20 Million-Dollar Mom

Flexibility is gold. It is prized above nearly all else by members of the workplace. Allison O’ Kelly has built an empire offering flexibility.

Flexibility and talent that thrives with it. Her startup MomCorp—valued at $20 million—matches skilled businesswomen who choose to work from home with companies looking for contract work.

It started when—as one might guess—O’ Kelly had to leave her job at Toys “R” Us on many afternoons to take care of her son who suffered a dairy allergy. Leaving often led to leaving for good, and doing contract work. Her work was so good and so in-demand she was able to run a business recruiting others like her.

This was 2005. Since then, she grew the business and eventually realized the best course of action was to sell franchises. While the company began focusing on accounting work, it didn’t waste much time before branching out into legal and other fields. The franchises began to develop their own niches.

Today, O’ Kelly still runs the core operation from home, with a roster of more than 80,000 MomCorps women. Of Course, not all the talent she recruits are mothers, though many are. O’Kelly emphasizes that her flexible army of workers are not part-timers. Flex-time is just that—flexible—not necessarily part-time or low volume in terms of work.

What O’Kelly sacrifices is what all entrepreneurs do—the right to be off the clock when she’s off. To be able to see the kids in the afternoon when they return from school, one might have to stay up and work late nights.

The Harvard Business School MBA is now working to recruit new franchise owners for cities across the country, having recently added Denver and Chicago.

O’Kelly grew up just outside Washington, DC and started her career in Atlanta as an auditor. From there it was Harvard, Toys “R” Us, and the Toys “R” Us management program. In 1999, she began putting together the company’s online presence.

O’Kelly is the parent of three boys, nine, seven, and one. As such, she focuses on life balance, not just corporate success. Ultimately, that is what flexibility is all about.

O’Kelly’s story can tell us a lot. For one thing, the ball on the whole empire got rolling because she made a decisive move, adjusting to the circumstances around her by beginning to contract at home. Second, she got herself in a situation to start MomCorp because the contracting work she did was of high quality. She didn’t dream up a product and cast about for a market, but instead created her market through the quality of her work.

From there, it was a matter of controlling her brand and being sure to create consistency throughout the various franchises.

But ultimately, O’Kelly seized on a major cultural phenomenon, the pool of great female talent—in many cases, moms—who had a lot to offer the workplace while enjoying some flexibility.