Addie Swartz is no stranger to doing good things for society. Her career spans many years and many successful entrepreneurial ventures with one unifying goal: to help women and girls be the best they can be. Her recent venture, reacHIRE, connects two needs--women who are looking to re-enter the workforce after a break, and companies looking for exceptional, motivated talent to help fuel their growth.
Tell us a little bit about your background and how you became an entrepreneur.
When I was 12 years old, I started an apple pie company to fund a class trip to Spain. I sold pies to three local restaurants in town. One wrote on their menu “Addie's Apple Pie,” and that’s where it all started.
As an adult, I started my first real entrepreneurial venture when my first daughter was born and I was on maternity leave from Lotus Development. That company was called BrightIdeas-- an educational software company that leveraged the talent pool of women at home with their kids who could demonstrate, educate, and sell software to other parents, schools and teachers. This was at a time when educational software was a big deal, and computers were finally going into homes and schools. I started BrightIdeas from a spare bedroom and sold it four and a half years later to a division of Pearson Education.
After I sold BrightIdeas, I started the Beacon Street Girls, a media brand that created positive messaging and healthy role models for girls 9-13. That company came out of a need that I saw in my daughter and her friends. They were, as I liked to say, “between toys and boys”-- not quite ready for Britney or Paris, yet no longer playing with dolls. Nothing was out there speaking to them in a healthy and positive way, and helping them navigate adolescence. Beacon Street Girls was, at its core, original content -- a vibrant book series bundled with fun products and a website. We created and published 22 full-length novels and had a web presence from the very beginning, helping garner an active and vibrant community of girls.
Not only was the Beacon Street Girls (BSG) brand about storytelling and connection, but we also leveraged the latest research on the topics we tackled. We infused fun fiction with the best advice we could find to help girls deal with issues such as multiple sclerosis, teenage drinking and cyberbullying. Lake Rescue dealt with childhood obesity, and I worked with Duke Medical Center on a longitudinal study of girls at risk of Type II Diabetes. Over a 9-month period, the study proved that girls at risk of childhood obesity changed their attitudes and behaviors around health, just by reading the novel. The study was published by the National Academy of Pediatrics. This was exactly what I had set out to do -- conflate storytelling with state of the art research to positively impact behavior. After a few years, I sold the book rights to Simon & Schuster.
Tell us about your current company, reacHIRE, and its mission.
My family and I were in a serious car accident three years ago which put me on the sidelines. And, all of a sudden, I was at home caring for an injured child. As a result, I was exposed to more talented women who had taken time off or left the workforce for one reason or another. When they wanted to opt back in, there were no real opportunities for them to re-engage. Few companies are willing to take a chance on someone who may have been out of the market for a while, with tech skills that are out of date. For the women, there is no easy path for them to re-establish themselves.
reacHIRE enables companies to access more diverse talent and deliver positive bottom line results. It’s a win-win for everyone! reacHIRE women are smart, driven, loyal and focused. They’re investing in themselves and their careers. They get six weeks of state-of-the-art training to refresh their skills and eight weeks of follow-on support before they set out on their project assignments. After the skills refresh sessions with companies like Google, Microsoft, Constant Contact, Novartis, and others, reacHIRE women receive corporate project assignments that typically last 6 months. Most women have then received a contract extension or gotten hired into permanent roles. We’ve successfully placed women in jobs at Boston Scientific, Fidelity, EMC, Microsoft and Putnam Investments.We are out to prove that a career break does not have to be a career breaker. Just because you step out doesn't mean you can't step back in.
Where do you see reacHIRE in 3 years? What would help you reach that goal?
I would love to see us expanding beyond Boston and operating around the country. I’d also love for there to be more awareness of the value of this talent pool, and more innovative companies interested in partnering with reacHIRE to refuel their workforce with this talent. Inside The Boston Club, many of us see and talk about the “leaky pipeline” to the top as one of the reasons why the upper most levels of management are bereft of women. If people keep leaving the middle ranks, how will they eventually get to the top levels? Gender parity needs to be tackled at all points on the chain, not just at the bottom and the top.
Why is working to empower girls and women important to you? How does this passion guide you?
It's important for me to work on something I believe in and to make a tangible difference. The companies I started have all had a social mission. I've been focused on women and girls for last 20 years, working on creating opportunities and solutions, and building self-confidence and self-esteem across various age groups. How do you build someone's self-esteem? Help them feel good about themselves at whatever age. This idea runs through everything I've done.
Do you have a life philosophy?
I have a fundamental philosophy: use the gifts you were given. It doesn't matter what they are, but you should use them so that you can reach your potential. Every person has so much to give. To not have someone use their potential is a waste -- for themselves and society.
What makes a person feel whole and alive? Feeling like they can contribute. It's not about what you have or don't have; it matters what you do with what you have. Fundamentally, it's all about being the best you can be. My obligation and commitment is to bring out the best in others – specifically women and girls.
If you could give one piece of advice to women entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Some days are good and other days could be better. There are ups, downs and many in-betweens. You have to be flexible and persistent. And if you have a big idea, you have to be even more persistent! It's often not about how smart you are; it's about how dogged and nimble you can be.
If you would like more information about hiring a ReacHIRE professional into your organization, please contact Addie at email@example.com . Check out the company at www.reachire.com, and follow Addie @reacHIRE2 and @addieswartz