Fresh out of St. John Fisher College in 2007, a 24-year-old Lindsay McCutchen took the daunting plunge of starting her own business. A staffing firm setting up employers with potential employees called Career Start, the young firm started with humble roots, and, as is the case of almost all young entrepreneurs, with the daunting specter of failure always hovering in the periphery.
Now, a decade later, from its small home-style headquarters on South Plymouth Avenue with a trail of potential clients leading out the door, McCutchen’s startup has been launched into wild success. It was ranked 970th on Inc. Magazine’s 2017 Top 5,000, and also checked in at number 50 on the Women President’s Organization annual top 50 fastest-growing woman-owned businesses, with 18,291% growth in the past five years. McCutchen also held the distinction of being the youngest person on the list, as the average age of honorees is 50.
With McCutchen out on maternity leave, Chief Operating Officer for Careerstart Kendell Schmitt spoke about the new recognition and the future of Career Start.
“Our goal since the beginning was getting people on social services into the workforce,” Schmitt said. “Basically, to take them from using taxpayer dollars to contributing.”
Recently, the firm grew from manual labor jobs in manufacturing and printing to navigating more high-level positions in IT, accounting and finances. The accolades began to pour in amid that shift, with the company first being ranked number 11 in the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce’s Top 100 list.
“Things just kind of blew up,” Schmitt said. “We were really so tied up in the day-to-day operations that we hardly knew things were getting bigger.”
The accolades piling up for Career Start and McCutchen came as no surprise for Lidestri Foods Director of Human Resources Sarah Miller.
Career Start provides temporary employees for all of Lidestri’s locations in the Rochester area, mainly in production.
“They’re just a pleasure to work with,” Miller said. “I can’t say I’m surprised that they’re getting so much attention, Lindsay is a great businesswoman, and I have to imagine she provides great leadership. Aside from that, she’s just fun; she makes the whole process enjoyable.”
Miller said Career Start provided a large amount of temporary employment for the Fairport-based packing and bottling company, and also provides on-site management.
“We have a true partnership with them; they’re on-site with us,” Miller said. “They listen to our needs, they respond very quickly, they are always open to any new ideas or suggestions. I find Lindsay and her crew to be very creative in helping us solve our labor problems or issues. I have a lot of respect for her business model, they’re very connected in the community and with a lot of different programs that the city and the county run.”
Collaborating with organizations such as the Rochester Workforce Consortium, Career Start works to provide employees with resources to obtain GEDs, education, training, licensing and education.
Schmitt called Career Start’s inclusion on the Women President’s Organization and Inc. Magazine lists “humbling,” but the company’s impact on its community is more noteworthy than just a spot on national rankings. In 2016 alone, Career Start help navigate careers for over 2,500 people, the majority in Rochester.
“We’ve become somewhat of a household name; people come to us often who know someone who have worked with us and had a good experience,” Schmitt said.
Schmitt notes the unique programs Career Start offers which benefit both employers and employees.
“We have one program where we’re actually able to subsidize an employee’s wages,” Schmitt said. “Meaning, for the first 30 days, we’ll cover an employee’s salary. It’s a win-win; the employee gets paid, and the employer basically has someone work for free for 30 days.”
Through wage subsidies, Schmitt said, Career Start was able to put millions of dollars back into the Rochester economy.
Now with a slew of accolades pouring in, this small business, employing just 17 full-time staff, is looking to the future. While the company has in the past consulted for non-local firms, the bulk of Career Start’s business has remained consistently in Rochester. Schmitt hopes for that to soon change, first taking on the region and then the nation.
“Our next big step is to expand in Western New York, in Buffalo and Syracuse,” Scmitt said. “After that, we’re looking to expand across the United States.”
For Miller, she sees the future as bright for Career Start.
“I’m thrilled for them, and I know that they’ll continue to do great things and [McCutchen] will continue to do great things,” Miller said.
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