Hello everyone and welcome to the Farm Brand Simply Human interview column- a place where creative individuals, forward thinkers, and evolutionary minds have a place to showcase and tell their incredible stories.
Today I am here with Stacy Schutte and Ashley Nemeroff, the founders of Integrative Connection, so that they can speak of their own inspiring entrepreneurial endeavor.
Forced into change because of the pandemic with the challenge of building a business through these difficult times, Stacy and Ashley were able to take their career and personal skill sets, combining them together and fighting through the hardships of small business, to create Integrative Connection.
Integrative Connection (IC) is a one-stop boutique search and career coaching company, so let's get right into not only learning more about these two hard-working individuals, but learning more about what Integrative Connection has to offer and how it became the business that it now is today!
As always, you can read the entire interview here, watch it in sections throughout the blog, or view the entire interview on Farm Brand's YouTube!
“Before getting into your business, Integrative Connection, we’d love to first learn more about yourselves as the individuals behind all you have created! If there's anything you would like to share about yourself and your backgrounds we'd love to know more!"
Stacy: “My name is Stacy, Co-founder with Ashley, and I spent most of my career managing recruitment teams in corporations within investment banking in the financial sector, and other corporations. My focus was filling the talent gap within those organizations, building internal recruitment functions if you will.
I kind of segued into the executive boutique search realm when I moved out to LA and I guess both of the experiences combined lent it to what we built, you know, calling it the IC platform, which is what made the experience kind of unique to me.”
Ashley: “I am Ashley! The other co-founder of integrative connection. Like Stacy, I am a former New Yorker and moved out to LA.
So we actually have very similar backgrounds which is interesting because we didn't meet until our later lives in LA. I spent my career in New York starting out in investment banking, financial services doing recruiting and talent acquisition really focused on building teams and working closely with hiring managers. And a theme I have seen throughout my career is that I've always come into a structure that was a little loose and kind of looking for some process and some improvement.
So that was really my foundation. After that, I spent some time establishing the HR and recruitment function at a health and wellness startup in New York which is completely different than working in financial services.
Completely different environments, personalities, and ways to get things done. And when I moved out to LA I became a head of recruiting at a talent agency so that is my entertainment experience. So really like Stacy my background has always been in HR and leadership recruitment and leadership roles focused on growing teams, being a partner to business leaders; and one thing that I found is that no matter where I am there are different personalities and there are different industries, but really what drove me is being someone that plays a role in being a part of someone else's success.
That's what I really enjoyed about the role."
“Walk us through what it was like transitioning into your own business and how you ended up coming together and forming the beginnings of Integrative Connection?"
Stacy: “Sure, so I think we both always had a passion to create something and do an entrepreneurial venture.
And we have ideas separately about what that looked like for each of us, and Ashley was my client when I was working for the boutique search firm. And so we kind of hit it off based on a few things.
You know, similar stylistically, similar backgrounds, obviously the New York thing didn't hurt!
So we kind of just felt a connection on many levels and I think that we really had a vision for what we wanted to do at many points in our life.
What really brought us together was COVID.
So Ashley hadn't been working as her consulting assignment ended, I had been furloughed from a job as a VP at a staffing firm and we were sitting at lunch together and talking about all the challenges that people were facing together because of COVID and then what we were facing!
And I was talking about what I was planning to do and she was talking about what she was planning to do and it kind of just intersected!
I was like why don't we do this together?! And IC was really born that day."
“Now that we know how the idea of IC manifested, let's learn more about Integrative Connection. Do you want to get into some of the services you provide, what you offer, and really just all about what IC is!
I love your website where it says "Empowering leaders to build their dream team. Empowering people to get their dream job", as it is a wonderful and nice summary of what you do, but if you want to expand on that it would be fantastic!"
Ashley: “Yeah! So that's really like our tagline. We do coaching for individuals and also work with high growth organizations. It is that two fold service category.
So just touching on the career coaching aspect first, which is sort of where this all came about by really feeling as though we were uniquely equipped for this changing and new job market with the tools based on our experience to help people. So that's really where that 'Ah ah!' moment came from, our true passion to really help individuals.
The career coaching is typically for someone who is in the job market, as there's industries and jobs that are now obsolete, so we work with them to understand how to navigate the current environment. That not just the job market though, as we have a very holistic approach. Your job is one aspect of your life but when you lose it it affects so many other areas.
Your financial health, your mental health, you're working from home and your routine is off. How do you navigate your world through job loss? So we kind of tap into those aspects and then it can also be for high potential individuals.
For someone who is currently working and they are ready to take their next step but they are still at the mercy of the current job market. So how do they do that?
We really figure out what an individual is good at and we walk them through our specific process and our tools to really get them to whatever their desired result is. We also offer a ton of free workshops and tips, and we really just focus on your strengths and what you enjoy doing and how we can apply that to the job market!
Our other service is our boutique search for high growth companies, and we are definitely focusing in the startup space for companies who are looking to grow and expand their teams within those core corporate functions. That can be anything from the top level down and we really help support and build out these teams through the vision that the business has."
Stacy: “Search firms are known for one thing, generally speaking, and so are career coaches. Search firms just fill a job, right? And IC does do that. So we are definitely engaged and we do that. But our differentiating factor, and we don't publicize this model as it evolved quite a bit, but what we do is once you become a client of ours, it becomes more of a partnership.
So what I mean when I say that is yes, we fill a job, but we're also there through the full employee life cycle. Supporting companies through this cycle by providing workshops and also that the employees of which we place there are successful.
So Ashley and I are always checking in, making sure that they are transitioning well. Are there any issues? How can we hello support them in the onboarding process? Just generally, you know, how's it going?
And the last piece would be that if they are to have you know, a reduction in force or have to do a layover which we know so many companies are having to do right now. We provide outplacement services, which if people aren't familiar with, there are a lot of large companies that do it and they charge a lot of money and a lot of times it is unaffordable for companies.
What Ashley and I have built is a program that we like to call al la carte services. So we customize outplacement services for each employee. So if they just need maybe a resume re-written and their LinkedIn profile updated or just want a couple of sessions with us, on top of high-value propositions for larger companies, we have a really good infrastructure that we have built to support a company through a rough time like that without breaking the bank.
We really have a customized, individual approach so that when they are making that tough decision and they have employees that they are going to let go, this ensures they can maintain their brand and that they can maintain a good relationship with the outgoing employees and still set them up on a good note and help them.
And that persons going to leave and the difference is them leaving with a bad taste in their mouth or leaving and saying, you know what, they made a really tough decision but they set me up with these really nice, professional people that can help me and that care about me and that helped to get me set up in the job market, with personal branding, all of that stuff. So that's how it goes to the full spectrum and our model is unique as I said, it's really a partnership model versus just dropping a person in."
“Let's say I am an individual or a business in need of your services. First of all, so we can share all of it, what are the best places to find you and contact you? And then what would this process look like for an individual navigating this new job market and working with Integrative Connection?"
On Instagram and Linkedin we are @Integrativeconnection, and our website is Integrativeconeection.com.
So that's the best way to reach out, and in that case, if you've reached out and you're at this point where you don't know what to do and you wanted to see if this career coaching is right for you and were a great fit, I would say that is great, Dakota. Let's set up a call, let's get to know you, let's see where you are and then I can share a little bit more about our process.
So on that initial free consult, we would just discuss a little bit about where you are, and each person is so different. Some need help just identifying jobs they can apply to. Another individual might be getting the interview, but because everything is remote, not really understanding that remote interview environment and getting past that first interview, as that is a common theme.
Because Stacey and I both have been in the corporate and the HR side as well as the agency side, we've seen both sides of the spectrum so we can know what managers are looking for and what interviewers are looking for. All those aspects that go into your job search.
So if you said great, that is exactly what I need, we would set up a coaching program with a specific number of sessions that makes sense to you so that we can get you your desired result by setting small, but substantial goals and progress after each session.
And then on that boutique search side, you know our approach is very customized. It really is a partnership. So we want to know the company, we want to know their challenges, we want to know where they excel, and about their current team. So based on the culture and the position we can provide the best candidate and service them throughout that entire lifecycle."
Stacy: "I think what's important to note is that we really get to know what motivates someone in making a move. So we ask why someone is making a change, what is driving that change, and we really get to know their personal situations.
Maybe they want to get closer to family or maybe it is driven by goals, money, or work culture, growth. So getting to know all the things that will really make them fulfilled and happy and engaged there for the long term, and most importantly, be a top performer!
Because those are the people that the high growth companies we are working with need and that will be successful there for the long term. For us, success looks like a person that is there for the long term and happy, and the client calls us and they're happy as well. Not just a year later, but years later, and that person is satisfied with their career.
That to us is true success. It's not just getting a fee."
“In the process of your niching down into these two niches here, the agency and the coaching side, was that purposeful in your discovery to niching down into this business model, or was it just kind of natural and you are realizing the benefits of being on both sides in terms of understandings and making connections with who you work with?"
Ashley: “I think Stacy and I always knew that we both have unique experiences. Everything is a relationship, even on the search side, it's a coaching relationship with that human connection and those skill sets have always been there. This was just taking what we've always done and putting it into practice.
In terms of niching down, we definitely went through a few iterations of Integrative Connection. The market has changed tremendously over even just the past year, so when IC was first conceptualized there weren't many jobs and it was more of a lay-off model, so that's where the outplacement idea was born. Supporting organizations and their employees that are being laid off to give a “soft landing” into this job market.
Giving them the resources and the tools needed to navigate the job market and their lives.
And then more recently, you know, and thank goodness, the job market has really picked up, and now everyone's hiring and that is our core skill set, so now we are really focusing on the search side. But we can really have that full circle model where we are coaching individuals, we're doing the placement, we're really focusing on a company's current workforce and giving them the tools and workshops and training opportunities needed to excel.
And then if the unfortunate situation did occur where one of our clients needs to downsize, they know us as a trusted partner to be an ally to work with their outgoing employees. Everything someone might need to feel comfortable AND productive going into a job search.
So to answer your question, yes, there have been a few iterations in less than a year, and that's what you have to do right now!
You have to be adaptable and flexible so that's really where we are."
“Do you have anything positive currently in the works at IC that is going to manifest soon, and how do you plan to keep progressing? Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years compared to where you are now and how do you plan to grow this wonderful business?"
Stacy: "Yea! So we have a lot of things that we think are exciting coming up. Things like this interview and other collaborations that we're doing. I think that the most exciting thing we have found is that, as an entrepreneur, it can be really scary and daunting. And you don't really know what you're getting into, right?
And one of the most surprising things has been how other entrepreneurs are so willing to help. In that collaboration, we have found an ability to leverage other people and in turn, lift each other up. So we have other opportunities where we are partnering with other people.
So if we don't do something, we leverage our partners in that space who do and vice versa for referral fees and to send our customers to reliable sources. It's similar to what you guys are doing in the sense that its small businesses helping other small businesses grow, and that's a really good thing.
You know, we all need comfy work clothes and I am going to pump Farm Brand and say don't wear Lulu Leggins, try these instead, they're great!
That kind of help is really important, but again, it has to speak to you! You know, if Farm Brand did not speak to us I wouldn't support it in that way, but it does. These opportunities are really good, and for us that's exciting, to help other people.
And that's really why we got into this, you know, we have a passion for, and Ashley started out by saying this, is that she always did this because she is passionate about playing the role in supporting the success of others, right. So it all comes full circle and that's really great.
As far as the future and what that holds, our ultimate goal is to become so big that we do have to hire other people and make it into a big suite of services but ultimately, if I am to be really honest, there is always the goal to retire!!"
“Well I am sure that if there's anyone who can build a wonderful team, it is you two! What would be the most fulfilling part of this journey? Is it that aspect of helping people or is it being able to follow through with this journey on your own?"
Ashley: “Honestly, I would say both! Helping people and being supportive and being of service, that's something I think you intrinsically have in you, and especially now in the world where being able to help people and make a difference is so rewarding and empowering. But, on the flip side, building your own business is something that we both wanted to do separately on our own prior to knowing each other.
Watching something be created from an idea in your mind is, it's still, sometimes we look back, and it's mind-blowing!
The personal growth you go through, it really is an education in its own, and it really levels you up and it makes you look in the mirror and realize your strengths. And you have to be vulnerable and realize where you can improve since it's not for the faint of heart.
It's amazing, but there are ups and downs. High highs and low lows, but it's the ability to trust in something and to know that you're good at it and do it with someone you trust and respect, and really kind of taking that and just keep going forward each day.
I remember sitting there with Stacy when we decided to create this, and then when we came up with the name, and then when we had our website. Just building something from nothing. There are so many different steps to get where we are now and there's so much room to grow, and it's that excitement that I don't know what the future holds but I'm passionate about this and doing what we have always wanted to do!"
“Do you feel the transition into a start-up after working in corporate has been the right choice and are you happy so far in this choice? What are your feelings on how COVID forced you away from corporate and into a startup? Do you kind of wish you could have maintained your high-up corporate position and what are your feelings on that as of now?"
Stacy: "For me, absolutely not! You know, I saw it as an opportunity for sure. I think my run in corporate life has been long enough and I felt stifled for quite a long time. I'm an entrepreneur major, and my dad once said to me, “I wish that I had encouraged you to do this a long time ago” and that really stuck with me as did a few other things.
One of the things that Ashley and I did was we have talked to a lot of people to get insight on our model and what not, and one of my mentors from a long time was speaking to us and she said “I want you to remember one thing to tell yourselves all the time, and that's to never give up.”
And I think those words play on repeat for us all the time. There are times you get worn out and there are things that hit you and get in your way or impede your motivation sometimes.
So you have to have that will to keep on going, but the feeling and the passion and having a great business partner and all of that far outweighs any trepidation or second guessing that I may have, and also the ability to want to help others. Both of us inherently know we're going to succeed far past our imagination, and it's just a matter of when.
So we don't ever really ask if this is going to work. We just have high expectations of ourselves and setting high standards for ourselves, so I think that's more what it is for us. But I always saw it as a gift, to have that moment, that “Ah ah!” moment. That yes, we're going to do this!"
“Any final words regarding Integrative Connection, any closing thoughts or pieces of advice to send the ship away with?"
Ashley: "So you know, as we said, this grew out of our passion but also a strange period in our lives. It was kind of the push we felt we needed and it might not have happened otherwise.
It was basically you're at a fork in a road, and you really just pick yourself up and do it. We've said that we have created our own comeback story and that's kind of how we position it as well. Some days are tougher than others but really you just have to keep moving forward, believe in yourself and what you're doing, and as you go through the process you really might surprise yourself about what you're able to accomplish and handle and how far you can go."
Stacy: I would echo the sentiment about, well, what I have not shared is that there was a dark point for me when I did get furloughed and I wasn't fully confident that I could do it, only because I just wasn't totally certain. There was always that voice in the back of my head going “you can't you can't you can't” which is why I never pulled the trigger, right.
And I ended up taking a Tony Robbins online seminar, it was the first one he ever did, and it was like a four-day crazy thing. And before that, I was spending days laying around not being productive and not eating well, and I always put it to people like I was at the edge of my cliff.
That was the turning point for me, when I said I was going to do this, and that was before Ashley and I met and talked about IC. So I would say for anyone doubting themselves that it is important to figure out what it is going to take for you to get you the confidence you need.
Whether that is talking to mentors or whether that is taking some sort of course or reading a book. One of the things that Ashley and I talk about for people is that you need to get on a routine.
If you have been laid off, you must get up and out of bed at a certain time, you must not hit the snooze button, exercise, have your desk space looking good and productive.,
We actually have a list, so email me at email@example.com and we would love to share that and tips around that with you. But it's very important that you have a structure to your day and all these different things we have come up with that have basically saved us and kept us sane during a time that was insane, and that was one of the things that really helped.
So IC grew out of me being a little bit dark and uncomfortable, and that really pushed me to the edge, and I think that starting a business has been the greatest learning experience of my life.
I have learned more in less than a year than my entire career because you are forced to be scrappy and for us, we didn't really have accountants, lawyers, or anything and we didn't pay anyone. Google became our best friend.
We wrote our own contracts, filed our own paperwork, we wrote our own website. We did everything ourselves. Literally all on our own.
And I think that when you do that you take a lot of pride in the product or the service and what you do. So I would just say if you're not happy, you really do have control over the situation and you can change the one that you are in!"
We would like to thank both Ashley and Stacy again for taking the time to chat with us and to learn more about their business and their entrepreneurial endeavors.
If you are interested in any of the services IC has to offer, they are offering the Farm community free consultations, so please do not hesitate to visit their website and reach out to them so that they can help progress your life forward!
And remember to use code FARM4IC for 25% off your entire order at checkout!