AnnMarie McIlwain is a former marketing executive with Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson. In addition, she operated her own consulting firm specializing in new business development for Fortune 500 companies such as J & J, Schering-Plough, Novartis, and Mellon Bank.
Today, AnnMarie is Founder and CEO of CareerFuel, the go to site for what job seekers and small business startups need to be successful. Updated daily and free, CareerFuel delivers the best resources, direction and inspiration for job seekers and aspiring small business owners.
MO: How are you helping solve the #1 issue facing America–the jobs crisis–one person at a time?
AnnMarie: CareerFuel solves the chaos of 2 billion matches on Google for “how to find a job” or “how to start a business”. We have reduced the information to the essentials and suggest the latest and best resources, most of which are free. In addition, CareerFuel has stories about real people who found jobs or started successful small businesses providing personalized ideas for the college student to the 50+ laid off professional and the individual hoping to buy a franchise, start a Main Street business or launch an app. Lastly, we offer communities for people to share their knowledge and experience and help each other with their professional needs. In sum, CareerFuel is the best destination for what you need to know to get a job and/or start a business.
MO: Where does your passion for social enterprise and community engagement come from?
AnnMarie: Giving back has always been part of my DNA. In my mid twenties, I started a non profit called Singles Helping Others. We were a group of professionals who adopted a children’s charity each year and raised money and public awareness for the organization. I received several awards as a result of our success including The Spirit of Philadelphia from CBS and another from a U.S. Senator at the time. Now, with CareerFuel, I have an opportunity to contribute on a giant scale which is a great marriage of my marketing experience with global multinational consumer products goods companies and my desire to make a difference in the world.
MO: What advice would you give to someone who believes that they have a great idea but isn’t sure what to do next?
AnnMarie: Talk it up! It takes a lot of practice to get your “elevator speech” down and nothing works better than trialing it with people. In the process, you will discover if the idea resonates and whether people would buy it or use it. On a dual path, I would advise doing a thorough competitive analysis to assess how your idea stacks up against existing products. Checking to see if any provisional patents have been filed in your product area is another valuable input for assessing whether someone is already working on a similar product, but has not launched it. Last, CareerFuel offers a roadmap for each step of a new business venture and the best resources for getting done whether you are working on your business plan, naming your company, initiating payroll or doing market research.
MO: What employment resources do you think are often undervalued or overlooked?
AnnMarie: The Bureau of Labor and Statistics website includes a database that profiles types of jobs, salaries, number of jobs and projections for jobs over the next several years. By considering the size of the job market for a given field and the long-term outlook, people can avoid choosing careers for which there isn’t a lot of need. This is something that is very critical right now given the number of job seekers and the lack of jobs. Students entering college and spending $50,000 or more each year toward their degree would be well served to ensure that their field of major will be marketable upon graduation.
MO: What are some trends in your industry that you’re excited about or think that our readers should be paying attention to?
AnnMarie: With the new social media platforms, the dynamic for job seekers has changed for the better. In the past, the process was largely passive—job seekers would wait to hear back from a resume or application submission. Today it is quite active—putting the power in the hands of the job seeker who can proactively and creatively reach would-be employers through their networks, tweets, posts, blogs, comments, etc. This gives the motivated job seeker a lot more power to reach the hiring manager and influence their candidacy.
MO: I’d love to hear your thoughts on crowdfunding and whether you think it’s a viable option for raising capital?
AnnMarie: Donation-based crowdfunding can be a great way to generate buzz for a product idea ahead of launch by allowing people to essentially preorder products with their monetary donations. This money often acts as seed money to build a prototype or an initial quantity of product, making it a very effective way to fund the first phase of a startup. Once equity-based crowdfunding is available (the SEC has to write the regulations first), it has the potential to expand the pool of capital available to entrepreneurs. This is very exciting as the average person will now have an opportunity to invest at an early stage in new businesses and own a small piece of the business. Some of the businesses may be local and they have a vested interest in their success as a member of a community. Others may be products or services for which a person has an affinity. A few may turn out to be big ideas and early stage investments tend to deliver the best return to investors.
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