After going on maternity leave in 2012, Carrie Schochet returned to her job at a global recruiting firm only to discover her position was in jeopardy. This stressful moment inspired Carrie and her husband to take a leap of faith and pursue her passion to help women in business. After 10 years in Chicago, they packed up the family, returned to Carrie’s hometown in Michigan and launched Purple Squirrel Advisors with her sister. The goal was to “serve growing businesses by taking the time to find executives who would be a long-term fit, instead of rushing through the process to meet sales goals,” she said.
At the Techstars Startup Week Detroit, Carrie will share her journey from employee to founder, and the challenges and lessons learned along the way at the Women’s Networking and Breakfast and Female Founders Panel presented by Chase Ink® on June 22.
I had a chance to catch up with Carrie before Startup Week to nab some tips for women leaders on how to boost their career.
“Being an entrepreneur and founder of a growing business, and a mom to three young children, is not easy. I know that each sacrifice I made along the way got me to where I am today,” said Carrie.
“There have been many moments where I have beat myself up for not being able to show up for every event at my children’s school. Through many conversations with other working moms, I have come to accept that being a strong leader and business woman is a powerful example for my children.”
Carrie had been out of the Michigan community for so long that she didn’t have a built-in network. But she found a way to jump back in with both feet and develop lasting relationships.
“I was initially viewed as an outsider in the business community. I decided to focus on building quality relationships with like-minded business leaders, and on long-term success rather than short-term,” said Carrie. “It was uncomfortable at times, [but] all it took was meeting a few nice people who introduced me to several other people in their network – it grew from there.”
Finding your niche can be pretty hard, particularly when you're new to the area. Her advice to others who are looking to network in a new community:
“Celebrate the small victories, this will help keep a positive mindset towards the long-term goal. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Don’t be afraid to have honest conversations, no matter how hard they may be. Never underestimate the power of curiosity in business. When you show an interest in others, relationships flourish. And be authentic – you will attract the right types of clients and partners.”
Through Purple Squirrel Advisors, Carrie has been able to amplify leadership opportunities for women in the community.
“I am proud to say that we have placed many women in executive level roles,” said Carrie. “We regularly meet with women who are seeking new opportunities and help them to understand their market value. At times, we make pro bono introductions to help women advance and broaden their networks.”
Carrie and her sister also launched two organizations, CFO NEXT and 100 Businesses Who Care, aimed at connecting women leaders and business owners to make an impact in the community.
“CFO Next has been transformational for me personally and professionally. I have made great friends and learned so much along the way,” said Carrie.
Carrie shared some common skill sets they’ve found among executive level women.
“Humility and the willingness to share credit with their teams, creativity and the aptitude to look at problems from different angles, emotional intelligence, and the ability to connect with, relate to and lead others,” said Carrie.
For women looking to take their career to the next level, Carrie encourages them to take a risk, speak up, and go after your dream.
“Don’t sell yourself short in negotiations and don’t be afraid to speak up,” said Carrie. “Despite the progress we have made in the last several years, women still need to be more vocal in raising their hands for promotions.”
While having a career can be personally and financially rewarding, the struggle for a work-life balance is real for many working moms. Remember to take time for you and your family.
“Life-work balance is honestly one of the areas that I struggle with the most. This is an area that I am always working on,” said Carrie. “I have gotten better at realizing that I can’t do everything. I have learned when to say no, and have tried to establish boundaries with clients and candidates regarding early morning or late evening phone calls. I found that taking time for myself is important so that I can be my best in work and at home.”