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See how motherhood led to the birth of an Entrepreneur. An interview with Dhara Mehta.

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An interview with Dhara Mehta. Founder of The Kids Company.

Tell us something about yourself.

It was 2008, I was a postgraduate, and worked as a media manager in a multinational media house I had a promising career ahead. That’s when I bagged one more qualification, one that needs no college or formal degree, ‘Motherhood!’  From a corporate working woman, I became a stay-at-home, hands-on-mommy, very content with my new responsibility. Little did I know then that the sabbatical taken to enjoy motherhood would eventually turn out to be my final goodbye to the corporate world!

Motherhood for me has been, and still is, an overwhelming experience: I was completely in awe of the wonderful surprises my little K would have for me every day. ‘Get a helper for your son’ was the most clichéd piece of advice given by most of my ‘well-wishers’. However, I decided to go against it. With each passing day, I was convinced of not getting back to the ever-demanding corporate world.  However, the question ‘Where am I heading professionally?’ kept haunting me.

‘Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work’ – fortunately for me it looked wonderful!

How did you come up with the idea ofThe Kids Company‘?

As my son grew from an infant to a toddler, he and I would often spend our noon’s playing board games or creating ‘robots’ with blocks, or solving jigsaw puzzles! That’s when I picked up a very important insight: ‘play is the work of childhood, and the highest form of education’. This thought that ignited a spark in me: to reach out to pre-primary kids with a service, which would bridge the gap between play and learning. It sounded vague to many but I believed in my dream.

dhara-mehtaI decided to learn everything about child development and care and took up a formal one year course. So strong was my passion for the subject that I topped my batch with a distinction and became a qualified Early Childhood Care and Education Provider. Theory and practical knowledge both complement each other when it comes to learning something new. To gain practical knowledge, when my son turned three, I took up a job in a day-care-activity-center for kids with only one condition from my side, that my son shall accompany me there after his school. These were systematic and planned steps to help me reach my goal.

The formal course and practical experience both reinforced my belief that early childhood education should be filled with lots of enjoyment and play, allowing children to live their childhood to the fullest and not miss out on the most important ingredients of growing up. Working upon this insight, ‘The Kids Company’ was born in 2013.

So what is the USP of The Kids Company?

‘The Kids Company’ is an intelligence building activity centre offering its fun filled and intellectually stimulating program to children between 3 – 7 years of age. We specialize in academic enrichment, brain games, building logical intelligence, instilling creative thinking and teaching through play.

Our program is designed to enable learning through a surprise mix of curated educational games, I.Q. sessions, puzzles, mazes, crosswords and many more brain tickling activities. The activities are aimed at improving the child’s skills related to logical thinking, problem solving, self – management, communication and inter personal skills.

What were the challenges that you faced in your Entrepreneurial journey?

Shifting gears, and industries from being a media professional to an entrepreneur in the education industry, starting my own venture, and raising a child in a nuclear set up needed a lot of self conviction. My journey so far has been fulfilling and an enriching,  along  with some challenges.

I started The Kids Company from my house by dedicating a room for the same. It wasn’t as easy and convenient as it sounds. To have a workspace at home, and with a growing toddler around all the time was taxing and challenging. Setting professional standards and overcoming clients’ (parents’) perception, who would misinterpret it as ‘just another tuition class’ was a herculean task. I’ve made a clear demarcation between my personal and professional space though they co exist in the same premises.

Another challenge was switching between professional and personal roles.A strict routine is needed to strike a balance between professional and personal commitments. Work starts when I kiss bye to my son and my husband at 8:30 am. I have an action packed day, juggling emails, planning sessions, filling up on groceries and all the chores, till 3:00 pm when I make it a point to pick my son from school. It’s child and mom connect time and once he’s settled I shift focus to my second baby! Typically, I wind up my work by around 7 pm and am in mommy mode till I tuck my son in bed!

Also, there are a lot of uncertainties associated when you start your own venture. Initially I got anxious and nervous, but I guess motherhood’s made me stronger, and more open to accept surprises that come along! There have been days when my house help took an unplanned leave, or K’s school declared a half-day, and once my husband ended up with a fracture playing soccer! Nonetheless, my work continued seamlessly.

How would you sum up your journey so far?

It has been an enriching and a satisfying journey so far. The Kids Company has also bagged some awards along the way which has always kept my motivation high and mood upbeat. At the RIVOKIDS Parents and Kids Choice Awards 2015, The Kids Company bagged the best activity centre (pan India) second runner up award. In 2016, we were honored to receive BABYCHAKRA Mom’s Choice Service Certificate in the category activity classes.

Sigining off with the thought, that inspired me in my journey: ‘Organize your life around your dreams – and watch them come true.’

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Interview

An Interview with Jennifer Miree Cope

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Described as thorough and organized by her closest associates, Jennifer Miree Cope graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1985 with a degree in Electrical Engineering.

Jennifer has a deep-seated passion for several non-profit organizations. Especially with the Susan G. Komen Foundation and The O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, which has treated several of her close friends and family members.

Jennifer Miree Cope’s respect for the generosity of nonprofits inspired her to become a volunteer. Currently, she is involved with several charities started by Independent Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama: STAIR tutoring, the Children’s Fresh Air Farm, and Holiday House. 

Jennifer’s husband, Pat Cope, is the founder of Cope Private Wealth — a prestigious financial planning firm. When not relaxing with her husband and two sons in Mountain Brook, Jennifer can often be found exercising, walking her dog, or hiking in the mountains of North Carolina.

Jennifer, thank you for doing this. Tell me about your best and worst days at work. 

My worst days are the days when we’re busy. You know those days when customers are calling, texting, emailing from early in the morning to late at night. (I can’t help it that it rained that day.) But one of my best days was when we had three very happy clients, two of whom brought me wine!

What are the projects that you most enjoy working on?

Landscaping an empty or nearly empty lot.  It’s just like an artist starting with a blank canvas.

What was your biggest ‘a-ha’ moment?

My biggest eureka moment was when I realized that technical drawings such as landscape plans can often be just as pretty as art.

What has been the most important part of your professional journey?

That’s a simple answer. It would have to be time management. There’s simply no way to succeed without it. And I start managing my time well from the beginning – it really starts the minute I wake up in the morning.

What risks is your company facing? 

With the economy doing poorly and inflation on the rise, people can always stop landscaping. That’s really the biggest issue here. It is unfortunately a luxury and not a necessity.

What would you do with unlimited resources?

That’s a tough one! I mean, to be honest, there are a lot of things that I would do with unlimited money, and I imagine that’s the same for everyone else too.

But there is one thing that I would prioritize if I had unlimited money: First, I would try to use it to find a cure for cancer. Both of my sisters, my mom, my aunt, and my husband all had cancer. My two sisters died from it. It’s a nasty disease and we need to dedicate more of our resources to fighting against it.

When was the last time you totally lost yourself in doing something?

I would have to say it was the last time I made a needlepoint belt for one of my sons. It can be very easy to find yourself in the zone when you’re engaged in that.

What do you do when you’re not at work?

Yeah, well for exercise, you can usually find me playing golf, doing pilates, or yoga. I often enjoy going out to eat or attending sporting events and musical theater. And I can’t forget that one of my favorite things to do is travel — mostly to our place in the North Carolina mountains.

How do you feel you make a difference in the world?

For me, the number one way to make a difference is tutoring the underprivileged. I have done a lot with STAIR, and I am very proud of that work.

 

 

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Interview

In this interview, Raquel Ureña talks about the second season of ‘NY Never Sleeps’

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Raquel Ureña is a filmmaker and the Founder of NYC Latin Media. She has produced over 8 films. To know more about Raquel Ureña, please read our interview with her.

Raquel, It’s a pleasure talking with you again. Much awaited “NY Never Sleeps” will be rolling out its second season pretty soon. How excited are you about this?

I am really excited. Especially because the participants of this second season are super successful women who are truly inspiring. They are great role models.

Would you like to give a sneak peek into the second season for our audience?

These women of Dominican descent all have successful businesses and they all started with nothing, showing us that if you work hard and remain focused, anything is possible. They are all immigrants and today, have many luxuries due to their hard work. Besides seeing the lifestyles of these women, we will also be seeing a lot of fashionable and trendy, and exclusive places in New York.

When will you start filming?

We will start filming in May and have many plans and exclusive events that we will be attending. We will be showing exclusive restaurants and places that people need to see in NY.

On which platforms, will the second season be available? Also, how many episodes will be there in the second season

There are 13 episodes in the second season and it will be airing on Digital 15 and Telemicro Internacional which is the biggest TV platform in the Dominican Republic. Telemicro Internacional is seen in the US through Comcast cable. The show will be airing towards the end of September. We will be filming all summer.

What are your views on the current status of women in entrepreneurship? especially in the Latina community?

New York is a difficult place to live in and very expensive but these women have proven that even with a humble beginning and hard work, it is possible to get ahead in life.

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Interview

An Interview with Ali LeMille, Career Coach and Founder of The Job Forge

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Ali LeMille

Ali LeMille is the founder of The Job Forge. Ali has successfully helped a large number of companies find the right set of employees. She has also helped over 70 individuals land their dream jobs.

Ali, Thank you so much for talking with us. Your experience with recruitment is pretty vast. You have also worked with some of the biggest names, helping them in recruitment. Tell us more about your past experience.

I had a rather unusual introduction into the recruiting world. I had started as a hiring manager for local “Mom & Pop” shops in my hometown. The connections I made in the area high schools and colleges are what I was able to tap to quickly fix the staffing situation at the theme park I was brought into with Kodak. I moved into a year-round role and worked between New York, New Jersey, and other locations worldwide.

The companies I worked with were some of the most recognizable brands in the world! The last project I worked on was staffing for the Disney Premiere of The Princess and The Frog in Manhattan. It was in a refurbished nightclub where guests could explore a “bayou” playground, learn to draw from actual Disney animators, and see authentic movie props. It was a fantastic opportunity, and I still maintain close connections with the people I worked with during that time.

I found myself in the healthcare sector after being injured by a patient in the emergency room I had been moonlighting in. This placed me on light duty, where I used my talent acquisition skills to recruit positions for everything from housekeeping to physician assistants.

I then moved into the Non-Profit sector with AmeriCorps and their Reading Partners Program. There I maintained a staff of roughly 500 volunteer tutors. After that, I went into Insurance/Healthcare once again.


Based on your experience, what are some of the things a recruiter looks for in a candidate?

Recruiters worth their salt will be looking at your response times, professionalism, and social presence.

Response times give them an idea of your sense of urgency – which is a massive deal for most positions! Potential employers want to know if you’re going to be a great communicator or if you’re willing to let things go for a minute.

Professionalism comes in how you respond: your grammar, cadence, salutations, and if you’re answering everything they asked or leaving out details they need. A great practice is to run your responses through Grammarly or Hemingway App to catch things you may have missed.

Social Presence is massive, and I’m mainly talking about LinkedIn regarding job hunting. Having a fully optimized LinkedIn profile gives you an enormous edge because it’s social proof that you are who you say you are in your career experience. I’ve seen great resumes hit the trash because the candidate didn’t exist anywhere but on their paper resume.

How and when did you come up with the idea of The Job Forge?

When the pandemic hit, I knew many people who joined the mass resignation and began job hunting. People looking to move their careers into a remote situation quickly realized everyone else had the same idea. My phone started blowing up with questions about what “contract to hire” meant and how to update their resumes quickly. I took care of everyone close to me and then some! I wanted to make this service available to anyone else feeling stuck, so I created The Job Forge. I have the different comprehensive packages on my site, but also some basic gigs on Fiverr as well. I wanted to make it as accessible as possible for as many people as possible.

According to you, what are some of the things that career coaches often miss out on?

That clients don’t have to be some industry big wig to need some help. I see a lot of coaches gearing their work to major hitters, not understanding that there’s a whole population of mid-level players that are hungry to throw their career into high gear.

I’ve worked with RNs looking to make Charge Nurse, Retail Managers wanting to switch industries completely, recent grads trying to get their foothold and start making bank, and parents returning to the workforce after time away to take care of their littles.  

Whoever needs coaching should have access to it – and that’s my goal. To make Career Coaching accessible and affordable.

How do you address the gaps in the existing recruitment and career consulting services?

The issue I see happening with current recruiting practices is false barriers to entry for many positions. A great example of this is requiring intensive degrees and forcing employees into the office when it’s not necessary.

I recently attended an Equality Summit where the overwhelming response to “What is the number one thing holding your career back?” was employers requiring higher-level degrees for positions that could also be learned through real-world experience. Many people have spent their lives honing their skills, but they are instantly rejected because an advanced degree was not a pathway for them.

My recruiting approach is working with the employer to narrow down the actual needs to do the job – not what looks good on paper. It’s getting them to understand that an applicant can have the most expensive degree in the world and still not know as much as the person who has spent 20+ years in the industry.

And my Career Consulting service falls in line with that philosophy! Degrees are lovely for specific fields but not required for many others. I want to work with my clients regardless of their educational background. Whatever the barriers are, I want to create a plan for them to succeed!

Though every job has a different set of needs, In your experience, what are some of the most common traits recruiters are looking for in candidates?

I touched on a few earlier, but I can tell you a line that recruiters watch closely: Are you finessing your resume or lying about your abilities? There’s a big difference!

It goes without saying that you should never lie on your resume. Saying you have skills you very definitely don’t will not only get you quickly fired but can also get you a blanket industry ban if the community is small enough.

Finessing? That’s fine! And what I mean by that is, let’s say, you went outside your job description and learned new skills because of it. You can put those on your resume! It’s not lying – You did the work and have the abilities you claim to. Or asking your manager if you can change your title on your resume to reflect more accurately what you did under their employment. Then update your resume accordingly. Your resume is meant to reflect your skills and abilities in the best and most truthful way. And if you need help with that, my services are a click away!

Any suggestions you want to give to first-time job seekers?

Job hunting is a numbers game – especially now when there are many open positions and a ton of applicants. Even when you land an interview, keep applying! Nothing is final until you’re signing contracts accepting the job and have an official start date. Focus on your goals and move forward step-by-step. Clean up your social media, flesh out your LinkedIn profile, and revamp your resume and cover letter.

Oh, and please, please, create a professional email—just your name at Gmail or yahoo or whatever platform you use. Anything else is a potential red flag, and you don’t want to have your CV tossed in the trash for something so quickly addressed. Keep your personal email separate and create one specifically for job hunting.

Lastly, a big trend I am seeing is putting pictures of yourself on your resume. In the US and UK, this can actually really hurt your chances of getting an interview. Many companies will toss resumes with applicant pics on them because they don’t want to be seen as biased.

And if you need help with any of this, reach out to me! I’d love to chat!

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