How Madskills is Reframing Virtual Work and Moving the Needle

Madskills is Reframing Virtual Work and helping to move the needle which has military spouse unemployment at over 4 times the national average. Their business model includes a B2B revenue model, and an important social impact model – providing qualified and talented military spouse contractors to businesses who need their specialist skills.

I will disclose here that Anna Blanch Rabe & Associates provides some services to Madskills. We are proud of this relationship – but we wanted to be upfront in sharing it!

Madskills Founders seeking to solve a problem they know intimately

MadSkills offers companies virtual talent on demand. Madskills creates virtual work opportunities for military spouses by matching them with companies with distributed teams. They place virtual talent or teams with companies in marketing, tech, and administrative roles.

Erica McMannes and Liza Rodewald are as down-to-earth as they are dynamic. They understand the problem they are trying to solve from the inside-out! They have both recently moved across the country – Erica to Florida, and Liza to Hawaii – and have managed both their company and the transition with humor, honesty and a good dose of experience.

Cofounder stories within the tech community are the stuff of legends. For Erica McMannes and Liza Rodewald, their story is one that has a distinct thread that runs through it: “We are military spouses. We really were just your run of the mill, casual military acquaintances for many years until one idea, a unified passion, and similar soul fires came together.”

Erica believes that military spouses are familiar with the ebb and flow of these stories and particularly the role of friendships: “The stories connect us. Inspire us. Humble us. And friendships are the creators, fuelers, and deliverers of those stories. A new neighbor is just going to know someone in your past or hook you up with a new friend in the future. It’s inevitable. Some of the connections will be lasting. Immediate, like the strongest glue on the market. Others will be casual, perhaps fade or re-emerge when you least expect and take on a whole new life of their own.”  To read more, see this article by Erica about Madskills’ own story.

Tell us about you? What attracted you to social entrepreneurship?

Erica:  We have both always been passionate about business and helping others (especially woman) in business and careers. We each worked in these lanes individually before we ever met, we met as female business owners, and had a brainstorming session one day on the struggles of employment and sustainable careers in the military spouse community and knew we could innovate something new to help make a difference. Building a business that provides income, quality of life, and opportunity should be how ALL businesses strive to grow. We have a very unique opportunity in how we serve our customers and that directly connects to offering flexible, sustainable and virtual work opportunities for professionally skilled individuals who just haven’t found traditional paths a good fit.

Have you had a mentor or an influential person in your life who encouraged you?

Erica:We wouldn’t be here today if we didn’t. There is truly no path to success that is paved by just one person. Especially in business! There is entirely too much to know, manage, research, plan, envision, give, and sustain to think we could do this on our own. It’s taken some very patient mentors, lots of hours of conversations and critical thinking, days of back and forth in making decisions based off ideas or opinions on matters we sought from mentors, and months of dedication to open vulnerable learning from people who have blazed trails ahead of us. Then somedays, it’s simply the stories of the people we are placing in virtual jobs. They are so influential in what we do because it’s why we are here.

If someone is developing a social enterprise what one piece of advice would you give them?

Erica: Look at all business models and see where your fit is best. Don’t default to a non-profit because your heart is in service to others. You can grow thriving, impactful profit-generating businesses and that just cycles right back into the mission and continues to make bigger impacts. If you have an idea but don’t know how you could make money with it, ask people for ideas, seek out mentors. There are truly exciting, innovative ways to create socially responsible and service-based companies that also bring in revenue.

What has been your greatest success?

Erica:Continuation! Business is not easy. When you’ve positioned yourself from the start a bit out of the box, carving out and defining the structure around that business can be challenging. So that fact that we’ve continued to grow from day one, and have placed right under 100 spouses in virtual work opportunities since October 2016, have created important and meaningful partnerships, and have a plan for the future – success is being achieved daily.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Erica: Serving a unique community brings unique challenges. The legal and traditional hiring practices, taxations, business structures, and compliance standards start to take on a whole new meaning when you are a 100% virtual company that is owned by nomadic, military spouse founders AND you are serving a large community of the same. So it’s been a challenge navigating all of that to be sure we are building as sound and solid of a foundation as we can while still staying authentic to who we serve and how we do it.

How can people support your work?

Erica:  Like most would say – please help us spread the word. We are currently placing candidates in virtual positions on marketing, tech, and administrative teams. If you know of a company looking for talent or extending their team footprint, we can match them up virtually with the best. If you are a spouse who has struggled to maintain a professional presence over many years of moves and starting over, we invite you to make your profile and be on the watch for virtual jobs that match your skill set.  For more information see the Madskills website.

A For-Profit Business Model is not mutually exclusive from an effective social impact model!

Madskills co-founders demonstrate not just the possibility that social impact, specifically improving the employment prospects of military spouses, can be effected through a for-profit entity, they are also showing that the very fabric of military family life does not preclude building a company with a co-founder. Co-founder relationships and origin stories make for interesting reading and this one is no different, except it is different – very different.

We like to offer takeaways from these interviews for you to ponder and share.

Takeaway #1: “There is truly no path to success that is paved by just one person.” – @Hire_MadSkills

Takeaway #2:  “You can grow thriving, impactful profit-generating businesses and that just cycles right back into the mission and continues to make bigger impacts” – @Hire_MadSkills

Takeaway #3: “If you are a spouse who has struggled to maintain a professional presence over many years of moves and starting over, we invite you to make your profile and be on the watch for virtual jobs that match your skill set. ” – @Hire_MadSkills

Who would you like to see us interview? Share in the comments or tell us on Twitter!

Friday Feature: Social Impact Entrepreneurs is an ongoing series of interviews where we feature a for-profit business owner making a difference in their community.

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