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- Courtney Hazlett
- Feb 02, 2018
I Started a Business on My Maternity Leave
Not everyone would choose to start a marketing and branding agency on their maternity leave, but not everyone is Marisa Ricciardi. Ricciardi is the founder and CEO of New York City-based Ricciardi Group, a business-to-business marketing firm that in four short years has grown from a business Ricciardi began with a three-month old on her hip to an 11-person operation with a roster of high-profile clients.
Ricciardi, the former chief marketing officer of the New York Stock Exchange, manages a team of men and women — but primarily, working moms — who thrive on flexible schedules and an ethos of efficiency. She rose in the ranks of a male-dominated finance industry, then took what she learned, identified what made her feel fulfilled and crafted a company that puts her personal philosophy into practice.
HOW I GOT STARTED
When I left my job at the New York Stock Exchange after six years, I was on maternity leave with a preemie infant. I started my business from home when she was just three months old. I don’t think there’s ever an ideal time to make that shift, and it was out of necessity that I did it. I had anxiety about going back to a stressful corporate job with a high degree of uncertainty.
I wanted to focus on building a strategic marketing advisory for businesses, because after 20 years of working on the client side, I always found it difficult to source agency partners that really understood the outcomes we needed to achieve. They were amazingly creative, but didn’t understand the business side of startups; I wanted to create a firm that offered the best of both worlds. Also, in my role at the NYSE, I’d spent a lot of time with founders of companies about to go public, and their entrepreneurial spirit inspired me to build something of my own. I knew the founders of General Assembly, the education organization, who became my first client.
WHY I HIRE MOMS
Since then, as the business has grown, many of the people I’ve hired at Ricciardi Group are working mothers. I give them autonomy and flexibility. Like me, they want to keep working even though they’re moms now. There’s a perception that working moms work just to have something to do. No, we’re commercially minded and want to bring revenue home to our families.
Ricciardi Group has grown quickly primarily because of the team I’ve been able to bring in and their appreciation that they have flexibility. The ability to work remotely, come in late after school drop-off or leave early for their kids’ soccer games is important to them. I recognize their needs and support them, and their loyalty and dedication to helping us build this company is something I am very grateful for. Of course, the flexibility is contingent on our clients’ needs, but I stand behind the saying that if you want something done exceptionally well and fast, give it to a working mom.
In general, I hire people who aren’t like me. I want someone more methodical, more strategic, faster or slower. If I surrounded myself with all the same people, I wouldn’t grow. I want some type-A competitives, but also some people who are also just really happy that it’s sunny outside, and can help us all keep perspective.
“There’s a perception that working moms work just to have something to do. No, we’re commercially minded and want to bring revenue home to our families.”
At the end of the day, I want to know I’m with people who are going to help me get out of a problem. We look for the grittiest, toughest people, the types who will never stop just because they don’t know something. Our job is putting out fires. The ability to react quickly and pivot on demand are most important.
Being CEO means I don’t have balance, because the things I have to do are never equal. But I make sure I have the flexibility to get those moments with my family — like helping at the coat drive at my daughter’s school. If I’ve spent the morning with her, when I go into work, I feel more accomplished because I’ve already done something important. That makes the days when I don’t see my kids, because of back-to-back pitches or year-end meetings with accountants, more bearable.
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