Hampton Bays mothers seach for ‘untapped ability’ in others

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Kerry Wilkie and Julie Lofstad left careers in education and aviation, respectively, nearly a decade ago to focus on what some would say is the most important job of all: being full-time moms.

Today, the three children of the two Hampton Bays residents attend school full-time. Ms. Lofstad’s daughter, Olivia, is a student at Hampton Bays Elementary School, while Ms. Wilkie’s children, Kate and Tommy, attend Our Lady of the Hamptons Regional Catholic School.

With their children in school six hours a day, the two friends, who are also the co-founders of the Hampton Bays Mothers Association, began talking about reentering the workplace, but soon realized that it would be difficult to find something that fit their busy schedules. Ms. Wilkie then shared her frustration with other members of the Hampton Bays Mothers Association.

“I sent out an e-mail asking, ‘Is anyone in the same boat as me?’” Ms. Wilkie recalled.

The response showed them that they were not alone, and Ms. Wilkie and Ms. Lofstad soon realized that they had a new baby to nurture. Untapped Ability, an employment agency designed for mothers living on the East End, was born last fall.

“There are a lot of talented people looking for work,” Ms. Lofstad said, explaining why she and her business partner started the new business, which they run out of their homes.

The e-mail soon became the company’s mission statement, calling for employers to see mothers in the workplace in a new light. “One mother responded, ‘I think you found your job,’” Ms. Wilkie recalled.

Ms. Lofstad and Ms. Wilkie explained that their company operates on the premise that, as the ultimate multi-taskers, mothers bring a wide range of abilities to the workplace. In addition to capitalizing on the skills their clients used in their former careers, the new company strives to uncover their hidden talents, a point emphasized in the firm’s name.

“I never imagined being a business owner,” Ms. Wilkie said of her own “untapped ability.”

“You suddenly realize you can do this,” Ms. Lofstad added.

There is no fee for applicants seeking employment. Instead, the employers seeking to fill job positions pay Untapped Ability a fee ranging from $180 for one open position to $2,520 for 20 positions, according to the owners.

According to Ms. Wilkie and Ms. Lofstad, the cost guarantees employers well qualified and screened applicants. “When you run an ad, you almost never know what you are going to get,” Ms. Wilkie said. “We are their virtual personnel department.”

Untapped Ability is not the first joint venture for the two women. Six years ago they banded together to form the Hampton Bays Mothers Association, a group that assisted with the construction of three playgrounds in the hamlet. The association also benefits local families and hosts many events for Hampton Bays children and their mothers.

In addition to matching candidates with their ideal jobs, Untapped Ability offers resume help. “We go through and we tweak them,” Ms. Lofstad said.

“There is usually more information to gain from people than they have listed,” Ms. Wilkie added.

The job seekers approaching Untapped Ability are usually trying to earn extra cash for their families, though some are also seeking a way to feel useful by rejoining to workforce. “After eight years, it’s nice to speak to an adult,” Ms. Wilkie said.

Ms. Lofstad said the company has already reached out to Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot and Hampton Bays School District Superintendent Joanne Loewenthal, asking for notification when jobs open up. “They are putting us on their approved list of employment agencies,” Ms. Wilkie said of the town.

The company began matching clients almost immediately with the first match involving Ms. Lofstad and Ms. Wilkie’s website designer, Andy Godfrey, and a local mother. An independent website designer, Mr. Godfrey was searching for an assistant to work approximately eight hours a week. He found his ideal candidate in a matter of days. “My life is becoming somewhat more organized,” Mr. Godfrey said.

Moms are not the only ones who can benefit from the new employment agency. Untapped Ability has even received a resume from a stay-at-home dad, a local chef who is looking for work during the winter. “We don’t discriminate,” Ms. Wilkie said.

The Untapped Ability founders added that older mothers, whose children are now grown, some of whom have children of their own, are also approaching the company and seeking employment.

“The other population that has been contacting us is [senior citizens],” Ms. Lofstad said.

“They want to get back into something,” Ms. Wilkie added.

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