By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
The business that Knoxvillian Courtney Jones runs today originated as the result of a concern that literally kept her awake at night.
“Is there not a better way,” the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of The MomForce Network recalls asking herself in relation to helping relatively new mothers find the flexibility they need in their personal lives while also resuming their professional careers.
Jones knows first-hand what it is like to have a successful career that is interrupted for motherhood. In her case, she and her husband decided some eight years after getting married to start a family, so she took some time off. A few years later, a son was born.
When Jones went back to her corporate job, she was able to negotiate an arrangement that was designed to provide balance in her life. And, as she observed other young mothers in similar situations, the idea for MomForce Network began to emerge.
The concept is simply to serve as a matchmaker, connecting mostly women who want to reenter the workforce with employers who need their talents and are willing to provide the flexibility that the women require in their lives.
“We represent candidates is all stages of their life who value flexibility,” Jones says. “Some of our most successful placements have been retired moms and grandmothers who want the opportunity to work some but not necessarily commit to a traditional 40+ hour per week office environment.”
Founding a company was not Jones’ initial idea. It was rather her natural propensity to connect people that was the catalyst.
Over a two-year period, Jones, who describes herself as well-connected professionally, introduced three “amazingly talented mothers” to prospective employers. It was all gratis. “I’m a connector by nature,” she admits.
When she did the early introductions, Jones admits that she did not realize that she might be able to monetize the idea. However, as she thought about it more, she decided people might pay for the service. Research to better understand the business proposition and pain point on the employer side led to the creation of MomForce Network.
“We officially started trying to make money in August of 2013,” Jones says.
Today, the start-up has six staff members, all operating in a virtual environment; represents 2,000 individuals in East Tennessee; and just announced a move into Chattanooga. Turnover among those MomForce Network helps place is less than two percent annually.
Why so low?
One key factor is Jones and her staff who clearly understand what mothers reentering the workforce want.
“Ninety-nine percent prioritize flexibility over other items like money,” she says.
Jones also cites several other characteristics that differentiate MomForce Network.
“We don’t two temps,” she says. “We do long-term introductions. We also advocate for professional moms in a holistic sense.”
MomForce Network hosts monthly events for its clients where it provides information on topics as diverse as resume writing, financial management, and estate planning.
“Most staffing businesses are transactional,” Jones adds. “We are about advancing these women.”
The less than two-year old start-up is looking to expand into other mid-size Southern cities and perhaps add a service line for trailing spouses.
“What shape that’s going to take is uncertain,” Jones says of the last possibility.
The interview that produced this article was the first time we had talked one-on-one with Jones, but it is clear that the dynamic entrepreneur is focused on the long-term and willing to practice the flexibility that she seeks for others.
“I’m a believer that, if you run the business in the right way, the revenue will come,” she says.