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New firm: Moms for hire

As a mom, Dixie McDaniel Andrade wanted to work from home in a business that would give her flexibility to keep on eye on her kids, maybe even take them to the park midday. She found the ideal match as the new regional owner of Mom Corps Miami.

From her home office, Andrade spends her days calling on companies, explaining how using a mom to fill a gap in their employment needs will benefit them. "It's low cost, low risk, " she says.

The tough economy could work to Andrade's advantage, but she does face some challenges.

Moms Corp is a staffing firm that places moms in professional positions that are flexible, part time or short term. Andrade bought the local franchise just as large businesses began downsizing. She believes that will make employers more open to short-term hires.

Andrade, a mother of 15-month-old twin boys, has put together a database of other moms who want challenging jobs in their field, without having to commit to a permanent position.

"Mom Corps' idea is such a wonderful niche market that is previously untapped in the Miami area,'' Andrade said.

For her, having the backing of a corporate office was important when starting a business from home.

Mom Corps, founded in Atlanta in 1995, has more than 35,000 job candidates in its database and also operates in Charlotte, N.C., New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C. Mom Corps founder Allison O'Kelly was a stay-at-home mom in Atlanta who left the corporate world and wanted to find a business that gave her flexibility to be with her kids.

Four years ago, she came up with the concept of Mom Corps and has managed to land some big corporate accounts, including Convergys and ConAgra Foods. She only recently began to franchise her concept. To get Andrade started, O'Kelly provided her training and access to her database of candidates and employers.

The concept of placing professionals into short term, part time or flexible positions isn't unique.

Similar businesses have closed in the last year as the recession put the brakes on hiring at many workplaces.

Ilyse Shapiro, who ran a similar business in Pennsylvania, thinks Mom Corps is well positioned because as companies start hiring, they are more cautious and will hire part time or project based hires rather than year-round staff.

The challenge, Shapiro says, is to get employers to hire moms because they often view them as a red flag and worry about absenteeism.

Mom Corps sells itself as an expert in the flexible employment market, even helping professional moms re-enter the workforce. Andrade began canvassing Miami companies in June and says she now has a few positions to fill.

She expects to be making money by the end of the year.