Accidental Entrepreneurs

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:36 pm

Two years ago, Jeff and Martha Carrigan started an e-mail bulletin to help their friends find jobs. However, the grassroots newsletter has grown so substantially and has become so popular that the husband-and-wife team has incorporated the service and named it Big Shoes Network Inc. They will launch a Web site this summer at

Big Shoes Network, based out of the Carrigans’ home in Milwaukee, started as a way for the couple to better communicate job openings in Wisconsin between companies and individuals in the advertising, marketing, public relations, communications and graphic design industries, Martha Carrigan said.

Martha previously worked in the marketing department for Glendale-based Manpower Inc. for 10 years, and Jeff currently serves as the vice president of marketing and resource development for Milwaukee-based Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan Inc.

"Someone from a company would tell us that they needed a good quality person, and we would suggest someone," Martha said. "It became more deliberate because more people were contacting us, and it was easier to make the connection through e-mail."

Their e-mail database quickly grew and now boasts more than 2,500 people, and the twice-a-week newsletter has posted more than 300 jobs for more than 160 companies, Martha said.

"As people gave us their e-mail addresses, we kept a database and would shoot out any marketing or communications positions we heard about to that network," Martha said. "What appealed to people on the network was that we did not have a long list of names and the positions were never the same."

The Carrigans keep their list of recipients confidential. Individuals on the database are not all looking for positions, either. Some subscribers just want to be informed of openings to spot trends, to keep in the loop or suggest the positions to other people in their networks, Martha said.

Big Shoes Network is constantly increasing the number of individuals and companies in its database. The service has been free to both posters and recipients, and the entire business is run through the Carrigans’ e-mail program. All the interested party has to do is send an e-mail expressing interest to

"It is our personal goal to get back to everyone who has contacted us within 24 hours," Martha said. "If you have a job opening you want to fill or you are interested in the Milwaukee area or looking for work, you feel like a number. We want people to know that they are important, that these jobs are important and that there are resources out there that can fill them."

The name for the network is a reflection of the majority of e-mails the Carrigans get from companies wishing to post. Many of the e-mails start with, "I have some big shoes to fill," Martha said.

The Big Shoes Network posts open positions that are not always posted to the general public, Martha said. Positions posted have ranged from entry level to executive management for companies of all sizes.

About 60 percent of the postings are for the Milwaukee area, 30 percent are in Madison and about 10 percent are in the Fox Valley and Green Bay areas, Martha said.

"The lion’s share of the positions we post are in Wisconsin, and we like to see that people have the opportunity to stay here if they want," Martha said. "This serves the community well, and it helps other people. We realize that there can be a great degree of frustration when looking for work and on the flipside it is hard to have a great job opportunity for a great company and not be able to find someone who is a match."

The popularity of the service has required the Carrigans to purchase a computer system with more capacity and reliability.

"The nice thing is that success begets success," Martha said. "Some companies are telling us that of the eight people who are their top candidates, seven came from Big Shoes Network. Some of these companies range from very small family-owned type companies and nonprofits to some of the largest corporations in Milwaukee."

Although the service is currently free, once the Web site is up and the new computer system is in place, Big Shoes Network will most likely start charging job posters for its service, Martha said.

"It takes between 20 and 25 hours a week to manage, because we do communicate back with everyone who wants to be added, to change their e-mail or no longer want to be on the network," Martha said.

Out-of-pocket costs on the Carrigans’ side have been adding up. Plus, the legitimacy that comes with a service charge could also increase the amount of companies that post, Martha said. In the past, companies have chosen not to post with Big Shoes Network because it seemed too casual without a fee attached, she said.

The Web site would also give Big Shoes Network a platform for offering archived job postings to job seekers and more information about each company.

Currently, every newsletter sent by Big Shoes Network includes new job postings different from those in the previous e-mail.

"Hot beds for advertising and communications would be media centers like Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, but there is a plethora of opportunity here. People just don’t hear about it," Martha said. "A lot of people don’t realize that there are some very exciting and sexy opportunities for work here in Wisconsin. We don’t think to look here."

The Web site will also help companies and the Big Shoes Network spread the word about possible college internships in the area. Jeff and Martha plan to talk to students about the marketing and mass communications areas of business and have joined local networking organizations for the industry, Martha said.

"We really love the industry and are involved in it," Martha said. "We love helping people and we really love our community.

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