Feature Story

Bradi Nathan & Terry Starr

Co-Founders, My Work Butterfly.com

MyWorkButterfly.com provides advice, support and solutions for mothers contemplating a return to the business world as well as working women trying to juggle a family-work balance. Terry Starr and Bradi Nathan, the founders, were brought together by fate and a similar understanding of the struggles working mothers face. Both mothers of two and former executives in marketing and advertising, they launched the social networking site in 2009, now registering over 5,000 members throughout the world. In this 1:1, the founders discuss entrepreneurship and challenges they’ve identified that are specific to women.

Q: Oftentimes, women have a hard time connecting with other women, especially in business situations. Describe how you met and collaborated on such an innovative endeavor.

Bradi: I was literally on my way out of Borders when I pulled my book purchase out of my bag and simply asked Terry, “I bought this book on online marketing. You think this is any good?” It was Scott Fox’s “Internet Riches” about social media and building brands online. Terry’s response went something like, “That’s what I do for a living… build social networks and branding campaigns for a full-service ad agency.” I devoured the book that night and called Terry the next morning (yes, I asked for her card in the bookstore) to share an idea of building an online social community where moms could gather and find jobs or where working moms could simply gain support. We met the next day and as they say, “we never looked back.”

Terry: Interestingly, I would agree with your statement that oftentimes women have a hard time connecting with other women. In my 30 years in corporate life, it was rare to find a woman mentor who would successfully direct me through the political maze. Now, immersed in the “Mommy Market,” it’s nice to see moms so connected and willing to help other moms. No competitive undertones. No BS. No holding back. Talk about refreshing. I didn’t know that world existed. Thankfully, Bradi and I have had the pleasure of being surrounded by these very Butterfly moms in our community. There’s no greater pleasure than receiving a message from one of our members that “we’ve made a difference in their lives.”

Q: With over 100 million social networking sites out there, what do you think contributes to the success of MyWorkButterfly?

Butterfly is not solely based on conversation, although it’s the heart of what we do in terms of moms empowering moms. After launching a National Moms Survey to learn what moms were looking for from a social network, we pride ourselves on providing expert content based on the findings so that we become an important [free] resource for women: Job Board, Psychotherapy, Health/Fitness, Volunteerism, Eldercare, Travel, Work/Life, Nutrition and of course, Career Counseling, to name a few. We look to humanize moms, whether celebrity or otherwise, to let others know they’re not alone in facing work/life challenges. Moreover, we’ve been able to gain access into the lives of many celebrities – who we have personally interviewed – Kathie Lee Gifford, Gloria Allred and daughter Lisa Bloom, NJ Housewives, Caroline and Dina Manzo to name a few. We’ve built upon our celebrity relationships by creating charity auctions with many of them (and others) including: Rachelle and Ed Begley Jr., Taylor Swift, Colbie Caillat, Nick Lachey, etc. The auctions differentiate our site from the 100 million social networking sites out there and give us the chance to make a difference in the lives of children as we’ve donated thousands of dollars to the VH1 Save The Music Foundation (our charity of choice) as a result. And, at the end of the day, given the economic climate, providing a safe haven and free resources for women is not only important, it’s necessary.

Q: How do women differ from men in their use of social networking and how do you think this impacts your site?

According to a White Paper issued in June 2010 by ComScore, women spend an average of 16.3% of their online time per month on social networks, a percentage that continues to rise month-to-month. Men spend just 11.7% of their time on the same activities. From our experience, women use MyWorkButterfly.com to connect with other like-minded mothers who are facing the same challenges and to seek advice, support and solutions. Moms trust moms. For example, when Danielle Monaro, Radio Personality, Z100, posted a well-read blog, “Pumping at Work,” on the site, many moms chimed in with their own personal experience, while others loved reading about how others were handling this tough issue. Interestingly, much of the Butterfly community are entrepreneurs, work-at-home mothers and single moms.

Q: After having children of your own, how did you combat feelings of guilt from “abandoning” your family and returning to work/starting a business?

Bradi: Terry and I have very different experiences with guilt because she never stopped working and I technically did 10 years ago. I still wrestle with guilt… it’s in my DNA. Guilt over not doing enough for my kids, myself and my husband. I need MyWorkButterfly.com as much as the moms who make up the community.

Terry: Perhaps, it is the fact that I never stopped working and that’s all my children ever knew. However, truth be told, I don’t wrestle with those feelings of guilt. I know I am providing a better life for my children, while at the same time, fulfilling my own personal needs. I was never going to be a stay-at-home mother. Yes, I will never be the Class Mom and there was an occasional date that I missed due a late plane arrival. But overall, my children turned out okay. My daughter (now 15) would tell you, “I had to make decisions on my own.” She’s very independent. It’s too soon to know about my son (now 10).

Q: What is the best piece of advice you can give to someone who has been out of the workforce and is contemplating a return – either due to unemployment or raising children?

Bradi: It feels good to have something that is yours. I love when my kids ask, “How was your day?” and I am able to answer with all that we’ve accomplished on the Butterfly front. Without work or a passion in life, I’m afraid my answer would be “it was okay.” For me, working feels right at this moment in my life. So, go for it and embrace a passion, hobby or interest and be sure not to lose a sense of self.

Terry: My single piece of advice is “Don’t be afraid to return. Face the fear.” Remember, while you’ve been home, you’ve been managing your household, managing the budget, perhaps you played a role in the PTA, and g-d knows you’ve gained exceptional time management skills. Employers know this is a huge untapped talent pool. In terms of the “gap in your résumé,” make sure to incorporate some of the suggested items above and consider a résumé that does not highlight your absence. Be honest to the perspective employer. Just make sure to highlight all of the skills you gained while outside of the workforce.