Phillipa Geard is the CEO and founder of RecruitMyMom – a local award-winning online, women-focused recruitment agency. It offers the perfect solution for forward-thinking companies who want to employ professional skills in-office or remotely, full-time or part-time. And it’s also the perfect way to help all the moms out there who got left behind when baby showed up.
Because while becoming a mother is transformative, brimming with positives… there are negatives. And one of those negatives is a confidence knock, particularly if you’ve been side-lined by management, or taken a career break to bring up children.
Phillipa Geard saw a very real gap and a very real need. She tells Go Hustle about the journey…
The idea for RecruitMyMom struck after relocating to the Western Cape from Joburg. “While living in Johannesburg I’d run a marketing consulting company with a partner. After moving to the Cape, I still did some work for clients based in Johannesburg, but it wasn’t a sustainable arrangement. The moms at school, where I dropped my children, would often say that they envied my ability to continue working flexibly. Having similar stories to mine about successful careers in large local or international corporations, and then deciding to stop because of family needs, they now wanted to return to work, flexibly or on a part-time basis,” explains Phillipa.
Unfortunately, recruitment agencies often don’t take these women seriously as more money can be made through full-time (vs part-time) placements. Spurred on by these conversations, Phillipa wanted to start something to help moms find meaningful skilled work that is part-time or flexible, without having to apologise for the fact that they want to integrate work and family.
Her consulting experience confirmed to her that smaller companies need high-level skills, but not necessarily on a full-time basis. “From the company’s point of view, there was no central place they could go to find these part-time skills. I believed that if I could attract all the flexible and part-time jobs in South Africa to one central site, there may be a business idea that could be viable to sustain itself and I would make a positive impact on millions of women’s lives,” says Phillipa.
And then there was… RecruitAGraudate
“RecruitAGraduate came later, after hearing a speech by President Cyril Rhamaphosa on the plight of the youth. I wanted to help make it easier for companies to find and employ graduates and so RecruitAGraduate was launched in 2019,” she says.
Marketing is Philippa’s second passion…
Philippa studied a Bachelor of Business Science in Marketing at UCT. “In every marketing message we bring hope and dignity to working mothers and now youth. We remind them of their worth,” she says.
Practical advice for fresh graduates
For any young person looking for a job, Phillipa’s advice would be:
● “Research if there is a need in the job market for what you want to study – before you go and study.”
● “Think about what makes you stand out from the crowd? Volunteering, starting community projects or a micro business, excelling at a sport, the arts or something else makes one stand out. Companies are looking for diverse thinking and entrepreneurially-minded people.”
● “Start a micro business. The learnings gained from doing this will be invaluable to a future employer.”
● “Overcome hardship – do not allow it to be your crutch. Overcomers are problem-solvers. Problem-solvers are valuable assets to any employer or society.”
● “Be a good leader in your community. Age does not negate leadership. Leaders lead people to be better versions of themselves.”
Educating employers about remote working…
“My career challenge happened when I was working in a corporate job, working eight to 10 hours per day, and my son arrived six weeks premature. I’d thought I would immediately go back to my corporate job, but having my son changed everything internally for me. Flexible working was not an option, so I ended up resigning and became an entrepreneur after my second child was born,” says Phillipa.
“Covid, despite the many challenges it presented to women in the workplace, has been effective in educating employers about remote working. After all, presence does not equate to productivity. Covid has taught employers this fact. This understanding should translate into many more women not needing to leave the workplace during the child-rearing years, but being able to work in a flexible, hybrid or remote manner.”
The most difficult thing about starting a business is…
“Getting people to use the service/product being offered,” says Phillipa. “For two years RecruitMyMom was not economically viable and I tried several different revenue models. But like a snowball, once you get traction, it gains momentum of its own.”
And, she says, being a female entrepreneur is often a lonely road. “It’s not something you can share with many others, unless they’ve walked in your shoes. I so enjoy connecting with other entrepreneurs as we ‘get’ one another. There are many dark days when running a business, but the sunny days seem to overshadow the dark ones, and that’s where we get our adrenaline rush,” she says.
Phillipa overcame these challenges by being passionate about her purpose. “The business was all about how to better serve working mothers in South Africa to make working life better. I could sacrifice money and time and sleep because I had a cause that I was championing. Over the years, I have intentionally built relationships with a few key people in my life. They are my go-to people when I need to reach out. I’ve been privileged to be part of incredible women’s networks and learnt from others’ wisdom and mistakes. And, of course, my own mistakes,” she says.
Phillipa’s top money tip
Start saving and investing as soon as possible. “I wish I’d learnt about investing in the stock exchange sooner, and not bought into policies with hefty fee structures,” she says. “I would tell my younger self to be more comfortable with who I am and not to spend as much money on depreciating items, like pretty cars and clothes, to maintain an image. If you are going to start a business, do it sooner rather than later,” she adds.
Learn quickly, apologise when you are wrong, and remain humble – always
“The hard ground has been broken by many women who have gone before you. All you need to do is find a seed, plant it, water it, nurture it and let it grow. Don’t hold back – take risks when you are young. If you don’t take risk, you will never know if something could have been successful,” she says.