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How a career-driven mom inspires a next generation of founders at home

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Kelley Skoloda, Chief InfluencHer of KS Consulting & Capital

Kelley Skoloda, Chief InfluencHer of KS Consulting & Capital

As one grows their career, if they’re lucky, they build a network of mentors and champions who remain throughout various positions and chapters. One such mentor for me has been Kelley Skoloda, Chief InfluencHer of KS Consulting & Capital. As Chief InfluenceHer, Kelley connect brands to their female consumers, angel investors to female entrepreneurs and boards to female perspective.

This week Kelley and her 17-year old son, Jake, co-founder and president of the Millennial Ad Network, are speaking at PRWeek's Millennial Conference, Swipe Right on Oct. 12 in NY.

As a trendspotter and early adopter, Kelley has become an influential voice on marketing-to-women from the stage to the page. Her business book, Too Busy to Shop: Marketing to Multi-Minding Women, was named a “must read” and is in its second printing. She's spoken at global venues, served on influential advisory boards, and was designated as one of the most influential women in business by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Kelley has cultivated an influential network and enjoys being a superconductor of resources and a go-to sounding board. Clients, colleagues, and other experts seek out her sound opinions, and she's been transparent about the uncommon ways she's blended career, family life, and passion for learning in a way that’s positioned her as an advocate for working women. To empower female entrepreneurs, she became a founding member of the Next Act Fund angel investing group, where she is also co-chair of the Investment Committee.

I was able to ask her some questions which will hopefully inspire many others as much as she’s inspired me.

Catherine Merritt: Tell me how you started your career and some of the unique aspects of your journey that got you to where you are today.

Kelley Skoloda: I came in to the agency world unlike many others - was fresh out of business school when I was hired by the president (Jerry Voros, still a mentor) and CEO (Bill Genge) of Ketchum Communications, then a private ad and PR company, to be their management assistant. At the tender age of 22, I met and interacted with the leaders of all of the agencies divisions and got to see first-hand, and at an unusually high level, how business worked, how important great presentation skills are and what got leaders hired and fired. After about a year in that job, I was hired into Ketchum PR as an AE and, over two decades, worked my way from AE to Partner, from running accounts to running an office, the business development network and then the global brand marketing practice. Along the way, a passion emerged for marketing to women and moms so I focused there, wrote a book and have gone on to become a leading spokesperson on the topic from page to stage.

Tip: Be unafraid to try something new. Even if it does not work out, it will lead you to another open door.

CM: Are you doing what you thought you wanted to do when you were younger? What are some of the most fulfilling aspects of your career?

KS: When I was a kid, I wanted to be a race car driver. Marketing and communications is very fast-paced, so I guess I am being true to my childhood dream in some way! The most fulfilling aspects of my career are being a good role model for my kids, seeing my contributions make a difference for clients and being able to help support my family financially by doing what I love. My son and I just co-presented "A Zpreneur and HIs Mom" at the Marketing to gen Z Conference in NYC. My daughter joined us on stage, too, for the panel. What an absolute dream to help my kids launch their careers! When I wrote my book, my kids started writing little books. They knew it was possible! I worked for years on the Whirlpool business and some of that work just awarded a Cannes Gold Lion, a pinnacle of recognition in the communications world. I'm now connecting female entrepreneurs to angel investors and seeing my efforts help get businesses off the ground and consulting in areas where I am very valuable. And, I get paid to do work that I love.

Tip: Do things that help and inspire your kids - they provide the best rewards for working moms.

CM: What are the hardest challenges you face in your career? How have you grown your career while growing your family?

KS: Trying to raise kids and have a good family life while also wanting to constantly move forward in my career has been challenging over the years. I've tried to be true to my life priorities, not just work priorities, which is family first. With life priorities in mind, I won't ever regret saying no to a business trip because I needed to be home for something important, however, it causes serious grief when it's happening and does not always make you the most popular person at work at that time ;)

Tip: Don't torture yourself working for a company that does not understand and support working moms - there are many that do.

CM: Have you found being a mom has made your more successful in your career? If not, what were the challenges that came with it?

KS: Most moms are masters of time management, getting s*@t done, being realists and mentoring, so those things definitely help at work. But, most moms don't want to spend their entire lives at work and can be viewed as less committed, sadly. True workplace flexibility helps, as does working for yourself or with other like-minded moms. For 10 years, I worked for the greatest boss, Dale Bornstein, also a mom, who provided guidance, candid feedback and humanity in the workplace. I also have a handful of awesome, candid girl friends and an invaluable network of women and moms who can provide feedback and support.

Tip: Set YOUR priorities and be true to them.

Tip 2: Find yourself a great boss or be your own #bosslady

CM: Tell me about the recent changes and pivot in your career? How did you harness your prior experiences to begin this new chapter?

KS: So much great change to talk about! After achieving "partner" level and 25+ years in the big agency business, my role was phased out in an economic reduction. When it happened I was shocked. Not surprised, given the economy, but still shocked. When one door closed, so many more opened! My phone, FB and LI blew up with hundreds of calls and messages and magical things started to happen.

I always networked, talked with recruiters, invested money and kept my resume up-to-date and had been seriously talking with another company, so I had a work plan. I had also become a founding member of the Next Act Fund, an angel funding organization that focuses on female entrepreneurs and started working with entrepreneurial CEOs and angel funding organizations. It has created the most fantastic opportunities. Unlike other areas, women, especially experienced marketers, are welcomed with open arms because there is a dearth of female investors and marketing expertise in angel groups, which are mostly male, tech and finance. I've been tapped for expertise, consulting, teaching and advisor/board positions.

So I am now launching my own consultancy, KS Consulting & Capital, with a clear mission: as Chief InfluencHer, I connect brands to their female consumers, angel investors to female entrepreneurs and boards of directors to female perspective. I am also still exploring a great opportunity with one company in particular, which would be true to my mission and am currently taking on several clients.

Tip: ALWAYS have a plan, but be open to possibilities that new, open doors present.

Tip 2: Start investing as soon as you start working! Having money invested can fund a career change, prepare you for later in life (I don't believe in retirement) and give you some peace of mind.

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