NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - When Bobbie Peer, a stay-at-home mother of four, decided she wanted to return to the workforce, she realized the challenge would be finding something that allowed her to be available before and after school and even take a day off if a child was sick.
She was pretty sure such a job didn’t exist, at least not a paying one.
However, after some searching, Peer was surprised to find the job she wanted was right in her backyard.
TAPinto.net, a network of more than 50 independently owned and operated all-online local newspapers covering more than 60 towns in New Jersey and New York, was looking for new franchisees to expand coverage. Founded by New Providence, N.J. residents Michael and Lauryn Shapiro, the network features town-specific original local news and columnists as well as events calendars, business directories, real estate listings, classifieds and press releases.
A resident of nearby Berkeley Heights, N.J. Peer had long been a fan of TAPinto’s personal approach to covering local news. Using local residents to cover their communities, TAPInto filled a void that larger newspapers could not. When Peer saw an ad seeking new TAPinto franchisees, she decided she was ideally suited to own and operate the Berkeley Heights site and bring residents the same information she valued so much.
“Owning a TAPInto franchise has been the perfect fit for me as an active mother of four,” said Peer. “It allows me the flexibility to be available for my children, driving them to and from school, being present at those special school concerts and celebrations and attending their games. I consider myself a "stay-at-home" mom that is running a successful business from my home while providing a much needed community service all on my time."
Peer tapped into the perfect marriage of business and home life. A 2014 Pew Research Center analysis of government data found the share of mothers who do not work outside the home rose to 29 percent in 2012, up from a low of 23 percent in 1999. While many of those 29 percent made the decision to stay home with their families, a number are home because they are simply unable to find work.
For those who want to work and be home, the opportunities are even fewer. However, with TAPInto, Peer discovered a way to have the best of both worlds. It was something good for her personally and professionally and good for her family.
Brenda Nemcek, TAPInto.net Franchise Owner and Managing Editor in Warren, N.J. had a similar experience.
“As a new stay at home mom with kids in school, I threw myself into volunteering at school,” she said. “But the economy changed, so I really needed to be able to make some cash.” After a short-lived, part-time career in real estate, Nemcek was approached, by a friend of a friend, to chat about an opportunity to franchise TAPinto Warren.
“We needed something like that in Warren,” said Nemcek. “So after a 2-hour coffee meeting, I took the plunge. It is a perfect balance for me of work, community involvement and flexibility.”
Women aren’t the only ones who have found that owning a TAPInto franchise allows them the chance to balance work and family. TAPInto founder Shapiro actually started the online paper for exactly the same reason. He was practicing law in New York City and living with his wife and son in New Providence when a family crisis made Shapiro rethink his career.
“When my son was one, we found out he needed open heart surgery,” explained Shapiro. “I was trying to think with my wife what we could do where we could help our community, do something we’d really like to do, and I could also see my wife and son, because while working in the city and commuting back and forth I barely saw them.”
Shapiro noticed his town had only one local news source, a print newspaper that only published once a week.
“I thought to myself, ‘Don’t people want to know what’s going on in town more quickly? And isn’t there a better way to do something like this?’” said Shapiro. Although he had no journalism experience, Shapiro thought he could offer a better alternative. So in 2008 “The Alternative Press” was born.
As the online paper grew and more communities began to express interest in having a local news source of their own, Shapiro realized he would need to change the business model for the papers to succeed.
“Much of the success of The Alternative Press in New Providence was due to the fact that I live in, and interact with, my local community,” said Shapiro. “In other towns, I don’t possess this advantage, so attempts to expand much more would create a watered-down product.”
Shapiro realized it would be much better if he found people to do the sites in other towns, preferably people who lived in those towns. So he began licensing The Alternative Press to people who wanted to start an online local newspaper in their town. However, as a licensor, Shapiro was limited in the support he could provide to the licensees. In late 2013, The Alternative Press rebranded as TAPinto and became a franchisor instead of a licensor. Under a franchise model, TAPinto could provide unlimited support to its franchisees and the franchisees actually own their site and have the right to sell it, enabling them to build equity in their business.
With ownership opportunities such as those offered by Shapiro, many stay-at-home parents are now able to be work-at-home parents, contributing not only to the health and well-being of their children, but also contributing financially to the family.
Journalist Jackie Lieberman, TAPinto franchise owner and managing editor in Westfield, N.J. was also interested in finding a way to balance work and family and realized that TAPinto provided the ideal opportunity to do both.
“As a journalist and a mom of two kids, ages five and eight, owning TAPinto Westfield is the perfect fit for me,” said Lieberman. “The hours are flexible, which means I can go read to my daughter's class or pick up my son in the middle of the day if he's sick. I can be there to pick them up each day after school and help them with their homework and get to know their friends, all the things that I couldn't have done if I was commuting to an office.”
But for Lieberman, the deciding factor came down to finances.
“I have a fulfilling job that I love that contributes to my community in a positive way,” she added. “But the most important part - I won't kid you - is that I'm making money; Better money than I ever made working for someone else as a journalist.”