140+: In the Moment

About Fran Simon

A Circuitous Road To Consulting
When you look at my background, you might wonder, “How did this early childhood educator become a nonprofit management, technology, business development, e-marketing and social media geek?” Indeed, my career path has been circuitous, yet when you put it all together, it makes sense!

The seeds of technology, management, and leadership are planted…
It began when I was a child care administrator who had to solve problems, develop a brand that made parents want to use our center instead of the others in the area, raise funds, lead teams, and communicate with staff and families professionally and quickly. Because I am slightly impatient, and have a driving need to be professional in everything I do, I began to use the technology skills I developed in grad school in order to get results faster, better, and with professional impact. I became almost addicted to learning about, using, and evangelizing about technology. I quickly became the resident “expert” on computer applications and the Internet in my organization. After demonstrating to my supervisor and the board of directors how much more we could accomplish using computers, I lead the effort to convert manual business processes to online systems as quickly as possible. Our enrollment, family data, marketing, and accounting systems were all brought online as the organization grew by leaps and bounds.

I also learned that managing effectively required much more than supervision. I discovered a passion for learning about organizational development and leadership because I found I wanted to be an inspirational leader who managed with a combination of authenticity, accountability, and persuasion. I instituted a leadership training program for the 6 Directors who reported to me, as well as my supervisor, the Executive Director, which was conducted every six weeks over the course of several years by a series of consultants who coached and mentored our Leadership Team. This was the foundation of my interest in leadership and organizational development.

Moving on to the Internet and Marketing
After 15 years, in my job as a child care administrator, I decided it was time to branch out to follow my passion for the Internet. I knew that making the transition would require a significant step back in terms my level of responsibility and salary, but it meant a lot to me to follow my passion. I was fortunate to land an almost-entry-level job as a Internet Marketing Coordinator at Teaching Strategies, a national educational curriculum publishing company. The position was perfect because it combined my passion for the Internet and marketing with my passion for early care and education. Over the next 8 years, I worked my way up to VP of Marketing and Technology Initiatives. In that role, I managed our bustling marketing department, thriving web presences, and our e-marketing program.

At TSI, I also founded and managed the development of an online (SaaS) subscription assessment service for preschools and child care programs, CreativeCurriculum.net. I was responsible for product development, driving subscription membership through e-marketing and traditional marketing, as well as the general operation of that unit. In this capacity, in addition to working closely with small nonprofit and for profit early learning programs, I was fortunate to work with school systems and sate and military agencies. It was thrilling to build from scratch one of the most successful assessment products in our market vertical. It was very much like operating a start-up within the comfortable womb of a well-established company.

It was in my role at TSI that I explored and exploited the power of e-marketing and social media. I learned everything I could about how to leverage the Internet to drive people to do things: buy, become members, attend events, connect, and (although I didn’t know it at the time) to give to good causes and advocate for causes. I also continued my leadership development with a personal coach and through The Center for Creative Leadership. I continued to refine the skills I learned and worked hard to be an executive who led by example and authenticity.

Enter: eAdvocacy, Social Media, and Membership
After leaving Teaching Strategies, I joined the staff at the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) to use these skills and my passion for child care to build a parent network aimed at amassing parents to advocate for, and contribute to the cause of safe, affordable, and accessible child care. With much blood, sweat, and tears, within six months of my arrival, Child Care Aware Parent Network was born.  My team developed a set of lead generation techniques and electronic advocacy strategies that worked, and as a result, the network is still thriving.  In addition to the Parent Network, I managed an online referral service and hotline, Child Care Aware, that connects parents to high-quality child care in their communities. The referral system was funded through the Child Care Bureau division of HHS and various military agency contracts, which allowed me to continue to learn more about working the military and the federal government.

My team and I also produced a series of promotional videos that were woven into the fabric of our social media and marketing game plans. We knitted together a strong fabric of partnerships with other organizations, our members, funders, and corporate sponsors in order to fuel our advocacy efforts.  Bringing people together to advocate for such a critical cause that has so much impact on families and children was among the most rewarding experiences of my career.  Now I find myself moving on to find other opportunities to bring people together to solve important problems and challenges.

Bringing it all together as a consultant
Now I want to do more. I want to do great work with non-profit organizations, funders, government entities, and businesses. I want to mentor young women and help them launch.  I hope to find opportunities that leverage my skills, my passion for social enterprise, and my belief that the 21st century is the point in time when we can solve more problems and face more challenges when we come together with all of the power that is now literally at our fingertips.


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