When Allison Whalen went on parental leave after having her first child in 2019, she was shocked to find that her team was underperforming in her absence. Decisions were made that she didn't agree with.
Working remotely as the vice president of a venture capital-backed startup base in New York, the St. Louis Park native was also trying to adjust to a new life as a working mother and was unsuccessful finding any sort of guidance.
"I looked for resources and couldn't find any," she said. "The overwhelming majority of problems I was dealing with when I came back from parental leave could have been avoided had I been more thoughtful and prepared in taking that leave."
The situation eventually led to Whalen creating a company that would help other new parents or parents-to-be prepare for career disruption but also remain productive once they return. s
After six months of piloting a business model with a co-founder — one who saw the same dilemma in the corporate realm — Whalen left her full-time job and from her home in Hopkins launched Parentaly in October 2019.
Fueled by new work dynamics created by the pandemic, Whalen has grown her customer base of more than 20 corporate clients, including Richfield-based Best Buy Co., Zoom and social media company Snap Inc., which developed Snapchat.
Parentaly serves as a benefit offering to companies, selling directly to human resource divisions.
Whalen developed a crowdsourced and research-based curriculum taught by professional life coaches hired by the startup, either in group or one-on-one coaching sessions, over a period of three to four months before parental leave begins. The curriculum is designed to help workers prepare a business plan and go through checklists and exercises that will support them as they transition back to work.
For employers, Whalen said Parentaly creates a solution by minimizing business disruption for parents on leave and addressing the stress it can cause, such as the career regression that women commonly experience after having children.
A majority of the company's content is based on business planning and career management, and it includes programming for people in specific careers like technology, Whalen said.
Parentaly experienced massive adoption of its platform at the early onset of the pandemic, as companies discovered the value of supporting parents, Whalen said.
"What I've heard from so many HR leaders, really since COVID hit, is for the first time ever, candidates are asking about parental leave in the interview process," Whalen said.
Whalen, who gave birth to her second child nine months after starting the business and is now pregnant with her third child, recently raised $1.4 million from investors to grow Parentaly.
The funds will be applied toward marketing and client acquisition, program development, and other forms of growing the business, she said. Her plan is to expand coaching to employee managers, co-workers and those in human resource leadership positions so they can offer more support to those on parental leave.
"Parentaly is paving the way in helping organizations acknowledge and prioritize the essential need for better parental leave programs," said Nick Cromydas, CEO of Chicago-based staffing and recruiting company Hunt Club.
Hunt Club, one of the investors in Parentaly, is partnering with Whalen to use Parentaly as a talent acquisition and retention tool for its customers.
"We think that there's a really interesting opportunity right now because of how much focus is on parental leave and how many companies are really focused on working parents," Whalen said.