Mary Kay Ziniewicz was certain she didn’t want to be a mom. Her husband, Keith, didn’t want kids either. It was one of the things that made them a perfect match. And then the unexpected happened—they found out they were pregnant. They’d been vacationing in Costa Rica for a month, and when they returned home to Minnesota, they got the surprising news. It completely caught them off guard. But when they saw their baby on the ultrasound for the first time, everything changed. In a split second, Mary Kay and Keith fell in love with the tiny dot on the screen. They couldn’t wait to meet their daughter and take on their new role as parents.
After Lily was born, the couple decided Keith would be a stay-at-home dad, while Mary Kay worked in marketing and business development for two different Twin Cities law firms. Then, when Lily turned 10, Keith went back to work and Mary Kay decided to work from home on the marketing consulting company she’d launched. As she waited with other moms at the bus stop, she began to notice one question the women asked each other regularly: “What are you doing today?”
Mary Kay quickly realized how different her situation was from the other mothers. She had a successful business and a fulfilling career. Many of the other moms were highly skilled professionals interested in working, but there were all kinds of barriers—family responsibilities, lack of support, scheduling constraints, guilt. She learned that more than 40 percent of women don’t return to the workforce after their first child is born. Those who do face all sorts of biases and misconceptions around availability, dependability, relevance and more. As she continued to do research, she realized the enormous impact that removing those barriers and stigmas could have on the economy. She began to dream of a business model that would allow moms flexibility to work when, how and where it made the most sense for them and their families. And that didn’t necessarily mean returning to the same type of work they did before having children.
The idea bounced around in her head for a while. She thought she’d need funding to build a website and hire a team. Then she had coffee with a successful startup entrepreneur in Minneapolis who suggested there were ways to put her idea in motion without a lot of money. His encouragement was just the motivation she needed to take the leap. Mary Kay began developing her new business concept in 2018 while she continued to work as a marketing consultant. This new venture pushed her outside of her comfort zone on an almost daily basis, and there were times she thought about giving up on the idea. That’s when then-12-year-old Lily stepped in and built the company website, and Bus Stop Mamas officially launched.
With Lily as her chief technology officer, and the additional support of a dedicated team of volunteers she calls Super Mamas, Mary Kay developed a network of moms with a variety of skills and backgrounds. Those moms have filled a critical need for hundreds of small to midsize business owners seeking workers in all kinds of positions—temporary, part-time, full-time and more. Mary Kay calls it the #9to3movement, because she believes work needs to look different in the 21st century. Providing moms with the flexibility to meet family obligations—like being at the bus stop—would advance equality in business practices exponentially.
Bus Stop Mamas is not a staffing or recruiting company that uses keywords and algorithms to match candidates and employers. Mary Kay is all about putting people first. The process for connecting moms and businesses is straightforward—businesses post any job opening to the network as long as it offers flexibility—and moms select opportunities that appeal to them. Mary Kay and her team make introductions and the business owners and moms take it from there. The businesses pay a referral fee to Bus Stop Mamas. Women pay nothing to join the network, which is currently more than 1,000 moms who all heard about Bus Stop Mamas via word of mouth.
Bus Stop Mamas is growing quickly and has attracted the attention of the Twin Cities startup community. Mary Kay has shuttered her consulting business and now devotes 100 percent of her time to what has become her second baby. She credits her first baby, Lily, and her husband for making the new business possible. Though she may not have planned to be a mom, it’s the best thing that ever happened to her. If she hadn’t experienced motherhood, Mary Kay says she would never have had those bus stop conversations or recognized the need to elevate the extraordinary talent of a huge and underutilized segment of the population.
To learn more about Mary Kay’s business, visit BusStopMamas.com.
Photo: Bus Stop Mamas
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