Teresa Daly and Mary Kloehn have called it a career.
The corporate HR veterans, who wanted to do their own thing, each put up $30,000 and rented space in an old building near Loring Park to start placement-boutique Navigate Forward in 2008. They went nearly two years without a paycheck.
Navigate has grown to 15 people, including independent consultants, and has helped 1,700-plus people seek new jobs or careers with a high-touch approach, working with 300 companies. The business has ranged up to $2 million in annual billings and the firm sees as many as 400 clients a year.
The grateful founders have contributed more than 5 percent of gross revenue to favorite charities in partnership with clients.
Kloehn and Daly, who work with executives “in transition,” are approaching their mid-60s. It was their time to navigate toward retirement.
“We had the opportunity to do great work with great clients, mostly directors-through-vice presidents of public and private companies,” Daly said. “We eventually were able to compensate ourselves well and Navigate Forward allowed us to give back to the community in a way we never imagined. More than $500,000 over 11 years to over 200 charities,” including more than $75,000 last year.
The partners, who are around on an advisory basis through the end of the year, sold their business to Anne deBruin Sample, a veteran strategist and HR officer at several firms, including Pepsi Americas, Thrivent Financial and Caribou Coffee.
Sample, 55, was a client of Navigate Forward on her way out of Caribou, the last stop on her 30-year corporate career. She was one of six bidders for Navigate. Hers wasn’t the highest bid. But it seemed like a good fit.
“Anne is the perfect person to carry on the legacy of Navigate Forward,” Daly said. “Anne is committed to continuing the high-touch, custom approach that has set Navigate Forward apart in the market. Anne also shares our values around giving back to the community.”
Sample, in addition to her corporate career, is a longtime nonprofit volunteer and mentor, and long active in the Human Resources Executive Council (HREC) of the Twin Cities.
Navigate helps people in transition determine what they want to do, can do and what next steps to take.
“Mary and Teresa were good at finding the next act for people, many of whom lost their corporate jobs due to restructuring or otherwise,” Sample said. “Or people who just wanted to try something different. This is what I want to do.
“I used Navigate Forward as a corporate customer for years. When I left Caribou, Mary was my consultant. I came inside the walls understanding why the services were great. One of the potential investor groups asked if I wanted to be CEO. But I’d rather own it myself. I decided it was time to step out of corporate America and do something myself.”
Sample said she will grow the business gradually by going deeper in the Twin Cities market, service and geographic expansion.
“There are people who still don’t know about Navigate Forward,” she said. “There are plenty of people in this town to serve. I’m committed to maintaining a great level of service.”
The firm generally works with clients, disproportionately older than 50, on a process of discovery, planning, exploration and more, including tons of networking that helps the client discover and take the next steps. About three-quarters of clients land in business-or-related positions at comparable or more pay. Some go elsewhere.
Bill Levin was an early client, a 24-year institutional bond salesman for Piper Jaffray who started thinking about moving to the nonprofit world. At age 59 a decade ago, he navigated to Gillette Children’s Specialty Center Health Care Center in St. Paul as a fundraising officer.
“I’m not as rich as I was at Piper, but I work with a great group of people and I’m learning about health care and fundraising and working at a more measured pace than on a trading floor,” Levin told me in 2010. “I wouldn’t have gotten here without Teresa and Mary.”
Another client was the late Todd Bol, who had been an entrepreneur, then worked for somebody and lost his job.
He had an idea for another company. Kloehn encouraged the vision.
Bol, who died last year of cancer at age 62, started the “Little Free Library” movement, selling some of the “libraries on a stick” and giving always others. There are 75,000 today. Kloehn bought the first Little Library from Bol.
Thierry Ibri lost a vice presidential job at General Mills about five years ago to a restructuring.
“He’s a Harvard MBA,” Daly said. “Smart. A passion for a food and charity.
“He looked at corporate jobs but decided to start his own business which he ran for two years. Then, in 2018, he joined [nonprofit] Second Harvest Heartland as the chief of operations and programs. His path has been a little nontraditional.”
Second Harvest is the area’s largest hunger-relief program, functioning as a $140 million-revenue wholesaler, distributor, fresh food rescuer and partner to hundreds of community programs and donors. It has proved a successful navigation.