I still vividly remember my last day at work – I was packing up my desk, fighting back tears of all kinds – excitement, fear, anxiety – but mostly sadness. I was getting ready to leave my dream job – one which I had worked so hard to land, one which I thoroughly enjoyed on a daily basis, one which I got to spend time with some of the best people I had ever met in my life – to be a stay at home mom with my then two year old son. I had absolutely no idea what to expect, but all I knew was that I had a finite window to do the things I’ve always wanted to do, the first on my list being staying home with my children.
We packed up our things and moved from Saint Louis to Pittsburgh, PA. At first, I settled into my new-found role; I planned each day with my son to make sure he had a fun and enriching experience. For the first year or so, I felt confident in my decision. But soon, a nagging feeling began developing in the back of my head, “Did I do the right thing? Did I throw my career away? Will I ever be able to go back to work again?” I began applying for full time jobs, only to realize after numerous rounds of interviews, that I wasn’t ready to go back to work full time. It was then that I started my marketing consulting firm, ROKI Consulting, LLC, to not only help entrepreneurs grow their businesses, but to also keep relevant work experience on my resume, all on my schedule. I was 36 weeks pregnant with my second child when I had my first discussion with the lawyer about starting my LLC, and my son was 4 weeks old when I signed my operating agreement. I was on my way, but was blissfully unaware of the road that laid ahead.
Fast forward 18 months, 10 successful client relationships and a boost in confidence later, and I finally felt as though I was ready to go back to work full time. My sons were 5 and nearly 2 respectively, and I felt as though I was ready to re-enter the workforce. I went into the reapplication process with a head full of confidence – after all, I had worked for firms such as IBM and Nestle, I had an MBA, hell I had started my own company! Of course I was going to get a job…
Except I didn’t. Six months went by without a single phone call, email or interview. I began working with a recruiter who told me point blank that “because of the gap on your resume, you probably won’t be able to get a job at a Fortune 500 company” That statement all but shattered my confidence. I ended up settling for a job I knew I was grossly overqualified for, but my immense collapse in confidence convinced me that that was all I was capable of doing at the time. In short, it was one of the most devastating times of my life.
But then something interesting happened – a small fire began kindling inside of me, telling me “this is wrong….it’s not ok to tell a person who took time away from their career to raise their children that they are not ‘qualified’ to re-enter the workforce”. I began researching and talking with other moms on the topic and quickly realized that so many other parents felt the same way. I decided to relaunch ROKI Consulting as ROKIMom to help empower modern professional moms looking to re-enter the workforce. I left my full time job and dedicated my time towards connecting professional moms with the right resources to help them feel supported and informed about how to re-enter the work force. It felt good to be doing something that was not only personally impactful, but that impacted so many others too.
In my quest to empower the modern working mom, I met my very good friend and now business partner, Jessica Strong. She too was on a similar mission, and was the brilliant founder of Whetstone Workgroup, a co-working space with drop-in childcare. We met up for dinner one night, not only to get to know one another better, but to talk about how to further fuel our mutual passions. That dinner led to the first conversations about Flexable. We were fortunate enough to be accepted into one of the top accelerator programs in the country, AlphaLab, and to this day continue to think of ways to empower modern working parents everywhere!