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Finding Allies in the Work

Posted by Cecilia Garza

Jamee Herbert leaned forward in her seat as she listened closely to the presentation happening in front of her.

“I thought, ‘Gosh, this is exactly what we need to be talking about,’” said Jamee, co-founder of BridgeCare Finance.

Jamee was attending the 2017 SVP Fast Pitch quarterfinals. In a lecture hall at the UW Foster School of Business sat 55 for-profit and nonprofit leaders all driven to hone their pitch for social change. As Jamee waited her turn to stand at the front of the room, a woman by the name of Nancy Jensen captured her attention with a pitch for The Swing Shift.

Now, almost exactly a year later, the two look back on the day as the start of a longstanding partnership.

The Swing Shift provides expert-led programs and services in a cohort model, working with women in career transition. For the women in The Swing Shift who took career breaks, they’re reentering the workplace after an average 5-to-10 year break. Up to 70 percent of alum hold advanced degrees, and 10 years work experience, but their previous employers could not accommodate their family needs.

“It’s about women getting back to work,” explains Nancy.

Meanwhile, BridgeCare provides parents the necessary support to accessing high quality child care and early learning. By offering unique payment plans for families, parents are able to reduce their childcare costs by half.

Career transition or re-entry occurs in a variety of situations. However, studies consistently find that child care costs influence career decisions of 2 out of 3 parents. The Swing Shift sees this trend first-hand with its cohorts, where almost 70% of returnees report leaving the workforce due to a lack of schedule flexibility to accommodate family commitments and childcare. According to 2017 survey of U.S. parents:

  • 33 percent change jobs;
  • 27 percent ask for a more flexible work schedule;
  • And 23 percent downshift to a part-time schedule, or became a stay-at-home parent to save money on child care.

“Cracking the nut of gender equity in the workplace is not a one-business issue,” Jamee explains.

For BridgeCare, it means providing viable options for professionals to continue the career of their dreams. For The Swing Shift it means flipping the narrative around career transitions and bridging skilled-candidates to jobs.

0Mutually Beneficial

Two busy entrepreneurs in the throes of startup phase, SVP Fast Pitch fast-tracked their introduction. A monthlater, at the F-Bomb Breakfast Club they greeted each other already excited to strategize. Whether cross-promoting their brands, workshopping mutually beneficial solutions or hiring from The Swing Shift’s pool of clients, Jamee and Nancy have found a sweet spot in their respective worlds.

Their partnership has led BridgeCare to hire two Swing Shift alum. Maggie, a former teacher, transitioned back into the Capture-e1534280099447-300x3002workplace after several years as a stay-at-home mom. Joining the BridgeCare team as their community engagement manager has allowed her to continue to fulfill her passion for education and childhood development while also offering professional growth.

 

Looking Ahead

Following the quarterfinals, BridgeCare went on to win first place in the for-profit category at the SVP Fast Pitch Final Showdown. Their presentation at the subsequent SVP Social Impact Forum also provided a platform to road test their first funding ask and connected them to new investors. Soon after the Forum they secured the dollars to fund child care payments for their customers.

“That was a big deal,” Jamee explains. “I mean, I want to say unheard of. It’s very rare to be able to do that, that early.”

Now among TechStars’ first accelerator cohort — a program that brings together nine social enterprises from around the world — BridgeCare has additional funding and mentorship support to grow its operations. They have plans to expand to Texas, Oregon and California, as well as launch a 529 college savings program.

Nancy and The Swing Shift did not advance to the 2017 finals, but have since vastly expanded, in part due to Fast Pitch feedback. SVP Fast Pitch gave her the momentum needed to walk into corporate partnerships across the U.S. The Swing Shift has introduced new corporate recruiting, retention and returnship programming with companies in Massachusetts, California and Seattle. Their work includes an upcoming “Launch Back to Law” workshop with Axiom Law Group; planning geographic expansion; and refining their consumer-side programs with their 2018 Career Catalyst program.

“The companies we work with aren’t doing this because they’re going for the easy PR hit,” says Nancy. “They’re saying, ‘We need these services, and we need to get these women back into our workforce.’”

“We always wanted to do SVP Fast Pitch,” explains Jamee, who is also a graduate of Presidio Graduate School and Fledge. Both of which are located under the same roof as SVP Seattle in the Impact HUB.

“We have a lot of respect for others in the HUB community and for-profit winners of the past,” she says. “Like Community Sourced Capital (2013) and Evrnu (2014): both are alum of our grad program, Fledge accelerator participants and SVP winners. We feel honored to be in the footsteps of people who have followed this path.”

For Nancy, The Swing Shift was just five months old when they began last year’s SVP Fast Pitch program. It was a chance to learn.

“We knew enough to know we didn’t know a lot,” Nancy says. “Regardless of how we would perform in the competition, we knew we would learn a lot about the social impact space.”

Nancy and Jamee’s connection was an unanticipated bonus. But connections are at the heart of every SVP Fast Pitch program. In fact, this year, SVP is increasing opportunities for engaging civically-minded individuals so that they can gain even more from each other and their mentors through the program and beyond.

Get Involved!

The 2018 SVP Fast Pitch program is shaping up to be a stellar year. If you’re interested in plugging in this fall as a volunteer, click here. You can also contact fastpitch@svpseattle.org for more information or questions on how to get involved.