President of MomForce Network Courtney Jones used to lie awake at night wondering why women often have to choose between staying at home with a family or going back to work after giving birth.
Although she was able to negotiate a flexible corporate work schedule that allowed her a good balance between work and motherhood, she encountered many women who didn't find that option.
They wanted to work but had trouble finding a job with the needed flexibility.
So Jones—who is the daughter of a stay-at-home mom and a serial entrepreneur—set out to solve the problem.
MomForce Network begins, expands
She started small by connecting a couple of people with flexible job options.
After that worked, she formally established her business, which advocates for the professional mother and connects them with flexible employment.
Now, a year after founding MomForce Network, which is based in Knoxville, she's expanding into Chattanooga.
MomForce Network connects professional mothers with flexible full-time jobs, permanent part-time jobs, telecommuting opportunities or job-share options.
Telecommuting is working from home, and job sharing is when someone splits a 40-hour-a-week job with another person. For example, one person might work Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the other could work Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
The network currently has 1,300 mothers and dozens of businesses.
Now, Jones is working to build up the base of Chattanooga mothers, find out their skillsets and connect them with local employers who are interested in the chance to access a new group of potential employees.
It's free for any mother to sign up for the network.
After a mother joins, they go through a MomForce interview and then start receiving emails about potential positions that match their skillset and flexibility needs.
Business model, benefits
Although there is a feel-good component to her company, Jones' main priority is the employer.
"It's nice to think it's a good thing to do for these women, but the truth is there's a real, tangible cash component," said Jones, who has a background in sales, marketing and business consulting.
Bringing in a flexible workforce can help businesses increase productivity and employee satisfaction, and decrease overhead costs, Jones said.
The majority of women currently in the network prioritize flexibility over pay, she said.
Some business leaders might be fearful of allowing flexibility. What if the stay-at-home mom is distracted or not doing the work she said she would do?
But flexibility doesn't mean businesses have to sacrifice quality, Jones said. The business comes first. She's just asking if there's a better way to work and whether a flexible staff model can be part of that.
"Employers need to be equally focused on businesses results and accountability," she said. "[Through our service] they are just allowing a great person autonomy to do well on a less-than-traditional schedule."
About 90 percent of the network's members have at least a four-year degree, she said.
And access to these mothers can open up a line to a talented and untapped workforce, she said.
The employees that she's placed have less than a 1 percent turnover rate. And companies that avoid turnover can save because it costs time and money to hire and train people.
Jones' company makes money by charging a one-time direct hire placement fee, paid by the employer.
MomForce Network also offers consulting services for businesses that are interested in learning more about how to utilize a flexible workforce.
After starting in Knoxville and expanding outward in the East Tennessee area, Jones has moved her business into the Chattanooga market.
There is a new Facebook page for Chattanooga, and there will likely be at least one person, if not a team of MomForce employees, eventually working here locally.
Jones is looking for results-oriented businesses in Chattanooga that might benefit from having flexible employees.
She said there's a bit of novelty in what she's doing and that it resonates with people both professionally and personally, so she thinks the business is poised for growth.
After Chattanooga, she hopes to expand elsewhere in the Southeast.
"We are really excited about being the representative for professional moms in Chattanooga," she said. "It's a responsibility we take really seriously. And we want to be in a flourishing business community [like Chattanooga] that is intentional and forward-thinking about finding new ways to run businesses."