Heidi Parsont founded TorchLight in early 2012 because she saw a need in the Washington D.C. metro area to provide more service-focused placement services for marketing and communications roles. She built the company from a startup in 2012 to a nearly $6 million-dollar company in 2018. Currently, she manages business development, growth strategy, and finance for the company. Prior to founding TorchLight, Heidi worked at a marketing and communications recruiting and staffing firm where she learned the business and placed mid- to senior-level professionals in contract and full-time roles. Earlier, Heidi spent 6+ years at Atlantic Media where she hired, trained, and managed a team of eleven and developed acquisition and retention strategies for subscription-based products and services. Heidi started her career in the non-profit world as a meeting planner and membership coordinator.
Heidi is a frequent speaker and contributor on hiring in the marketing and communications space. She was a member of American Staffing Association’s Capital Area regional council from 2015-2017. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Colgate University and an MBA from Georgetown University.
How did the concept for TorchLight Hire come about?
I was working for a similar company and left because I thought I wanted to do something else. I missed it a lot and after my non-compete expired, I decided to do it alone and see if I could make a difference. I also wanted a company where people could do meaningful work and simultaneously be present for their families. TorchLight is a 100% remote company currently comprised of eleven women who appreciate the flexibility that they have and use it to enjoy a work/life balance.
How was the first year in business?
It’s always hard to start a new business. If you talk to any entrepreneur, they will speak to similar challenges – process/structure, cash flow, and setting up the business legally – but it’s been worth all the stress. I worked 80-hour weeks. Thankfully, I got through that period and now have a team to help.
What was your marketing strategy?
It was really a combined sales and marketing strategy. I didn’t realize it at the time but I had built so many relationships over the years that it was easy to go back to the same people after only a year away. I didn’t really have time for a lot of marketing early on. I was focused on enterprise accounts and trying to get in there quickly while also managing the smaller accounts that were essential to cash flow at the beginning.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
The company grew exponentially the first few years – over 1,000% in year two and 40-100% ever since.
How do you define success?
I want to earn a decent living while having a good quality of life – I think I’ve achieved that. I also want to provide a work/life balance for other people who can’t find it in a traditional setting. And I want to make an impact on my community which we do through finding people jobs but also through helping others who are less fortunate.
What is the key to success?
Create a culture where employees want to work and the success will follow because you have employees committed to helping you grow.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
There are many, but here are two:
1) Ask for help and then get out of the way.
2) Trust your team. They often know better than you do!
What are some quotes that you live by?
“If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room.”- Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop
What are some of your favorite books?
The Myth of the Nice Girl by Fran Hauser
Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
So far, I really haven’t had terrible days. In our business, there are always ups and downs but nothing that would qualify as terrible. Saying prayers that I never have to face that day.
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
I’m Type A and don’t accept “no” easily. My background is in sales and business development which has served me well as an entrepreneur. I’ve learned that if one door closes, you can usually find another one to open!
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Take a hard look at who you are – how easily and readily do you tolerate risk? Are you comfortable without a paycheck for six to twelve months? Are you willing to ask for business or find someone who can? Many entrepreneurs have good products or services but they can’t sell it. How do you create a culture where employees are willing to stay? It can’t be just about the product or service. What will differentiate you as a company? Also, you have to be willing to change and adapt quickly. Within the first two months, I had changed TorchLight’s business model because I realized that the opportunity and my connections were in a slightly different area of staffing. By evaluating these things, you can decide if entrepreneurship is for you.
This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
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