Candace Freedenberg, Founder and President of Untapped Potential, discussed how her Hartford startup is contributing to economic growth and job development in Connecticut and the importance of mentorship.
INNOVATION DESTINATION HARTFORD: When and why did you start the company?
CANDACE FREEDENBERG: Untapped Potential Inc. was founded as a Connecticut-based B-corporation in August of 2015. It officially launched in August 2016.
IDH: Why does someone need to use your services?
CF: Educated professionals who opted out of the standard workforce (primarily women) benefit from our services. This demographic needs the stepping stone to employment that our three-pronged approach offers.
Our community of engagement with peers, industry mentors, and coaches gives professionals a supportive outlet to stay engaged during their years of caregiving or re-engage professionally following a career break. These professionals also benefit from curated coursework to retain or refresh skills or renew their professional goals. Lastly, they may participate in a Flex-Return Engagements (like a mid-career internship), which offers contacts, skill currency, and confidence.
These are the three barriers returners must overcome to successfully re-enter their careers at caliber. Our services work to overcome these barriers.
Business partners benefit from our high-caliber talent, which is not available elsewhere (i.e., not on jobs boards etc.). Working with Untapped Potential is a low-risk, cost-efficient way of adding value to their business objectives, all while supporting gender equity and diversity objectives.
Whether a corporation, small business, startup or non-profit, these entities benefit by returning high performers back to the pipeline. While they may seek high-performing talent, they can’t expend the energy to curate, educate, and mentor this demographic. Our offering takes this burden off of businesses and delivers an engagement model where the skill is matched to their business need in an executable manner.
IDH: How does your company generate revenue?
CF: Our primary revenue comes from our Flex-Return Engagements. Businesses pay a contract price for the Flex-Return skills-based engagement while candidates receive a stipend as well as the cited benefits of the mid-career internship.
Businesses reap the economic value of high-caliber performers at a cost-efficient rate. Businesses can learn more at our first business/candidate event “Returning Educated Professional Women to the Pipeline", Thursday, March 9 from 9:00 to 11:30 a.m. at reSET.
Untapped Potential launched its MVP of the Flex-Return model in the fall of 2015. We matched a number of engagements of corporations, small businesses, and startups with marketing, project/event management, engineering, and other skill sets. Many scenarios developed to career roles. New applicants can apply for our 2017 cohort beginning in March.
Other revenue streams come from events, courses, and future membership fees. Untapped Potential offered a career readiness pilot course in 2016 by partnering with leading professionals Kelley Biskupiak and Susan Rietano Davey. Learning from the process, we are now offering an expanded course, Launch with Confidence, in 2017.
IDH: What’s the biggest challenge your company has faced as a startup?
CF: As a startup, the biggest challenge I see is prioritizing competing objectives. As the Lean Launch Methodology teaches us to pivot and to respond to customers’ needs, I find I can easily be pulled in different directions.
IDH: Tell us something we don’t know about what it’s like to launch a startup.
CF: Although many may know this, follow-up is so critical and very hard to stay on top of.
IDH: How did you become involved with reSET?
CF: I was referred to reSET by University of Hartford’s Women’s Business Center.
IDH: Can you share something about us about your experience with reSET’s accelerator program?
CF: The accelerator program provided a tremendous structure for launching an endeavor such as Untapped Potential. I liken the program to an MBA-refresher for this timeframe of internet opportunity, entrepreneurial growth, and social media exposure.
IDH: Untapped Potential places an important emphasis on mentorship. In what ways have you personally benefited from either receiving mentorship or being a mentor to others?
CF: The mentors who have contributed to my efforts in launching Untapped Potential have been terrific. Resources from reSET and the Women’s Business Center as well as other industry leaders have stepped up to support our incubating endeavor. Particularly Denise Whitford, a Business Advisor at the Connecticut Small Business Development Center (CTSBDC) and Claire Leonardi, CEO at Health eSense, Inc., have shown an interest and added value to our direction as mentors.
One of the reasons Untapped Potential feels our solution is viable today is because of successful women professionals now able and willing to mentor our candidates. Mentorship is invaluable to help them overcome the barriers they face in returning to work, namely: connections, currency, and confidence. Industry mentors can help our candidates with that with very little effort on their part. Professional women can sign up to mentor our candidates.
IDH: In what ways is Untapped Potential contributing to economic growth in Connecticut?
CF: Untapped Potential is contributing to the community/economic growth/job creation in multiple ways. First, we are supporting high-caliber resources to retain and grow skills—a critical ingredient to economic growth. By encouraging our target demographic (professional moms) to engage intermittently or in a flexible manner throughout their gap years, they retain and build critical skills that prevent them from being sidelined post care giving.
Second, by offering skills development directly through our course work and through our online skills opportunities, we improve the value this demographic brings to business.
Lastly, and most importantly, by curating mid-career internships (Returnships and Flex-Returns) we are returning this highly competent demographic back to the pipeline. The economic impact of this is significant as businesses face a talent war, Connecticut faces the so-called “brain drain,” and the United States faces a skills gap. These well-educated professionals have a high potential to contribute to our innovation economy and our gross domestic product.