Jennifer Gefsky and Niccole Kroll wanted to rewrite an old story. You know the one.
"An impressive woman wants to re-enter the workforce—she’s well-educated, previously successful, and, well, basically a wonder woman—but she couldn’t get a job," says Gefsky, who with business partner Kroll created Après, a digital recruiting platform for women looking to restart their careers.
"We understood this woman, because she was a lot like us," continues Gefsky, pictured above left, who has three children. She and Kroll, who has four kids, took time out from their own careers—as VP and deputy general counsel for Major League Baseball, and a registered dietician, respectively—to focus on their families. From that, they recognized a need to connect women to companies who wanted to hire female talent—full-time, part-time, for maternity fill-in positions and more.
And in July 2015, the idea for Après was born. The platform, whose name means "after" in French, launches May 4. Gefsky and Kroll talked to mom.me about what moms generally take for granted on their résumés, how the entrepreneurs teach their kids about "girl power" and what advice they'd give their younger selves.
Your business is powered by women. What are some ways you're teaching your kids about "girl power"?
Jennifer Gefsky: We have an entire section on the site dedicated to girls/young women called “Inspiring Our Girls” because we believe so strongly in helping women give positive messages to their daughters. One of our recent newsletters featured a piece we both love about how we, as grown women, have to learn the same lessons we teach our girls about self-confidence and taking risks. One of the best ways to teach girls about “girl power” is by example. We started a company because we saw a need in the market, and our daughters have enjoyed being a part of this journey with us!
Niccole Kroll: I think by modeling behavior our daughters and sons recognize that it’s empowering when a woman owns the decisions about her career and family life. I recently asked my 11-year-old son what he would look for in a spouse, and he said: “Smart with her choices and cares about working hard, whether it’s for her family or for a company.” I think it’s just as important to educate our boys about female empowerment.
I think it’s just as important to educate our boys about female empowerment. —Niccole Kroll
Describe the moment when you first felt successful.
JG: In terms of my career, I felt incredibly successful when I received my first “offer letter” while I was still in law school! I felt like, “I did it!”
NK: Success is a tricky word. I fear success because it can indicate that a goal has been achieved. I tend to always move the goal post. I prefer small wins. My first professional small win was landing a summer job at a local coffee shop before I ever made a cup of coffee—let alone drank one.
What's your advice for moms who are looking to get back into the workforce?
JG: We have plenty of advice, which is why we created the "Inspire" section of Après, where we highlight all of our original content. If I had to summarize some of the best advice, it would be: believe in yourself; know you’re not alone; don’t be afraid to tap into your personal networks; and understand that re-entering the workforce is a journey. Oh, and most important, don’t be afraid to fail.
What sacrifices have you made as a mom and an entrepreneur to keep everything in balance?
JG: It certainly is an adjustment for the entire family when the “mom” re-enters the workforce or starts a new business. For me, it was all about prioritizing and learning to not be so hard on myself when things aren’t “perfect.” It’s OK if everything doesn’t run according to a well-designed plan—the world will continue to spin.
NK: This last year has been challenging in terms of taking care of myself. I have worked hard to take care of my family, my business and my philanthropic obligations. But this specific challenge is temporary, and I recognize that this coming year will be about finding internal balance.
If I had to summarize some of the best advice, it would be: believe in yourself. —Jennifer Gefsky
What are your goals for your first year of business?
JG: We have worked incredibly hard the past year getting ready to launch Après and are really excited that the fun part is getting underway. Our goal is to reach as many women looking to re-enter the workforce as possible and help them find jobs! We also want to continue to grow our corporate partner community.
NK: We want to listen and learn from our community of women as well as from our corporate partners and make business decisions accordingly.
What surprised you most when you were coming up with your business or business plan?
JG: I think it’s surprising to learn that nothing is easy. Everything is a challenge, especially when you’re doing it for the first time. But perseverance is key—you have to just keep forging ahead!
What qualities do you find moms take for granted when they're drafting their résumés?
JG: I think moms have incredible qualities that actually translate really well to the workplace— the ability to handle pressure and stress, the skills of listening, having patience, encouraging others and building a team. Women re-entering the workforce are also so re-energized about working! Employers love these qualities.
NK: Their ability to navigate through all the BS. Moms have this ability to stay laser-focused on what’s important in order to move the ball forward. That translates beautifully to the workforce.
What would you say are the most important skills and experiences you've brought from previous positions to your current post?
JG: As a lawyer, I spent a significant amount of time writing, and that’s a skill I use every day. Also, I tap into the experience I had building a team, supporting co-workers and listening to colleagues.
NK: I am a serial entrepreneur, a big-picture thinker, a problem-solver and I tend to think outside the box. I tap into these qualities on a regular basis while launching and running our new company with my business partner Jen, who complements my skills beautifully!
What advice would you give your younger self—experienced businesswoman to rookie businesswoman?
JG: Wow! How much time do we have? There’s quite a bit of advice I would love to give my younger self. Here are the biggies: Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Don’t back down. Stand up for what you believe in. Be a mentor. And, most important, take care of and be kind to yourself.
NK: Don’t just hear what the other person is saying—listen. Then make an educated decision when the time comes. Know how and when to speak up. Sometimes simply listening is more valuable. Don’t let competition be discouraging. Let it motivate you.