Lindsay Mitchell and Lauren Brandt met creating an internal group for parents at Facebook, the then-home of their dream careers — careers they didn't want to put to the side after giving birth to their daughters. While Mitchell left the tech company to cut down on her commute, the women's passion for helping working moms stayed the same. In the fall of 2018, they launched The Returnity Project to create a community and provide resources for moms returning to work.
Now, they manage The Returnity Projects between full-time jobs, parenting and being present family members and friends. We talked to them more about their journey to Returnity, how they make it all work and how they're helping women in the workplace. They also shared their best tips for women hoping to spark their own passion projects and turn them into a success.
Fairygodbosses of the Week: Lindsay Mitchell and Lauren Brandt
Co-founders of The Returnity Project
San Francisco Bay area and Greater Detroit area
Tell us a little about your career. How did you get to where you are now?
Mitchell: My career path has really been shaped by my life and the experiences I've raised my hand for. I began working at a media agency in San Francisco out of college, and through some opportunities and moves, found myself in Austin just as Facebook was building their Austin office. I was lucky enough to join the company and moved from media into more of an advertising operations role and eventually moved into sales.
Life called again, taking me and my husband to Perth, Australia for his job. While there, I started my own business in social media consulting. When his job brought us back to the San Francisco Bay Area, I rejoined Facebook in sales, which was a hugely transformative time in both my personal and professional life. I grew so much professionally during that time, and also became a mom to my daughter, Sloane.
After returning to work from maternity leave, I quickly found my passion for supporting other working moms and came together with my partner, Lauren, to create an internal groups to support Facebook moms. I listened to my heart again and knew that I eventually needed to find a job closer to home to reduce my commute to and from Facebook. And so, I joined my husband at Chevron Corporation in a marketing role. This change in my career spurred Lauren and I to bring our internal support group to the outside world and we launched The Returnity Project in September 2018.
Brandt: I also started my career at an advertising agency in Detroit at Universal McCann. I absolutely loved the agency world and UM had a huge part in shaping my career, leadership skills and lifelong friendships. I’ve always had a passion for meeting new people and helping people, and that’s what drove me to agency life and, ultimately, sales. Facebook was always a dream job of mine and I worked hard to get there. I focused on building strong relationships on the agency side and got sales experience at Millennial Media. Facebook is where I had my daughter, Olivia, and as Lindsay mentioned is what drove us to start an internal group supporting working moms at the company. This inspired us to start The Returnity Project and I truly love what I get to do every single day.
What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?
Mitchell: Beyond motherhood, which has truly been the most special journey of my life, everything that Lauren and I have built with The Returnity Project brings me the utmost pride. We took our shared experience of struggling with the return to work from maternity leave and built it into something so much larger than ourselves. And every day, when we hear from women in our community who reach out, thank us, ask questions, support strangers and share their stories, every ounce of hard work we pour into this feels beyond worth it. I'm proud of us for taking a chance and for pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones. Motherhood has made us more focused and confident than ever before and we're running with it!
Brandt: I am proud that my daughter Olivia will grow up seeing her mom do something she loves and helping people along the way. When we started The Returnity Project, we did so with the goal of helping just one mom out there. If we could help one person, it would be worth it. I’m proud that we’ve helped thousands of moms with the stories, resources and community we’ve built and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
What is a challenge that you've faced and overcome?
Mitchell: Making the decision to make a major career change out of a lifestyle need was one of my toughest career challenges to date. My five-hour, round-trip commute to my dream job was worth it for a long time — until I became a mom. Motherhood made me question everything and made me sit down and reprioritize. I knew I wanted to maintain my career, but how much was I willing to give to my job over my family (and myself)? I already had such limited time with my daughter during the day and I wanted to maximize the time I could have as much as possible.
It was beyond hard for me to walk away from a great job, great company and incredible colleagues who had truly become family to me. Truthfully, it took a while for me to be at peace with the career change I made and to not second guess myself. But I'm glad I listened to my heart and I know it brought a better outcome for myself and for my family. It also led Lauren and I to launch The Returnity Project! It can be hard to know why change happens in the moment, but upon reflection, it starts to make sense.
Brandt: A huge challenge has been launching The Returnity Project while having a full-time job and a toddler. In a lot of the stories from moms across the world on our page, we talk about the struggle of work-life integration and focusing on what matters. It’s hard to be a great mom, friend, wife, daughter, friend and sister while building a company and working in a full-time role. I have loved every single second, but it has been a challenge.
Who is YOUR Fairygodboss? and why?
Both: We've been incredibly lucky to have a huge support system in colleagues who have cheered us on in our journey with The Returnity Project. Namely, Stephanie Latham and Blake Beers are phenomenal business leaders, mothers and friends and have gone out of their way to support our vision and passion.
What do you do when you're not working?
Mitchell: When I'm not doing my day job or working on The Returnity Project, I love to be with my family. We explore the Bay Area, swim in our pool, go to parks, go out to eat and just enjoy one another's company. And if I can, I try to fit in a Peloton ride here or there!
Brandt: Spending time with my family. Not only do I get to spend my time with my daughter and husband, but we’re lucky enough to have both of our sets of parents close to us. We love hanging out with our families and focus on that on the weekends.
If you could have dinner with one famous person — dead or alive — who would it be?
Mitchell: Michelle Obama, hands down! I admire so much about her and know that I would leave the dinner table infused with a new zest for life.
Brandt: Serena Williams because she’s a mother and leader who uses her platform for good and I could learn so much from her!
Lightning Round: What is your karaoke song?
Mitchell: "Just The Two of Us" by Will Smith. Long story.
Brandt: "Livin' on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi.
Lightning Round: What is your favorite movie?
Mitchell: "Dirty Dancing," and that has been it since I was 2! I promise I had responsible parents.
Brandt: Don’t judge... "Armageddon."
Lightning Round: What book would you bring with you on a desert island?
Mitchell: One massive book that included the entire Harry Potter series. Is that cheating?
Brandt: If I’m stranded on this island, probably some kind of survival book! If not, do magazines count? I’d bring all of the OK!, Star and In Touch magazines I could find.
Lightning Round: What is your shopping vice? What would you buy if you won the lottery?
Mitchell: My shopping vice is buying clothes for my daughter. It's so much more fun to dress her than to dress myself. If I won the lottery, I'd buy a vacation home! I would love to have a place where the family can gather and make some of our best memories together!
Brandt: I’m with Lindsay on both of these. I would buy all of the clothes from Zara for my daughter — they have the most adorable clothes. Also, definitely a vacation home up north in Michigan. It’s so peaceful up there and I’d love to spend more time there!
What is the no. 1 career tip you'd like to share with other women who want to have successful careers like you?
Mitchell: Take chances and follow your heart. Your career is a marathon, not a sprint, and there are seasons of your life where you need different things. You always have time to ramp up and ramp down depending on what life looks like. Take chances on doing something new and different, even if you don't feel qualified or prepared enough. The more we connect with other entrepreneurs, the more we realize that we're all figuring it out as we go!
Brandt: My favorite advice is one I’ve recently been following and comes from Brene Brown. She talks about how important courage over comfort is, saying: “You choose to live in the arena, you are going to get your ass kicked. You are going to fall, you are going to fail, you are going to know heartbreak." These are the words I say before my feet hit the floor every day. Also, always tackle everything you do with optimism and a positive attitude — it’s contagious!
Why do you love where you work?
Both: The Returnity Project is a passion project for us. We work on it in any spare moment we have — between our full-time jobs and motherhood and everything else in life. It's amazing how much you can accomplish in limited time windows when you work on something you love! The project is growing and shaping and evolving into something we never dreamed of. We recently launched Returnity Kits to evolve our work and mission, which combine premium products, expert resources and a private community to support parents returning to work. The traction we're seeing with our kits has been thrilling and we're excited to see our kits begin to crop up across workplaces in support of so many parents who are returning to work!