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Bookminders' Cottage Corporation

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Six months ago, Dorothy Nyland realized that something had to give. As she sat in her car in the middle of yet another morning traffic jam, the mother of four began to realize that it was time to make a career change.

"I was a full-time finance manager for an insurance company, working 40 to 50 hours per week, not including commute time," she says. "I have a three-year-old and didn't want to repeat the experience that I had with my older children when they were growing up. I was always rushing to get things done, missing school activities, always working in my mind and never really 'present' for them."

Nyland is not alone. 70% of American women with children under 18 now work outside the home, and statistics suggest that the majority of them struggle with trying to manage both their careers and their families. A recent study by the Pew Research Center shows that 60% of working mothers have the desire to work part-time, a figure that has risen 12% in the last decade.

An advertisement for Bookminders in the Philadelphia Inquirer caught Nyland's attention, and she decided to attend an open house to learn more.

"Their ad stated flexibility and working from home as a professional," she recalls. "After researching and learning more about Bookminders, I felt they had a great business model: target small companies that need part-time accounting functions and give them a professional at an overall lower cost than hiring a full- or part-time bookkeeper."

Nyland is one of several accounting professionals, called bookminders, that have joined the company's team in the past six months.

"We have been very successful in recruiting talented employees in the Philadelphia market to work within our unique employment model," says vice president Pamela Ludin.

President Tom Joseph founded the Pittsburgh-based Bookminders 15 years ago with the idea that he could attract top-tier talent if he offered a flexible working environment.

"Educated, experienced women want to remain in the workforce without having to do it full-time, away from their children," he asserts.

It's a concept he embraced more than two decades ago while working in factory automation at Westinghouse. His father asked him to install an accounting system for his painting business, a task Joseph expected to be a one-step process.

Joseph implemented a system tailored to meet the accounting needs of the business but realized he needed someone to maintain it. His sister had several young children at the time and agreed to act as the company's bookkeeper only if she could do it primarily from home. They devised an arrangement in which she would collect all pertinent financial data on a weekly basis and process the accounting from home, and the seed of an idea was planted in Joseph's mind.

Joseph refers to Bookminders as a "cottage corporation," a term he coined after realizing that more traditional labels didn't fit his company.

"I thought we had created a unique business model; it's a hybrid," he explains. "It's not a home-based business, and it's not a corporation."

While conventional home-based businesses usually have a goal of growing beyond the home, Bookminders is different.

"We deliver our core service using home-based employees," says Joseph. "Our company is designed to employ more and more home-based workers."

With more than 250 Pittsburgh clients and 50 employees, Bookminders chose Philadelphia as the first site in a national expansion plan and opened its doors last year.

Bookminders like Nyland, all degreed accountants with at least five years of industry experience, spend two-thirds of their time working from their home offices and one-third visiting their clients each week. A comprehensive training program prepares them for bookkeeping work within the varied industries Bookminders' clients represent, and online help systems enable them to troubleshoot from home.

Like many women, Rebecca O'Donnell felt a need to stay home following the birth of her second child but found that she missed the dynamic that work had brought to her life.

"I was always a career-oriented person before I had children, so it was a big change for me not to have a 'real' job," she laments.

Six months ago, she attended a Bookminders open house and was excited at the opportunity to engage in challenging work without having to compromise other things that were important to her.

"Having the flexibility to work when I want is great," she says. "I get to spend time with my children during the day and work when they're napping or after they go to bed at night. It's nice to stay active in my field while still being able to watch my children grow up."

Joseph credits the flexible work environment for his ability to retain employees for years in a time when many companies are experiencing unprecedented levels of turnover.

"When the bookminders are working, they're doing things that are productive, and when they're not working, they're doing things that are important to them. It's that simple," he explains.

Bookminder Kathleen Harvey doesn't miss the relentless pace of working outside the home and mothering two small children.

"Everything was always rushed!" she remembers. "We rushed to get out of the house, and then we rushed to get back home. All their activities had to be planned on Saturday and Sunday. It was very difficult to balance everything."

Now she works an average of 15 to 20 hours per week, spending five or six hours with her four clients and completing the balance of her work at home.

"After the children are in bed is when I get to work," she explains. "That way, I do the things I want to do with them and work when they're asleep."

About Bookminders

Bookminders is currently interviewing qualified candidates for its Philadelphia office.

Bookminders is a premier provider of accounting and information management services for small businesses and nonprofit organizations. We provide high-quality, cost-effective accounting services that allow clients easy access to their financial information without the burden of an in-house accounting function. To learn more about Bookminders, please visit our website at or call 610-688-6789. For information by mail, please send inquiries to:

999 Old Eagle School Rd.
Wayne, PA 19087

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Popular tags:

 working from home  struggles  families  Americans  careers  flexibility  vice president  functions  flexible working  costs

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