back in the game: From left: Bradi Nathan, her son Jack and daughter Drew get in a game with Terry Starr, her daughter Danielle and son Hunter.
STAR POWER: Starr and Nathan are flanked by model Emme, left, and Malaak Compton-Rock, who hosted their launch party at her Alpine home; (right) Starr and Nathan with Kathie Lee Gifford.
When Terry Starr, 52, and Bradi Nathan, 39, met by chance at a Borders bookstore two years ago, the Livingston natives had no idea they’d soon become business partners. The pair quickly realized Starr’s 30 years of experience in recruitment marketing was an ideal fit with Nathan’s interest in online marketing. Before long, the idea of a web-based community for career-minded mothers took flight.
Developed as a website “for moms who want to spread their wings,” My Work Butterfly (myworkbutterfly.com) provides advice and support for mothers, who, like Nathan, long to return to the cubicle, as well as guidance for the moms who, like Starr, never left.
The site’s more than 5,000 members hail from 112 countries, and are taking full advantage of the national job board and one-on-one support from resident career coaches, human resources executives, and Roseland-based licensed psychotherapist Julie Potischman. Touted as the “Facebook for moms,” the message boards and live chats promote networking among like-minded women based on geographic location, career industry and general interests.
“It’s amazing to us that women in Nigeria, Afghanistan and Japan are all logging on and expressing the same struggles with achieving that work-life balance,” Nathan says. “Regardless of where we’re from, whether we’re a high-profile celebrity or an average mom from New Jersey, we’re all trying to do our best…and have to cut ourselves some slack!”
There are groups for just about everyone: single moms, work-at-home moms and homeschooling moms, in addition to groups connecting frugal moms and spiritual moms and the beauty-obsessed, the yogis and the dog lovers.
“One of our largest groups is our Jersey Moms group, where members can ‘tawk Jerzey,’” Starr says. Conversations span local employers, office space for rent, the best restaurants…and, of course, desperate pleas for anyone with extra Springsteen tickets.
“The idea was born from conversations I’ve had with so many moms who are wrestling with the same question: can I manage to go back to work, and how will I get hired when I’ve been out of the loop for so long?” Nathan says.
“We wanted to empower moms who are contemplating returning to work, while reaching out to working moms like me…who are trying to figure things out every single day,” adds Starr, mom to Danielle, 15, and Hunter, 10.
Prior to having Jack, 10, and Drew, 7, Nathan served as advertising manager for Marie Claire and as beauty advertising director for Town & Country. Now, she’s the owner of For You Two, which offers personal growth classes for moms with infants, and her dream of an online community for mothers to share ideas, lend support and provide resources has come true. And it all goes back to that summer day in the bookstore, when Nathan was clutching Internet Riches by Scott Fox and a mutual friend introduced her to Starr.
After months of focus groups and national surveys, the site was launched in January 2009 at the Alpine home of comedian Chris Rock and his wife, Malaak Compton-Rock.
“Malaak believed in our mission, and she was the one who kept referring to our members as ‘butterflies’: women who are always in motion, and who don’t have to land in any one place,” Nathan says. “You can be a mom, an employee and a wife…you really can have it all.”
Compton-Rock began connecting Nathan and Starr with her fellow “butterfly moms”; in the two years since the site launched, Nathan and Starr’s My Work Butterfly has offered insights from high-profile mothers, including Kathie Lee Gifford; Gloria Allred; radio personality Danielle Monaro; plus-size supermodel Emme; maternity designer Liz Lange; actress Josie Bissett; and Dina Manzo of the Real Housewives of New Jersey. A number of organizations and businesses have also shown their support through various sponsorships, from Junior Achievement of NJ, the American Heart Association and Dina Manzo’s Project LadyBug as well as companies such as Accenture, Avon and Maidenform.
Nathan and Starr host a variety of events and conferences, in addition to charity fund raisers. In 2009, the moms teamed up with the VH1 Save the Music Foundation to auction off a dream date with Nick Lachey to help keep music programs in public schools—the winning bid was over $10,000. They’ve also sponsored charity auctions offering the opportunity to rub elbows with celebrities like Ed Begley Jr. and his wife, Rachelle Carson-Begley, Martha Byrne and Taylor Swift.
In February, an online auction will offer a dinner with the cast of the ’90s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and a chance to meet its star and creator Will Smith in Los Angeles, thanks to “butterfly mom” Karyn Parsons who played Smith’s cousin, Hilary Banks. The auction will benefit Sweet Blackberry, Parsons’ educational company that produces animated videos about unsung African-American heroes.
“We see these auctions as opportunities to do something exciting while giving back to a charity that we believe is fabulous,” Starr says.
My Work Butterfly’s “biggest takeaway for women is to know that they’re not alone,” Nathan says. “The resources are out there…and sometimes moms just need that little extra nudge.”
Bradi Nathan and Terry Starr’s Tips for Career-Minded Moms
Whether you hung up your power suit the day you found out you were eating for two, or you’ve been juggling your career with breastfeeding and potty training, here are some pointers to help you have it all:
Acknowledge Gaps in Your Resume. Employers want to know the real reason why you’ve been out of work for a year (or six). Explain your absence from the workforce; after all, child rearing is arguably the most important job anyone will ever have.
Toot Your Own Horn. Even if you haven’t been commuting to an office, it doesn’t mean you haven’t been honing your time management, multitasking and organizational skills. Many of the skills you employ running your household are the same ones you’ll need to succeed in the corporate world.
Make New Friends. Start with the moms on My Work Butterfly, then expand your network by attending industry conferences, requesting informational interviews or registering for courses and seminars.
Do Your Homework. If you’re ready to reinvent your career, research your chosen field and know your options—even if it means starting your own business. If you’re already working but want more flexible hours or new job responsibilities, seek out women who’ve made it happen. Find out what worked for them.
Think Outside the Box. There’s a reason more and more women are becoming “mom-preneurs.” If you don’t find what you’re looking for in a traditional workplace setting or job title, look for other ways to get what you want from your career. Start by mining your interests for opportunities that can turn into revenue.