Could Your Bootstrapped Startup Use A Few Good Moms?

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By Kerry Bowbliss & Sherry Lombardi (Co-Founders, Hulafrog) Last year, we launched Hulafrog, a network of hyperlocal websites for moms. Each one is the “go-to” guide to life with kids around town. Hulafrog was born, like many startups, out of necessity. As new moms, we were on the never-ending quest for enriching activities and fun events for our kids and yearned for a simple way to find them. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a single website with everything from language lessons and soccer camps to parades and puppet shows to kid friendly restaurants and museums?

There wasn’t. So we built one. The prototype site reached 59% of the market in 12 months. Then we started hearing from other moms who wanted to have a Hulafrog in their town. And more interestingly, we started hearing from moms who wanted to run a Hulafrog in their town.

When we began our search for someone to help launch Hulafrog #2, we didn’t use help-wanted ads. No CraigsList. A single post in our own newsletter for a commission-only position netted dozens of applications. We were floored. Ex-execs from Fortune 500s. Ivy league grads. Killer resumes from many industries. We brought on two fabulous women and it tore us up to turn the rest away. (But we have a stellar pipeline of candidates to tap post fundraising.)

Fast forward a few months. We now have 9 websites, “Hula U.”, our proprietary training program, and 15 more sites planned for February. Each Hulafrog is run by a local mom, the publisher, who manages content and sells advertising. Every one of those women joined us in search of that ideal and evasive work-family balance.

For so many ex-exec moms, home and family now trump big salaries and promotions. Corporate ladders and commutes no longer appeal. They want to work, but maybe only during nap times or before 2:30 pickup. The problem is that great jobs, even good jobs, that meet those requirements are few and far between.

A 2010 study by the Center For Work-Life Balance found that 69% of women would not have left their jobs after having children if more flexibility was available. Further, out of 89% of mothers who took a break to raise children and said that they wanted to return to work, only 40% actually did, due to difficultly getting back in and lack of options.

We need more great career opportunities to fill this massive void in the job market. Innovative startups are the perfect place to begin. You and the ex-exec mom-force have aligned interests. You’re a lean startup. Probably in need of help in multiple areas like publicity, marketing, book keeping, sales, business development, writing, IT, software development and more. There are thousands of moms around who are at the top of their game in these categories.

Here Are 3 Can’t-Ignore Reasons To Hire a Mom

  1. It’s economical -- Your money will go further with a mom. Not to say money doesn’t matter. It does. However, for the right opportunity, moms will gladly trade higher wages for the ability to work from home and be in charge how and when they work. Often the family has adjusted to living on one income, so equity or commissions as compensation may be an option. Further, you likely could bring in two great sales people part-time for far less than one full-time.
  2. It’s flexible -- Since you may not be ready for a full-time writer or business development director just yet, this is a way to build your team in baby steps and fill in holes where you may lack certain skills or experience. Many moms will also be on a trajectory that parallels yours, looking to increase their hours as their kids get older and your business grows.
  3. It’s about talent -- Consider this a back door way to recruit some of the best and brightest. Most boot-strapped companies don’t yet have the budget or prestige to lure away that rising star at Ogilvy & Mather who’s still actively climbing the corporate ladder. But if that rising star opted out of the work force two years ago to have baby #2 and is itching to get back in the game, only playing by new rules – you may be her perfect match. And if she was good before kids, trust us, she’s better now. There is no one who knows how to multi-task and meet a deadline like a mom.

Here Are 3 Ways To Attract The Best Moms

  1. Offer flexibility -- Freedom of time and place is priority number one. Whether it’s a writing project that can be worked on any time as long as it’s completed by a certain date, or a daily accounting task that can be done at any hour, offer assignments that can be completed on her own schedule.
  2. Make her a part of the team --- Working from home can be isolating and some moms are dying for a little adult interaction. Let her see the big picture and be part of the water cooler scene. The more you can bring her into the virtual fold though Intranets, chat boards and video, the more you she’ll be a champion for your cause.
  3. Challenge her -- Remember, many of these women are A-level contributors that just happen to have kids. Engage her inner rockstar. Farm out projects that require a unique skill set. Find someone great, and let her run with it and add value. There are so few fabulous opportunities out there for moms, that if you offer a great one – they’ll be banging down your doors.

Where do you find these moms? Check out the work-from-home job boards like WAHM.com or a part time recruiter like Mom Corps. Even better, look to your own industry publications and blogs.

There’s a good chance your ideal candidate is not actively looking for a job – because she doesn’t believe the right one is out there – but still follows her industry. Post to Facebook, local mom sites and tell your friends. Go out of your way to position your company as mom-friendly: an ideal place for every whip-smart ex-exec who loves a challenge, wants to be a part of something big and work on her own terms. That’s a win-win in our book.

We’re looking for a few good moms right now ourselves. How about you?

About the guest blogger: Kerry Bowbliss is Co-Founder of Hulafrog, a growing network of websites for suburban moms. She has 15 years of experience in online and print media, including starting publications from scratch. Kerry co-founded and was Editor-in-Chief of Advanced Trading, a monthly technology magazine and website, for CMP Media (now Techweb) and was Editor-in-Chief of Wall Street & Technology. Kerry lives in the suburbs of New Jersey with her family and her MacBook. Follow her on Twitter at @KMBowbliss. About the guest blogger: Sherry Lombardi is Co-Founder of Hulafrog, a new network of local webguides for moms. Sherry is a serial entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience in the internet marketing industry and enough working mom war stories to fill a library. She co-founded a web analytics firm, was a partner at one of the top internet advertising agencies and co-wrote an e-commerce book for small businesses. Sherry lives in in the NJ ‘burbs with her husband, two kids and a beagle.