Allison Robinson is empowering working mothers everywhere
Running a business

Allison Robinson is empowering working mothers everywhere

Name: Allison Robinson

Location: Miami, FL

Business: The Mom Project.

What does your business do/offer?

The Mom Project empowers mothers to unlock their full economic and professional potential. We started as a digital talent marketplace and community that connects professionally accomplished women with world-class companies that champion mothers through supportive cultures and inclusive policies. Over the past five years, we’ve expanded into an organization that advocates for mothers in multiple ways as we work toward a future where women don’t have to choose between their careers and their families.

Through our data and insights arm, WerkLabs, we perform in-depth research on important workplace topics including employee experience and engagement, DE&I, workplace flexibility, family friendly practices, benefits, and policy advisory. The findings drive meaningful change and conversations within businesses today. 

We also founded our non-profit division, RISE, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a unique upskilling scholarship serving an underrepresented segment of the workforce, namely mothers of color. We also have a community mentoring program, RALLY, resume optimization support through ResumeRev, and a virtual event series, Unity Hour, which allows moms to attend talks featuring experts on topics related to upleveling their careers.

The Mom Project works tirelessly to support mothers of all backgrounds, wherever they may be in their personal and professional journeys. We want to build better workplaces for these women, because we know that mothers are incredible assets to companies and communities.

Why did you decide to start your own business? How did you get started?

The Mom Project was in large part founded based on my own experiences as a new mother. Before having my first child, I remember hurriedly telling my manager at the time that I’d “be back in two weeks!” following my son’s birth. It wasn’t until welcoming him into the world that I could fully understand the profound shift that occurs alongside newfound motherhood. I was simultaneously immersing myself in statistics about working moms, one of which jarringly stated that 43% of women leave the workforce after becoming mothers. It was also difficult to find resources and income-generating opportunities for new mothers. The companies and jobs that wholeheartedly elevated working moms, meeting their needs for true flexibility, were few and far between.

I knew that the weighty challenges I was grappling with weren’t unique to my situation alone. One question stood out in particular: “If we could create a future where women didn’t have to choose between their families and their careers, wouldn’t that be interesting? The answer, overwhelmingly, was yes. Shortly thereafter, The Mom Project was created.

What is the biggest lesson you learned in the first year?

I founded The Mom Project around the same time that I became a mother myself. The experience fully allowed me to appreciate the complexities and challenges—and the range of emotions—that accompany life as a working mother. Because of this, I naturally felt closer to and more passionate about our mission. 

What was the most surprising thing about becoming a business owner?

Being a business owner is full of constant surprises—even now, seven years following our launch. I’m pleasantly surprised by the way we’ve been able to scale the business to offer multiple forms of support to working mothers. We’ve transformed from a jobs marketplace to an organization wholly and holistically committed to advancing mothers in the workplace. We always knew that there were a multitude of possibilities with The Mom Project, so to see them come to fruition so naturally over time, and to have them met with enthusiasm from moms and investors alike, has only solidified that there’s been a longstanding need and hunger for what we offer. 

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Mothers are incredible assets to companies and communities.

What is an aspect of running a business that you needed to learn more about when you started? How did you learn about it?

In the beginning, the challenge of finding funding loomed large. We were a lean, family-run business and I was a first-time founder, so it felt like we had a lot to prove to potential investors. It was difficult to navigate the world of traditional venture capital, particularly as our product was centered around people. As a company that wasn’t “pure tech,” it was hard for investors to understand the full breadth of our value. I learned about funding in real time—through making pitches, hearing “nos,” and refining our approach to scaling the business along the way.

Getting funding took longer than we anticipated, but we were always steadfast in our purpose-driven mission. Ultimately, aligning with the right people in similar spaces who truly “got” what we were working toward helped us accelerate our early growth. 

How does running your own business make you feel?

It’s incredibly fulfilling. It’s also incredibly challenging, but our hard-won accomplishments have always been worth the struggles along the way. Hearing directly from mothers who have benefitted from our services, whether graduates of the RISE program or women who have found community, support, or a new role at a family-friendly employer, is both heartening and motivating. We have more work to do, and we’re excited about the possibilities.

What are some of the challenges you’ve overcome or are working to overcome as a business owner and mom? 

It can sometimes feel as if we can’t scale fast enough to meet the immense needs of moms at this particular historical moment. We’re working to combat the backslide emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to addressing long-standing, gender, and race-specific inequities. I do remind myself that our growth has accelerated over the past three years—by a factor of 20, to be exact—and that we have a staff of very passionate, talented people working toward our common goal. More growth will come if we stay focused on and true to our core mission. I also face some of the same challenges as the moms we’re serving; I, too, can feel the pull between work life and home life, but I strive toward integration of these two worlds as much as possible.

What are your proudest moments?

Last summer we secured an additional $80 million dollars in funding, which was a huge milestone for The Mom Project. We’ve been leveraging this big moment in the company’s history to expand our reach and develop even more ways to meet the needs of working moms and their families. To have the funding arrive in the midst of the pandemic—a time when millions of women have been pushed out of the workplace—is both profound and motivating.

What are three things that you feel have contributed to your success as a business owner?

A spirit of resilience, wholehearted belief in my vision, and the support of my family.

What challenges do you feel are unique to mothers who are small business owners? 

Speaking about the tech space in particular: It’s unfortunately still true that female founders contend with social biases and a lack of representation in the startup world. We’re outnumbered by our male counterparts and, as recently as 2020, women-led startups received only 2.3% of VC funding. This is unsurprising considering that there are considerably less women in decision making positions within the VC community. Accessing support and funding are huge, very real hurdles that female founders face today.

That said, there’s also legitimate reason to stay hopeful as we pave the way for meaningful change. The number of female VCs, female executives, and female business owners are all on the rise; female-founded businesses are also being valued higher across the board; and we’re seeing diversity and inclusion as non-negotiables for truly progressive organizations. While the playing field is by no means “level,” it is evolving in the right direction.

What is it like working in an industry where you are trying to break the bias that working moms often face? 

I’m lucky enough to be working alongside a team of dedicated professionals—many of which are working moms—who fully believe in The Mom Project’s mission. Collaborating with empathetic colleagues as we strive toward common goals is equal parts motivating and inspiring. While the industry at-large may need to make changes, I’m grounded by collaborators breaking biases and breaking new ground in real time.

Is there anything you want other women to know about working in your industry?

I would tell all women, whether entrepreneurs or not, to ensure that the organization you’ve founded or that you’re working for offers the flexibility, empathy, and resources you need to thrive in work. Work-life balance is elusive, but at The Mom Project, we firmly believe that a healthy work-life integration is possible—recognizing that you can’t do everything, but you are capable of so much and can manage your commitments in a way that works for you. 

What advice would you give to other women starting their own business?

Within the tech space, I would tell female entrepreneurs in particular to seek out mentors and a strong support system. The challenges facing women in the tech world are numerous, but there are also amazing communities dedicated to championing women, and female leaders who are genuinely excited about sharing their advice and valuable connections. 

Finding funding can be arduous. You should never feel afraid to ask for help and lean on the wisdom of those who have either walked the path before you, or that are in the midst of their own founding journey. Sharing our knowledge, uplifting other women, and being radically transparent about our experiences and learnings will only make it easier for all women founders moving forward.

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Sharing our stories will help level the playing field for all female business owners.

When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going?

My family, absolutely. I work alongside my husband Gregory (Robinson), who serves as CFO of The Mom Project, so he’s privy to many of the challenges that the business faces on a day-to-day basis. My kids are a constant source of inspiration; we’re working to create better workplaces for all families, and a brighter future for them as well. And finally, I’m constantly inspired and impressed by the moms that we’ve been serving through our platform and our community. Their struggles, stories, and triumphs are what push us to grow and do better as an organization. First and foremost, we always want to do right by working moms.

How can female/mom business owners support one another and their community? 

We must give ourselves the permission to be candid and honest about the challenges we face and how we’re tackling them head on. Sharing our stories will help level the playing field for all female business owners. I don’t think we should shy away from having discussions about money, for instance—how we’re acquiring funding and the roadblocks we may face as we try to find investors. I know that I’m not the only female founder who had to learn how to maneuver a world where I simply didn’t have access to certain information or experiences, perhaps in part because of my gender. 

We should also be honest about our failures. Our missteps and miscalculations in growing a business are opportunities for immense personal growth, and we can help others avoid the same pitfalls by showing up bravely, fully, and owning up to any stumbles in our journey.

To learn more about The Mom Project and support their mission, visit their website or check them out on Instagram.

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