People always ask me how and why I started TAP. How did I know this was an important business model that needed to be created? The answer isn’t as straightforward as one might think. While there was definitely a “lightbulb moment,” it occurred as part of an evolution of events starting many years ago, when I was at an important juncture in my life.
I had decided to pivot
At that time, I had decided to leave the workforce to raise my daughters. It had not been an easy decision after all of the years I had invested in my career. I had gone to business school after college and then worked in management consulting and marketing strategy at large corporations for years. Like many women, I had been on a clear career trajectory, but I ultimately determined that consulting didn’t provide the flexibility I craved once I had children. My goals had shifted. I wanted to spend more time with my family, so I took a chance and traded the professional boardroom for my town boardroom, fully immersing myself into volunteering for my local government.
I pivoted again
Eventually, my daughters got older and my mindset started to shift again. It suddenly occurred to me that I had spent so much time and energy preparing my girls for the world, I was now worried about getting left behind. I knew I had to re-engage professionally in some way. I started interviewing at firms, but wanted flexibility and control of my schedule that the workforce didn’t allow. It had become structurally impossible to work the way I had worked in the past while raising my daughters the way I wanted to raise them. I was conflicted, but knew I had to prioritize and find another way.
Around this time, in 2012, I noticed neighborhood small businesses starting to struggle as the internet and big box stores had transformed buyer behavior and expectations. Shop owners put on a brave face, but eventually admitted they were worried about paying their rent and being able to send their children to college. They were trying hard to stay afloat, but didn’t have the budgets to access professional advisors to help them grow and survive. This troubled me and I knew I could help them solve these problems.
The lightbulb moment
I recognized there was an enormous pool of talent in my own backyard -- successful women who had also left their fast-paced careers to raise their children or who had continued working, but wanted to give back to their community. Many were looking for a way back into the workforce. Then it hit me. What if I could leverage the talent all around me to help the businesses I knew and loved get stronger and not just survive, but actually thrive? This was my lightbulb moment! I co-founded The Acceleration Project.
Our vision was to bring Wall Street to Main Street; to identify and mobilize these accomplished female professionals who could use their formidable skills and experience to help solve the problems I saw among local businesses. And in turn, we would provide them with an outlet to re-launch their careers. It was a win-win proposition, but it didn’t happen overnight. We had stops and starts. We brought in volunteer consultants and tested concepts until we got the model just right. We ran focus groups to make sure our idea resonated. We started to build a team. We hustled to get sponsors and donors so we could launch and grow.
When we finally started, we had immediate impact, arming business owners with tools and action plans they wouldn’t otherwise have. Today, we have over 90 consultants and are serving businesses in 9 states and 40 cities and towns and have worked with hundreds of clients. Businesses have gotten stronger, many women have relaunched their careers, and I relaunched mine!
This experience has taught me that the path back to work -- or towards a career change -- isn’t always linear. It’s important to be open to new opportunities, think out-of-the-box, take risks and follow your passion to see where it may lead you. My time away from the workforce eventually led me to create TAP and I have never looked back.