Secrets of Success: Allison Karl O’Kelly -
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Secrets of Success: Allison Karl O’Kelly
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We’ve launched Secrets of Success, a new weekly interview series here at’s Small Business Forum. I’ve asked some of the smartest, most innovative, most successful people I know to share their insights and success secrets.

Meet: Allison Karl O’Kelly, who founded Mom Corps in 2005 to help other working moms find flexible work in their fields without sacrificing the needs of their families. Today Mom Corps has grown into a talent network of over 160,000 job seekers. Allison just launched Mom Corps YOU, an online coaching and learning portal for professionals seeking flexible work.

Before becoming an entrepreneur, Allison worked for Toys “R” Us, where, among other accomplishments, she was responsible for launching the original website.

Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Allison Karl O’Kelly: I wanted to be a veterinarian…until I realized I was deathly allergic to cats and dogs. I then decided I was going to own a candy/gift shop. I spent years in retail and even managed a Toys R Us store.  I love what I’m doing now, but I’d still love to own my own store one day!

Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?

O’Kelly: After the birth of my first child I needed more flexibility. I began doing contract accounting work. I quickly realized that there were so many other women like me who were educated, experienced and looking for flexible work. I found it a shame they felt forced to work full time or not work at all. I became passionate about helping them! The good news is my corporate clients were struggling to find educated, experienced talent and were thrilled to find this once-inaccessible talent pool.

Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?

O’Kelly: Many. One of the most exciting was to be named Working Mother magazine’s Entrepreneurial Mom Award recipient less than one year after launching. It really helped to get our name out to professionals who were looking for flexible work. Another really exciting moment was receiving Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneurial Winning Women award in 2012—it really helped me to think in different ways about growing my business.

Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?

O’Kelly: Don’t hire too fast and don’t give away stock too early.

Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?

O’Kelly: Spend a lot of time talking to other entrepreneurs. Even when you are in a different industry, there are a lot of similarities. I have learned a lot from my entrepreneurial peers.

Lesonsky: Do you have a 2014 small business prediction?

O’Kelly: Small business is going to continue to grow. People are looking for workplace flexibility. In our recent survey at Mom Corps almost half of working adults said they’d take a pay cut [in exchange] for flexibility. It is a very important factor in a career. The ultimate flexibility is owning your own business.

Lesonsky: Do you have a favorite book?

O’Kelly: I love Off-Ramps and On-Ramps by Sylvia Ann Hewlett. It brought the conversation of workplace flexibility to the mainstream, and I’m forever grateful!

Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?

O’Kelly: I’ve had this posted on my wall by my desk for eight years. It couldn’t be more perfect for an entrepreneur:  “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” —Thomas Edison

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Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at, follow her on Google+ and, and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.
Rieva Lesonsky

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