Motherhood and MBAs: The Telfer grads (and new or soon-to-be moms) who built a business during their master’s

Posted on Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Allison Caverly and her son Owen

In some ways, Allison Caverly birthed two babies during her professional MBA at uOttawa — her son Owen and a new purpose-driven management consulting firm, FemForce.

The firm was founded by Allison and her classmates Carla De Ciccio and Sarah Dion-Marquis, all of whom will be graduating from the Telfer School of Management at Fall Convocation October 30.

The three women met at the start of their MBA program when they were assigned to the same group. While they had similar professional backgrounds in communications and marketing, the common ground and coincidence didn’t end there.

Soon after the program started, Allison and her husband decided to get pregnant. “People think it’s crazy to do an MBA while working and then have a baby, but it’s what I wanted to do,” she says. “I was nervous to disclose this at first because I was afraid people would think I wasn’t committed or ready to do the work.”

Sharing the pregnancy news with her group members, Allison learned that Sarah was soon planning to have a second child and that Carla and her partner were discussing trying for their first. Their bond of understanding, acceptance and support grew from there.

“It gave us permission to be ourselves and to collectively acknowledge the truth and reality that women can want to be moms but also work super hard to tune into professional commitments,” explains Allison. “I didn’t have to pretend that I didn’t care about being a mom just to prove I cared about the program.”

Helping those who help others

Kindness, empathy and a sense of community were three values that Allison, Sarah and Carla carried through their MBA. Those same qualities guided the creation and approach of FemForce.

The trio created the firm during a management consulting course where students gain comprehensive experience as consultants. The name FemForce is deliberately cheeky and less conservative than those of other consulting firms. As Allison points out, it’s because their company is different.

“Our positioning is that we help companies that also help others,” she explains. The firm plans to work with a diversity of clients of all gender identities who are driven by a shared sense of purpose and desire to improve their community.

Allison mentions something that makes FemForce unique: “We have the ability to relate to owners and not only understand their business mind and goals, but also that their desired success fits into a bigger picture of them being women leading their lives at large, which can include families.”

Post-MBA, Allison says that she and her co-founders plan to refine their organizational structure and create a longer-term corporate vision for FemForce, while gearing up for the addition of two new MBA babies (for Allison and Carla) in 2022.

Allison Caverly

Two-time uOttawa alumna

After Fall Convocation, Allison will be a uOttawa grad two times over, having earned a bachelor’s in commerce from Telfer in 2008. She was drawn back to the University because of her “exciting and fulfilling” undergraduate experience and for the appealing structure and in-person nature of the two-year professional MBA program.

“The scheduling for professionals was the best I found,” says Allison who, like the rest of her cohort, worked full-time and attended classes on weeknights and weekends. “I loved hearing people’s professional experiences because no two people came to the table with the same profile. I really did learn a lot from them.”

Allison says that her son Owen, now 15 months old, has been an excellent MBA helper — sleeping full nights and sometimes going a day without crying. “I feel like he knows his mama needs him,” she says, bouncing the football onesie-clad Owen on her knee. “The greater self-actualization I can achieve, the better example I can be for him. I think that’s something the women in the MBA share as well.”

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