BeyondMotherhood.com is a niche job board aimed at connecting employers with experienced, stay-at-home moms.
UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, Ohio — Shannon Davis was at home with two small children when a nagging thought just wouldn’t go away: There has to be a better way for stay-at-home moms to leverage their skills and still be around for their children.
Davis, of University Heights, Ohio, never wanted to be an entrepreneur. She just wanted to do something that she enjoyed with flexible hours, ideally a job that could draw on her master’s degree in instructional technology and distance education. Instead, she found administrative jobs that didn’t interest her or corporate jobs that weren’t flexible.
“I started exploring things I always wanted to do and ended up working evenings as a sous-chef coordinator for three years,” she said.
Before Davis changed careers, she managed e-learning and webcasting nationally for professional services company Ernst & Young. Before that, she worked in a placement firm. Her background ties in perfectly with her new company, BeyondMotherhood.com, a niche job board aimed at connecting employers with experienced, stay-at-home moms.
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But that wasn’t the plan.
“I couldn’t find what I was looking for, so I just created it,” she said. “I wanted to be able to look for jobs that fit my schedule. I had many conversations with friends and other amazing women who faced the same challenge.”
In less than a year, the job board has about 2,000 mothers and 450 employers signed up nationwide, ranging from Tiffany & Co. and the Container Store to small startup companies and a handful of large employers. The company was supposed to feature just Northeast Ohio businesses such as the Cleveland Clinic, a title sponsor, but word spread fast online.
Davis said she spends a lot of time e-mailing women nationwide, seeking their patience in listing jobs in other parts of the country. “My goal is to have something for everyone.”
The company charges $75 for a single 30-day job posting. Discounts are applied for more postings.
In April, the Civic Innovation Lab in Cleveland awarded Davis a $30,000 grant and provided two mentors to help build her business. Before getting the grant, Davis tapped her and her husband’s personal savings.
Jennifer Thomas, director of the Civic Innovation Lab, said Davis got the money because she’s technologically clued in and playing a role in job attraction and retention.
“We see it as an attempt to engage a valuable and untapped workforce — moms who opt out for a few years — that could add to the productivity of our region,” she said.
Money is only part of an issue for startup business owners. Thomas said they also need mentoring and momentum. The organization paired her with Ron Kopfer, founder of Fathom Interactive, a search optimization company. Davis says her biweekly meetings with her mentor are invaluable.
But she’s interviewed hundreds of mothers and business people making sure she’s on the right track, and she’s trying to learn from others’ mistakes. In February, she created a networking group for mom entrepreneurs in Northeast Ohio through a Web site called Meetup.com and already has 70 members.
“I gained a support network and I’ve learned new approaches to market the business,” Davis said. “We share ideas once a month in person, for what we consider a moms’ night out. It’s nice to be able to shoot an e-mail to one of them and get a response with words of wisdom. They’re like virtual co-workers, people I can share wins and losses with.”
In January, she e-mailed Monster.com founder Jeff Taylor, seeking 15 minutes of his time. Taylor, who runs baby boomer social networking site Eons.com and a new spinoff Web site, Tributes.com, made himself available.
“I told him I had already started the job board but I needed help to grow it,” Davis said. “I asked him about challenges he faced early on, and I wanted suggestions for people he felt I should talk to make my business a success.”
She has contacted managers and executives of other online businesses as well as people she’s read about in small business magazines. They include Kim Kleeman, co-founder of Shakespeare Squared, a content development firm for textbook and trade-book publishers with a network of about 500 freelance educators and publishing professionals.
“BeyondMotherhood.com answers a call for talented, educated people who have time and a need to keep their résumés current. Shannon has created an easy-to-use, manageable site,” said Kleeman, who also started her business from home as a young mother.
“I especially love the sassy women on the front page. Companies should take advantage of this great niche and great company.”
Davis said she’s made plenty of mistakes already, like not having a soft launch before formally opening her business in September 2007. But she’s optimistic about business growth. According to Salary.com, more than 95 percent of employers hire former stay-at-home moms, and more than 80 percent actively recruit moms re-entering the workforce.
“I’m hoping to create an awareness for women entrepreneurs,” she said. “You can pretty much do anything if you take action and don’t let fear run your life. Other women have told me that they had the same idea but never moved on it.”