On maternity leave from Procter & Gamble in 2015, Allison Robinson came across the statistic that 40 percent of professional women leave the workforce once they’re moms. By choice or circumstance? Was there a business matching women who wanted to work again with companies in need of their skills?
Six months later, the Mom Project was up and running, and now links 35,000 women (and a few men) with Fortune 500 companies, including MillerCoors, Jones Lang LaSalle, P&G, and smaller ones. “To leave P&G, I knew it had to be something big, a social mission,” says CEO Robinson, 31, who designed the online platform to make it easier for women to re-enter the workforce, a “bridge back.” That can mean a gig-economy, four-month project, a “maternityship” or a full-time job.
There’s more to her business than a site: Robinson pitches to companies the financial benefits of a diverse, inclusive workforce and her ability to help them fill mid-management layers depleted by—you guessed it—moms who left. “I’m selling to HR, I’m selling to moms,” says Robinson, who collects from the companies a 20 percent fee of the salary or short-term contract. She bootstrapped her startup, based in a Fulton Market sublease, and has since raised $2.6 million from venture capitalists.
“She’s super scrappy: In a few months she created a digital marketplace for moms with a lot of flexible jobs and projects from big and small companies,” says investor Eddie Lou, executive chairman and co-founder of Shiftgig.
Shatha al Awad had been a senior credit analyst in Boston when she became a mother; five years later and now in Chicago, Al Awad tried to re-enter the workforce. “Hard, hard, hard,” she recalls. “I’d be in the door, they’d say, ‘You’re highly qualified, but there’s this gap.’ Why would they take a chance on me when I might do that again?”
Through the Mom Project—the ease of use is “idiot-proof,” she says—Al Awad is employed at BP as an origin supply scheduler. “Because I was presented via the Mom Project, it took the awkwardness out of the conversation; they simply wanted to know what I could bring to the table.”
Robinson, now a mother of two, employs 14 and models a “be where you need to be to get work done” flexibility ethos. For her, that means being on an airplane, as she travels the country managing supply and demand, meeting with investors, talking with policymakers.
“A successful weekend for me looks like nothing,” she laughs, though she and husband Gregory, CFO/COO of the Mom Project, enjoy exploring the city’s parks and restaurants with their children. A self-described nerd, Robinson reads only nonfiction and listens exclusively to social science and psychology podcasts. They live in Wicker Park.
She’ll expand the business in Atlanta and San Francisco, because even though the Mom Project is an online marketplace, a physical presence is necessary. “This is a movement,” says Robinson. “Women want these issues solved.”
BP PLC Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. MillerCoors LLC Shiftgig Inc.