Kimberly Frost is the Director of Public Sector Growth at Britton Industries, a circular eco solutions company, where she manages recycling initiatives throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, tapping into her passion for creative repurposing and sustainable materials management strategies. Following a relocation and birth of her son, Kim took a career break to adapt to her new circumstances. She was diagnosed with postpartum depression, had a passive investment morph into her running a business, became a single parent and battled in family court, managed a gut rehabilitation of the house she lived in and eventually closed the business she started. After four years in court she was awarded relocation. Her lowest point set in while she and her son were living in her brother's basement with no prospects on the horizon. We speak with Kim about how she navigated a lot of transition and turbulent times, leading ultimately to a successful career relaunch.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Welcome to 3,2,1, iRelaunch the podcast where we discuss return to work strategies, advice and success stories. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch and your host. Today, we welcome Kimberly Frost. Kim is the Director of Public Sector Growth at Britton Industries, a circular eco solutions company, where she manages recycling initiatives throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, tapping into her passion for creative repurposing and sustainable materials management strategies, and we're going to talk about what circular eco solutions means. A little later following a relocation and the birth of her son, Kim took a career break to adapt to her new circumstances. Her career break was full of yet more significant changes, including founding and closing her own business, family court and a house rehabilitation.
In this episode, we speak with Kim about how she navigated a lot of transition and turbulent times leading, ultimately to relaunching her career. Kim, welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch.
Kimberly Frost: Thank you, Carol. So pleased to be a part of this.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Well, we're very happy to have the opportunity to speak with you, and maybe we could start by finding out more about your career path that led up to your career break, and what made you decide to take the career break?
Kimberly Frost: Sure, absolutely. I had gone to college and graduated with a bachelor's degree in communications. And it was, the timing was perfect because the telecom Telecommunication Divestiture Act was passed by Bill Clinton, and the industry just took off. So I was part of the dot com revolution.
I got to see so many wonderful innovations, new companies and startups, entrepreneurship firsthand, and the decision makers that were building these fascinating companies. I was employed by a Fortune 100 telecommunications company, and my client at the time was a global bank, and there was so much turbulence at the time that not only did my employer go Chapter 11, my client did as well.
From there I went to work for a Dutch based company, they're a global information services provider. I had the pleasure of working for probably my best boss ever, a great lady. And at that time I was going to graduate school in New York City and happened to meet someone that decided we were going to get into a relationship and share our lives together.
That coin toss about where to live, I lost, because I was renting in New York and he was living in Chicago and owning a condo. So I decided after ample planning, a lot of saving over the years and working since I dunno, I think I was 12 when I got my first job, it was time for me to take a break because I wanted to really enjoy this new chapter as a parent, and enjoy the blessing of a baby.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Kim, I'm really glad that you mentioned the financial planning piece of this, because it does take financial planning to be able to take a career break. Everyone's situation is unique and some people need more financial planning than others. But the idea that you really thought through your financial situation, and you did, and the savings that you had in order to financially plan for this career break is an important consideration.
Now we had spoken earlier and you talked about significant trauma and transitions that went on during your career break. And I wanted to know if you could please share with our audience more about what happened.
Kimberly Frost: Sure, absolutely. I moved, New York City, moved to Chicago to have my son and to start this new chapter of my life.
And it was during that time that my son was born early. And I believe after all of the changes of the move, being in a city that I did not have a support system, especially as a new mom, and not working, not having those connections, after seeing my son on a respirator, I just fell into full on postpartum depression.
And it was a horrific experience. I was lucky to have the support system that I did, in friends and family and a great therapist to be able to work through that. My, my time in Chicago was planned to be a year, while my ex got some things together, we were going to move back east.
I ended up being out there for a decade. And during that time, after I had managed through my mental health issues and was still faced with a new unhinging of the relationship, so the plans that I had made thinking with this new chapter of motherhood and family, and I was just going to roll back into work as a mom, that was completely demolished.
So I entered, I had to find a new residence, I had made some investments, bought a house as an investment, gutted it, I needed to move in while it was bare to the studs I had invested in and started a small company. I thought it was passive investment in some tax and medallions and that market changed.
So that required all of my attention to manage that. And it wasn't all drastic drama. There were still wonderful moments of being a new mom and then getting to travel to the country of origin of my son's family. But there was a lot of stress during that time. And, career path was not a luxury that I had to pursue because I had all of these loose ends that I was really juggling, and being a new mom as well.
Carol Fishman Cohen: First of all, Kim, it's so generous of you to share the personal details of your story. And I know that many of our listeners can relate to one part or the other, or a number of parts of it.
And we just appreciate you sharing. So thank you for doing that. I want to know if we can pick up now from what you're describing as a very low point of trying to rebuild your life, I remember now that you contacted us at that time to see if there was a way you could attend our iRelaunch Return to Work Conference at no charge.
And of course we granted that immediately. And, and it was pre pandemic when we were still running our conferences in person, and this one was at Columbia University. And I want to know if you can talk a little bit about that time of your life, you're rebuilding and what happened when you went to the iRelaunch Return to Work Conference.
Kimberly Frost: Oh, yeah, at this point I had been granted again, again it was a long year struggle, got back from Chicago, moved back to the east coast, and I literally reached out to your organization. I was living in my brother's basement with my son. And I was on LinkedIn and I'm reading all of these job descriptions thinking, I'm never, I'm never going to be good enough. I could never do that. I'm not, nobody's going to want me, I've had this break. I'm juggling all these balls in the air. It's just like, how am I going to do this? And I emailed, I emailed the organization and I remember saying I'm literally typing, I'm sending this email from my brother's basement, where I'm living with my son jobless, can you please get me in? I need to connect. I need some inspiration. And that's exactly what happened. I kicked off what I consider my real job search after that generous scholarship. I needed that connection in person. That made a huge difference to be able to sit at the table with these folks that were in the same situation I was, different variations and different dimensions, but they were all doing the same thing. They were trying to relaunch themselves back into the workforce, feel significant enough to go for the opportunities, and value what they had learned during their breaks. I can't tell you how much I appreciated being able to go there and connect with these people.
And I networked, and I got motivated at the event, and I took advantage of all of the tools that your organization has created, like the blogs and worksheets, all of online tools. They made a massive difference to get me motivated.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Well, it's, it's so meaningful to us that the conference was a turning point for you and an official beginning for you and that the resources and the experience were so helpful, and thank you for talking about that. And for our audience who's listening now, during the pandemic, our conferences went virtual, and we're still using a virtual model, in part because now we can reach relaunchers across the country. So we have a national reach instead of being in a particular metro area. And also the employers who are recruiting can sponsor the conference with the objective to hire relaunchers, if they're hiring anywhere in the country or remotely. That feeling that you talk about, of walking into the room and seeing hundreds of people there who are just like you and not feeling alone is something that we're working to try to replicate online. And we have a pre-conference zoom call and we tell everyone to turn their videos on because we want everyone to know that we're all together and we're in that community, and people who are relaunching are not alone. So, yeah, I really appreciate you highlighting that piece of it, because the isolation part of it can be very debilitating and the, and not being alone and knowing that you're part of a community can be extremely motivating and uplifting and having a feeling of mutual support.
So that's a really, that's a key part of the process. Kim, can you talk to us a little bit more about how long your job search was going on at this time? And, or, I know this was the official beginning of your job search, and how long it took, and how did you remain positive and optimistic in the face of getting rejections or no response or whatever your experience was at that time?
Kimberly Frost: I'm sure. Absolutely. I would say the job search went on until I was recruited by my current employer. It took a full year. I started my own consulting business, because after going to the conference, and connecting with folks, and using the tools and I had more value in myself. And that gave me the confidence to say, okay, I'm more than an evaluation, 60 minutes to 30 minutes, by someone in HR, at a company, they don't know what I'm capable of. I can offer clients something and it might not be through an employer. It might just be through me directly. So I took advantage of the network that I had in place, via LinkedIn.
And emailing, and, with a few clients, I was able to kinda begin to hobble along, and being new to some technologies and learning to master those, and it really is about building for me, it was really about building momentum.
Carol Fishman Cohen: And I just want to ask you a little deeper question about that. So you said I'm just interested, like how did you get your first client?
Kimberly Frost: I had worked with a gentleman when I was in Chicago and he recommended me to this small company, and I hit it off with the owner and we were able to come to an agreement. And then from there becoming more familiar with what the needs of, or of a particular business owner are. I was able to expand from that.
Carol Fishman Cohen: And that's really important for our audience, because I know some of us do try to go the consulting route, especially when we are in the process of relaunching. And it's an opportunity to reconnect with our core skills. And as you're saying, learn some of the new technologies, kind of on the job, you know while you're actually working, and pull in some side income while you are managing a longer term job search.
So can you tell us what happened next after this period where you're starting to consult? what was the next step?
Kimberly Frost: Sure. I got my sea legs back under me, as they would say. And, I stopped talking about Legos and Batman movies, and began more industry speak and having appointments and going out to consult with client, my clients. And I received a phone call from a company, again, I relocated, I received a phone call from a local company. It's a private company, and they had me come in for an interview, and I think I sat through maybe two interviews. The company itself is very different than anywhere I've ever worked before, but what I really what appealed to me is, I always have a burning passion for recycling and repurposing.
I'm the person who goes to a hotel that's under renovation and I stop the construction crew to save the crystal chandelier that they're going to throw in the garbage. In any event, I liked what I heard about what they're doing and what I saw as possibilities as well. So I've been with that company for two years.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow. actually, let me just take a step back, when you were consulting, what was the kind of consulting that you were doing?
Kimberly Frost: It was quasi sales, but it was more of marketing brand recognition, building up their customer retention database, some social media aspects, and also just synergies, looking at what the industry is doing, trying to connect my client in there and making the links that could afford prosperity for the direction they were going.
Carol Fishman Cohen: And do you think it was the way you were describing the work that you were doing on LinkedIn or your expertise that prompted the random call out of the blue? Or do you attribute it to something else?
Kimberly Frost: I think, and the woman that had hired me had made mention of the fact that she liked the fact that I had loyalty to my employers, so I wasn't skipping all over the place. I stayed in places, improving myself there. I think that was appealing to them. And she also liked when she looked at my resume that I had started my own business, which shows a certain level of accountability, responsibility and the ability to deliver. So I think according to her, that was what was, what stuck out for her most.
Carol Fishman Cohen: But I mean, was she, was there someone who knew you, was it literally random?
Kimberly Frost: Oh, completely, completely out of the blue. She found my resume on LinkedIn.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow. Interesting.
Kimberly Frost: And I had no experience in their industry. I've never, every time I've left an employer, I've never stayed in the same industry.
I've always left the industry in entirety, gone to something completely new, mastered it and stayed there. So she just, not with particular experience in that, but she liked what she saw, the architecture of what I was going to bring to the table.
Carol Fishman Cohen: It's so unusual to be able to relaunch in, in that kind of, in that situation. Can you tell us a little bit more about Britton Industries, where you're working now, and maybe explain what circular eco solutions are, what that means, and what the company does, and what you do in your role.
Kimberly Frost: Sure, absolutely. So the company has DEP licensed facilities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and now in Florida. And they will take in all of the vegetative waste generated by towns and counties and the state, and that also includes clean soils. So instead of it going to the landfill or to be discarded irresponsibly, we'll pull them into the facilities and then we repurpose and recycle them. And then we distribute them as products, prominently ground surface material products like mulches and top soils and composts and things like that.
It's very appealing. It was very appealing to me, just in a romantic nature because I lived with my grandmother for 10 years. She survived the depression. This is a woman who would wash out Ziploc bags and reuse them. So I really am passionate about the idea of not wasting anything and repurposing.
So that's, that is the model that they have in place today. And I recall when I first went to work there, it's a private company, there's one gentleman that owns it. And I remember going in and giving him my spiel about, Oh, this is wonderful, this is circular economy and we're repurposing, recycling.
And he just looked at me like I had three heads. But it is true, that is what the company offers, and that's what I offer my clientele. So I work with, at state level county and the towns with the DEP with their, DPW, the department of public works, with their parks and recs folks, with their purchasing agents, working with them to maximize what their budgets are and how they can take advantage through the different silos in those organizations and entities to take out what they don't need, but to also gain the value of it in their purchases.
Carol Fishman Cohen: And when you first started there, did you have to learn office productivity management system? And, and how, what was that process like?
Kimberly Frost: Their CRM I was familiar with, but the scope of work I needed to master to deal with the clients, again, is a completely new industry. So I had to understand the dynamics of running a town, county operation, and QPA protocols and process for purchasing agents of the towns. And then on my daily face-to-face encounters with my clients would be with department of public works and or with parks or with school districts, the buildings and maintenance crews, to understand what's relevant to them, what's a value add, how do they operate, the bidding process, all the bidding platforms, that was another thing to master, which was new and interesting. So there were a lot of different things that I had to get on top of so that I can speak to my customer and understand what's of value to them, and how can I bring that forward?
Carol Fishman Cohen: Kim, when you're looking back on where you were, and at that low point, when you're living in your brother's basement with your child, and think about where you are now, any, do you ever think about that and reflect on how much has changed and how much you have evolved since your career got back on track and you relaunched?
Kimberly Frost: I do think about it. I think about it in appreciation, it's very hard to have someone living in your house. So I thank my brother and sister-in-law for that for sure. I also realize that I'm more than the predicament or the situation that I'm in. Having a job or not having a job, I feel that it just affirms my mindset that all things are temporary, and that I need to do the work. That I need to do the work, I need to have a sense of humor. During that time, I have my stuff stacked all over the place. I don't know where anything is. Half of my worldly possessions are in storage. I don't have a job, I'm in my fifties, I'm thinking this, what is that?
And I would joke and call my friends and call myself a cellar dweller. So maintaining a sense of humor was paramount for me.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Kim, I want to ask you the question that we ask all of our podcast guests, and that is what is your best piece of advice for our relauncher audience, even if it's something that we've already talked about today,
Kimberly Frost: I would just encourage you to have faith. Because one tiny step each day does make a difference. Ask for help, ask for recommendations, ask for tools, ask for connections, ask for introductions, and have faith.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Thank you. And Kim, thank you so much for joining us today.
Kimberly Frost: Oh, thank you. And keep up the great work Carol.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Thank you. And thanks for listening to 3,2,1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we discuss return to work strategies, advice, and success stories. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, the CEO, and co-founder of iRelaunch and your host. For more information on iRelaunch conferences and events, to sign up for a job board and access our return to work tools and resources, go to iRelaunch.com.
And if you liked this podcast, be sure to rate it on Apple podcasts and your favorite podcast platform, and be sure to share this podcast with a friend on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media. Thanks for joining us.