Terry College of Business - Spring 2009 - (Page 23)
filled just about every kind of professional level job — accounting, marketing, human resources, legal, graphic designers, IT, business strategy,” says O’Kelly, who makes herself available for consulting. Her new profession has also proved to be portable: After her husband accepted a position as CEO of Newington-based construction supply firm A.H. Harris, the family moved to Farmington from Atlanta. In four years, Mom Corps has steadily grown, although like most companies it has suffered recent setbacks with the economy. However, since the beginning of the year O’Kelly says Mom Corps has seen a consistent uptick in business, so “we’re hopeful.” In February, the website StartUpNation named Mom Corps “Best Financial Performer” among home-based businesses in 2008. The timeliness of O’Kelly’s business coincides with a slow national awakening to the difficulties working moms face. In the Mother’s Day issue of Essence, “First Mom” Michelle Obama is interviewed with her own mother, and says, “There isn’t a relationship in a family that is more important than a child has with her mother, or someone in that role. We have to value that. . . . We need to have truthful and honest conversations about what it requires to do all that we ask of families and women.” And despite the media conflagration known as “The Mommy Wars,” in which stay-at-home moms level ammo at career women, and vice-versa, O’Kelly believes the opposite is true: “I think most women want to help each other.” Back again in O’Kelly’s office, all is quiet once more, as she O’Kelly found it was both better and cheaper to hire a live-in au pair than to put both boys in day care. (She considers child care so important that her company has partnered with Sittercity, an online resource for child care, senior care, housesitting, and pet care.) Nolan now goes to kindergarten while Ethan goes to morning pre-school. When they’re home, both boys know not to interrupt Mom’s work except for extreme emergencies — like a fritzy Wii game. Still, a slight glint of panic appears in their eyes as Mom reaches for her purse on her way out the door for a lunch date. “Where are you going?” Ethan asks. “To lunch,” she says. “I’ll be back.” “But why?” he pleads. “You know, they don’t seem to care if I’m not around, as long as I’m in the house,” says O’Kelly, who experiences the situation in reverse when she tries to reach her own mother by phone. “Where are you?” she says with consternation on her third attempt in 20 minutes. “She’s always there.” Always there — the dream situation for moms and children everywhere, but one never achieved without sacrifice. Or perhaps more accurately, choices. Asked what she will tell her own sons about work and life, O’Kelly says, “I won’t tell them they can do anything they want to do. I’ll tell them that’s not possible. That if they choose a demanding profession, it will take time away from their families. That their wives’ work and careers have value. That they will have to make difficult choices to make everything work.” Maybe it won’t be, in O’Kelly’s favorite word, perfect, but plenty good enough. Terry College of (opposite page/from left) Mom Corps staff includes Trista Wearing (recruiting) Caroline Evans (marketing), Nadia Mckay (sales), Lisa Tis (franchise relations), O’kelly (CEO), and Maria Goldsholl (COO). (above) O’kelly’s 6-year-old son Nolan now takes the bus to kindergarten. Asked what she’ll tell her boys about work and life, O’kelly says, “I won’t tell them they can do anything they want to do . . . they will have to make difficult choices . . . their wives’ work and careers have value.” composes herself for an XM radio interview with financial expert Jean Chatzky, on Oprah Winfrey’s talk channel. “Ahhh,” she says as the caller ID comes up Harpo [Oprah’s corporation]. “That always makes me feel important.” But as she launches into the interview, telling Chatzky that she hopes the economic downturn will prompt more entrepreneurial upstarts like her own, the quiet, orderly office suddenly erupts, as her phones, largely silent the last two days, begin to ring in chorus. One phone cradled to her ear, she manages to single-handedly strangle another into silence, as she mimes instructions to a visitor on how to unplug yet another noisy receiver. As the Chatzky interview unexpectedly stretches into another segment, during a short break she tells the visitor how to let herself out. If there’s one thing Allison O’Kelly has become good at, it’s improvising solutions to unexpected pandemonium. She returns to the phone, and when Chatzky’s assistant tells her they’ll be on again in a moment, she replies, “Perfect.” ■ To learn more about Mom Corps, go to www.momcorps.com. To listen to O’Kelly’s ’08 “Terry Sound Business” presentation, go to www.terry.uga.edu/podcasts/episode/terry-leadership-speakerseries-allison-okelly. Spring 2009• 23 BuSineSS
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