What's Next for NextGroup

 NextGroup Feature Article: Evanston Living Magazine

NEXTGROUP emerged when cofounders Candance, Melanie, Tracy and Joan, all very active in the Evanston community, realized there was a huge amount of talent sitting on the sidelines. This untapped talent was women; women who may have had a long history of working in business prior to staying home with small children, or took a sabbatical from the workplace for a myriad of reasons. With a growing job market, aging workforce and lower work participation, greater opportunities started to appear but sometimes finding them was a challenge for women who had left the workplace for an extended period of time. 

There are some misconceptions regarding women who rejoin the workforce. Some employers believe time away from a career equals the loss of ability or skill, or that the need for flexibility means a desire for less responsibility. Women often fear that without having 100% of the skills listed in a job description, they aren’t qualified to apply. All of these add up to the very real challenges for women, the most significant of which is the gender pay gap, otherwise known as the “Mommy Tax”. Even with advanced degrees and “smarts for miles”, some women face big obstacles as they ventured back to careers. 

Cofounder Candance Chow met Melanie Wright when she came to Evanston as a first year MBA student at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern. Fast forward to 2019, they decided to host a panel event and invite their respective networks to learn about other women who had relaunched their careers just to see who would show up. In June of that year over 100 women filled the 2nd floor of Campagnola and the NextGroup search firm was born. NextGroup now advocates for and connects professional women who are relaunching, pivoting or transitioning their careers. They also are firmly committed to working with businesses/organizations who are intentional in their commitment to recruiting and retaining a diverse team. In fact, last year 45% of the women NextGroup placed with clients were women of color. “We very quickly realized the support, counsel and advocacy we provided to relaunch women was needed by so many, especially those who don't typically have access to executive search level support,“ shared cofounder, Melanie Wright. 


While we are paid by the employers, we will never compromise what we provide women in our talent network which sets us apart from other search firms. We work for both our candidates and the employer never compromising one’s interests over the other. 


We are defining and redefining success every week and every month, said Cofounder and Managing Director, Candance Chow. “Success is being able to zoom with a woman refugee from Ukraine, looking for employment and being able to connect her with a remote position because she does not drive. Success is an Evanston-based business adding four women to their mostly male team. And, the CEO has stated these hires have contributed to the culture and diversity of the team. Success is growing our own team by providing the same flexible work arrangements we advocate to other employers. We first deemed our business ‘a success’ when we started to receive thanks from women we worked with; thanks because we either helped them either get unstuck or take that next step to career fulfillment. (And it didn’t hurt that we were able to double and triple our revenue in the process). Candance and husband, Dan, 20-year northside Evanston residents have three daughters. Melanie grew up in Evanston and attended ETHS high school. Patty Barbato and Kim Glover joined the team last year. Operations Manager, Marissa Elliott, lives further north with her husband and three children. Social media expert, Kirsten Ballard, lives on the northside of the city, and our newest team member Zai Dawodu, is a junior at Northwestern. Cofounders and Advisors Joan Sherman and Tracy Quattrocki are long time Evanstonians, and former “Dewey moms” where their combined 6 children attended elementary school. 


This talented power-house team will continue to find and advocate for female professionals who are often undervalued and overlooked by the workforce at large. As one expert put it, “There’s this industry that says, ‘We don’t have enough talent,’ and there’s this talent just waiting to get to work.” So now’s the time to get started! If you are a woman who needs support in getting to what’s next or an employer who needs access to this untapped talent, you can go to www. or email NextGroup at 

NextGroup Team 
Candance Chow Cofounder & Managing Director
Melanie Wright, (not pictured) Cofounder & Talent Success 
Marissa Elliott, Operations 
Kim Glover, Search
Patty Barbato, Search
Kirsten Ballard, Marketing 
Zai Dawodu, (not pictured) Northwestern Intern 
Joan Sherman, (not pictured) Cofounder & Advisor 
Tracy Quattrocki (not pictured) Cofounder & Advisor 

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