Stephanie Nadi Olson has an audacious goal: The innovator and disruptor wants to change the world’s perspective on the future of work and what it means to be inclusive in the workplace.
To accomplish that, the former advertising executive and mother of two launched Atlanta-based We Are Rosie, an agency that provides consulting and talent solutions for the marketing industry, in 2018, before the pandemic made remote and flexible work mainstream.
A self-described corporate refugee, Olson wanted to create an alternative to the usual day-to-day workflow by pairing customers with teams or individuals who get to choose their own hours.
“I wanted to gather up all the corporate refugees, the moms, the caregivers … the people who have been discriminated against so they don’t want to go into the office … and I’m going to give you work that respects what you need in your personal life,” Olson told Atlanta Inno in 2021.
Although many were skeptical about her idea at first, We Are Rosie now works with more than 25 Fortune 500 businesses — including Bumble, Meta, IBM and Microsoft — and its community of marketing talent, aka Rosies, stands at more than 20,000. Even more importantly, We Are Rosie’s reach is felt in all corners of the marketing world.
Here, Olson talks with Bizwomen about her drive and passion for inclusivity, as well as what the future holds for We Are Rosie.
What was the driving force behind launching We Are Rosie?
Honestly, this business is the culmination of all my experiences. I grew up in a household with parents of different races and religions. It was amazingly diverse, and that left a real imprint on me from a very early age. After I graduated from Georgia Tech, I worked at Microsoft in marketing. I also worked at smaller companies where I could have more impact.
What I realized early in my career was that marketing wasn’t very diverse. A lot of people were marginalized because of the way we work. I mean, how many times does the way we’re expected to work not make any sense whatsoever for those charged with doing the work? We have this idea that everyone must conform to the exact same way of doing things, and that doesn’t mirror life very well at all, does it?
So after spending many long hours flying to New York and California while my two young daughters were at home in Atlanta, I realized not only was I feeling marginalized because of the way work was expected to take place, but many, many other people were as well. It was a real epiphany for me. So, I began to tinker with the idea of creating a remote marketing platform that would allow people to pick and choose work with large companies.
Because of my own experiences in the corporate world, I had an extensive number of contacts. I decided to invest $10,000 into launching We Are Rosie.
There must be an interesting story behind the company’s name. How did you choose it?
I knew the name of the company needed to mean something personally to me, so I named it after my youngest daughter as a way to remind me about what is most important to me: my family’s legacy and my daughters’ future in the workforce. It was a way to honor those who mean the most to me.
Did you face any challenges with the launch of the company?
Not everyone was on board with the idea that you could do marketing using a remote workforce. So that took some time to convince others that our business model works. We also had a few initial issues with procurement departments at the big companies because they couldn’t figure out if we were a staffing company or a marketing company. I think we finally had a breakthrough when we explained that we are a consulting company that leverages talent.
How does your marketing platform work?
The We Are Rosie community includes more than 30,000 marketing contractors, who can be placed at businesses for project-based work that is capped at 40 hours a week. We also provide career development opportunities and events where you can connect with other professionals.
Because our contractors represent a diverse group of professionals, working with us actually helps companies capture the diversity, equity and inclusion they seek in an easy way. Right now, about 40% of our contractors are people of color, many have no college degree and several are over the age of 50.
You recently stepped down as CEO in order to lead the company’s board of directors as executive chair. What does this move mean for you and We Are Rosie?
I hired my CEO replacement [Jeff Levick] last year. For me, it’s an opportunity to really work on things I’m passionate about. Finding your passion at We Are Rosie has always been a hallmark of our core principals. And as I shift my focus a bit, the new CEO brings in a lot of skills and expertise to the company, so I think we are positioned to continue to grow.
What were some of your biggest lessons learned?
The first was underestimating just how hard creating a new business model is. I wasn’t expecting it to be simple, but it’s always harder than you think.
My takeaway from that is how important it is to surround yourself with good people.
The second important lesson learned is that people who do amazing things aren’t different, they just have dogged determination. The key to capitalizing on that in your company is to look for where you have potential — and then throw yourself into that fully.
Stephanie Nadi Olson
Title: Founder of We Are Rosie
Description: We Are Rosie provides strategic consulting and talent solutions for the marketing industry. The company, valued at $110 million, landed at No. 232 on the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing companies, with a 2,267% three-year growth rate.
Year founded: 2018