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The Leaping: From Corporate Climber to Cincinnati Entrepreneur

By Teresa Tanner, CEO and Founder of Reserve Squad

I wasn’t your typical mid-lifer. By 42, I had ascended the corporate ladder, reaching the coveted C-suite of a Fortune 500 company. As a woman, I knew how fortunate I was to have achieved this goal. Yet, a nagging voice whispered that there was more to life than the relentless pace of corporate America.

Turning 50 became a catalyst for introspection. A soul-searching retreat in the North Carolina mountains offered a chance to reflect. I had much to be grateful for – a thriving career, financial security and loving relationships. But a deeper yearning stirred within me, a calling I couldn’t ignore. It was time to step off the well-worn path and forge a new one.

Leaving a successful career was daunting. The whispers of doubt were deafening: “Are you crazy?” “What if you fail?” But the voice within me was unwavering. I had reached the pinnacle of my corporate career, and it was time to pursue something different, something fueled by purpose.

The “leap” was terrifying. I didn’t know what the future held, but I knew I couldn’t stay stagnant. The decision to leave sent shockwaves through my professional circle. Many questioned my sanity, assuming I had been fired. It was unconventional, even counter-cultural, to walk away from such a prestigious position.

Taking the Leap: Leaving Comfort for a Purpose-Driven Future

A fire burned within me, a passion to empower women and make a real difference in their lives. This passion stemmed from a personal realization – the road to success for women was far rockier than for men. Systemic biases, societal expectations and a lack of support structures created significant hurdles.

Throughout my corporate career, I had championed initiatives to help women succeed. I implemented programs like concierge services specifically designed to ease the burden of working mothers. While these efforts were impactful, they felt like mere drops in the ocean.

Corporate America, despite its pronouncements of diversity and inclusion, had made glacial progress. The statistics were stark – achieving global gender parity would take over a century at the current pace. We were tinkering at the edges, failing to address the fundamental structural issues.

This realization propelled me towards Reserve Squad. Leaving my corporate life gave me the space to explore solutions. The initial months were filled with research, brainstorming and conversations with diverse individuals. The early seeds of an idea emerged – a way to dismantle the existing structures and empower both women and men to achieve work-life balance.

Finding Strength in Adversity: From Personal Experience to Collective Impact

Then, life took an unexpected turn. Just three months into this journey, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a devastating blow, shaking me to my core. But even in the midst of fear and uncertainty, I saw a silver lining.

Being diagnosed allowed me the time and space to focus on my health and refine my vision. During treatment, I met a brilliant woman whose career was derailed by cancer. She yearned to stay connected to her profession while managing her health, but there were no clear options. This encounter further solidified my resolve to create a solution that served not only women but also individuals facing various life transitions.

And then, the world ground to a halt with the COVID-19 pandemic. The initial feeling of defeat was quickly replaced by a renewed sense of purpose. The pandemic exposed the cracks in our systems, forcing companies to adapt and individuals to re-evaluate their priorities. The need for flexibility and work-life balance reached a fever pitch.

Reserve Squad, which was still in its nascent stages, suddenly felt more relevant than ever. We offered a much-needed solution – a way for companies to access talent on-demand and for individuals to create customized work arrangements that fit their unique needs.

Looking Back and Moving Forward

Today, Reserve Squad stands as a testament to the power of taking a leap. It has been a demanding journey, an emotional rollercoaster with moments of exhilarating highs and crushing lows. Yet, through it all, the underlying mission has remained constant: to empower individuals, particularly women, to design careers and lives that fulfill them.

We are now three years old, and as I look back, I can hardly believe the journey that has led us here. We have had the honor and privilege of working with some amazing clients, and “reservists.” This past year, we were blessed to sign a contract with a global, Fortune 50 client. In addition to the companies we do direct reservist staffing for, we are also building out custom alumni squads for companies with a large employee and alumni base.

As I contemplate how far we have come in three years, I can hardly wait to see what the next three years will hold.

 

* REDI Cincinnati partnered with Reserve Squad to support the company with a JobsOhio Small Business Development Grant (formerly known as Jobs Ohio Inclusion Grant) in 2023. The grant supports businesses with underrepresented ownership or are located in distressed zip codes. For more information on the inclusion grant, please visit our dedicated page or contact Cierra Clymer, REDI Cincinnati director of international business development & inclusion (cclymer@redicincinnati.com; 513.579.3103).

**This blog is part of REDI Cincinnati’s effort to empower minority-owned businesses by providing them with the knowledge and resources to effectively represent themselves through personal blogs. Our goal is to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the business world by helping minority entrepreneurs enhance their online presence.