that she’s a self-confessed beach bum. “Flip flops and a cover up, which means I’m at the beach … my happy place.”
Looking Into Starting Your Own Business?
Having experienced starting from the bottom up when it comes to her business, Allison shares some valuable advice to women who want to take the same path as she did. “As an entrepreneur, I would say just go for it! You’ll never know what might be if you don’t give it a try.” Fresh graduates have some wisdom to take from her too – “You are the future of the American workforce. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need to make yourself happier and more productive at home and life.”
Ultimately, the biggest question for many of those considering the big move away from a steady paycheck is – How do I know? Allison shares that if the itch to move careers is there, just heed the call despite the fear of the future. So how did she know it was the right path for her? “I didn’t! I started my career in accounting, but as I began searching for my own work-life satisfaction, I encountered countless other women looking for the same thing and saw an opportunity to change how America does business.”
At the end of the day the biggest lesson I’ve taken from this wonderful role model is to be two things in life – BRAVE and INSPIRED. And in the words of Thomas Edison, also a mantra she lives by, I leave you dear reader with a last valuable piece of advice:
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
Learn more about Allison and her mission for all women by checking out Mom Corps and tweet us @mscareergirl about what you think!