Published: April 20, 2006
Larissa Lytwyn | Easton Courier
Despite investing years of hard work into her dreams, Antoinette Allocca almost lost it all in 2002.
That year she was hit with a double whammy-the economic ramifications of Sept. 11, 2001 and a serious illness that nearly took her husband.
The experience spurred Allocca, 52, entrepreneur, wife and mother of four, the “rethink how to rebuild (my) business and (my) family life.”
Today, the 10-year Easton resident works from her multi-million dollar “retreat” with her husband, Mark Greenspan.
Allocca is the founder and chief executive official of Essential Data Corporation (EDC), a technical writing firm based in Stamford,
Greenspan is the Chief Operating Officer.
In the early 1980’s, while working for Vital Software Company in New York City, Allocca began conceptualizing a service that would make businesses amore efficient and profitable.
“I saw an untapped market in older workers,” Allocca said the ones who were getting laid off. The ones who had lots of professional experience.”
Programming itself can be a demanding job. “To have to write the accompanying manuals, maintenance and test procedures make it even more so,” Allocca said.
“Writing does not come easily to some of these programmers.”
After a promotion to Vice President of Marketing in Vital’s technical writing division excluded an increase in salary or bonuses, Allocca made the decision to go it alone.
Although Allocca and Greenspan, an attorney, were both seasoned professionals with sizeable incomes, the challenges of launching a new business were daunting.
“It was difficult,” Allocca said. “We had a big mortgage. It takes a lot just to get a company off the ground.”
Through EDC, Allocca answered the need for technical expertise by providing companies with writers (or “consultants”) to convert their programs into lucid prose.
EDC’s first office opened in 1988. It was a 200-square-foot space with eight desks.
Slowly but steadily, the company increased its work force and its clientele.
Then there was the “aha moment” when Allocca attended a workshop sponsored by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.
“I realized how much potential there was in the ‘mature ‘ worker,” Allocca said.
Most of Allocca’s key staff re already in their 40’s or older.
“There were lots of reasons they were drawn to me, “ she said. “One important component was that they felt undervalued in their current jobs.”
Being older, Allocca said, they had achieved a certain level of professional success – buth there wasn’t a lot of “new things” to discover.
In 1997, EDC became a million-dollar company and moved to a new 3,000-sqaure-foot space.
By the next year, it was worth $10 million. In 1999, revenue doubled to $20 million.
Then, amidst her professional ascension, everything began to fall apart.
In the awake of 9-11, the American economy endured a nasty shake-up. Business began to decline.
Allocca remained optimistic. The world around her, however, continued to cave.
Despite her verve and insight into the changing marketplace, Allocca began undergoing several personal crises.
In 2002, Greenspan was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The couple was in the middle of building their “dream home” on a 10-acre parcel in Easton.
“We loved Easton’s rural feeling, despite being so close to New York,” Allocca said. “It reminded me of my childhood.”
She was one of five children raised by a single mother in Long Island and New Jersey.
“I wanted to get away for the intensity of the city,” she said. “My husband and I wanted a place where we could literally retreat.”
The Frank Lloyd Wright inspired, 12,000-square-foot home epitomizes modern, minimalist style.
“We were over-budget,” Allocca said. “The project dragged on and on. EDC wasn’t doing as well as it had been. My husband was very, very sick.”
Greenspan underwent aggressive chemotherapy and a double stem cell transplant.
He now is in remission.
“It’s clichéd but true,” Allocca said. “Having gone through all that I can honestly say that the dreams we’ve achieved are that much sweeter.”
Today, EDC’s client list reads lid a Whos’ Who of Fortune 100 companies, including Aetna, American Express, Dow Jones, J.P. Morgan, General Electric, Exxon, Time Warner and United Technologies.
EDC now is worth about $25 million.
The decision to work at home has rejuvenated her.
“After going through all that with (Greenspan) and building the house, there was a time when I needed to stop and reflect,” she said.
At that time, she began taking hour-long walks down Easton’s long, winding roads.
She befriended several other mothers, many of whom also were professional women.
“I became known as ‘the walker lady,” Allocca said.
Working from home is the essence of achieving the all-important” work-life balance,” she said.
She’s there when her two youngest children, Olivia, 8 and Joey 11, return home from school.
To Joey, finding his mother home in the middle of the afternoon is still something of a novelty.
“It’s great to have her here,” he said.
Olivia said spending time with her mother is important, and she loves her mother’s company.
“It’s really nice,” she said.
Allocca maintains contact with her employees through daily phone conferences.
She credits her success to her ability to “constantly evolve, adapt and be willing to take risks,” to have the “courage” to try new things but “to admit my mistakes.”