I know we have discussed all different aspects of business, however, I realize that many of you may not know ‘my story’. My business journey was anything but ordinary. I never wanted to start a business. My business story began when I started a business by accident in 2008.
The Journey Begins
Back in 2008, we moved to Virginia and purchased a home. My husband is a Pastor and if you know anything about ministry, you know you do not go into it to make a lot of money. My business journey began when I wanted to add to our family income.
No, I did not set out to start a business like many of you. You probably created a business, marketing, and financial plan before starting, right? Unfortunately, I didn’t know I was starting a business so I could not plan at all. And if you know me at all you know I like to plan.
My Business Experience
Perhaps I should provide a little background about my business experience first. In my corporate life, I worked in management for a retail chain, as a bookkeeper, as an administrative assistant and accounting clerk, and finally as an assistant accountant. Therefore, I did have many skills.
As you may know, I am also disabled due to MS, Lupus, and other diseases. This prevents me from working outside of our home. So, I needed to find something I could do from home, while still homeschooling our three children.
The Search Begins
Now, shortly after moving to Virginia, I began by looking online for work opportunities. After all, I kept hearing about how you could make a great living on the internet. Fifteen years ago, however, the internet was still a little like the Wild West. It was easy to be taken advantage of, which I experienced firsthand.
“WFH is an acronym for “work from home” which describes work being done remotely, instead of at an office. The acronym “WFH” is used as a nickname for the concept. The work-from-home culture, which emerged due to the global pandemic, has significantly transformed the professional landscape in 2023.“-WalkMe
After wasting money online I decided to bring my search locally. This is when I connected with an insurance agent who needed help with setting appointments and administrative work. I knew I could easily do this because I had great phone skills and admin experience.
“More employees working remotely than self-employed workers: Between 1980 and 2000, employees grew to become the majority of remote workers (over self-employed workers). In 1980, 39.4% of remote workers were private company employees (not self-employed). By 2010, they grew to over 59%.“-Flexjobs
My Set Up
You also have to understand that to me, my priority was homeschooling my children. And we lived in a four-bedroom home with three children. There were no extra rooms at all. So, I set up a small desk in the corner of our bedroom to use for a few hours a week, originally. I did not have space to have a home office.
I can remember sitting at that little desk and working to try to get appointments at these businesses. I’m a note taker so I kept great notes, which really helped me to gain access beyond many of the gatekeepers. I kept notes about whatever they talked about with me. If their daughter had just broken an arm, that went into the notes.
Follow-up is my superpower. You see, what I did the next time I called I asked about their daughter’s arm. This helped me build a relationship and eventually opened many doors for my clients.
In the meantime, our room also served as the co-education space when I needed to work with the children on their studies. My desk eventually went into our smallest bedroom when our eldest son married. So, I finally got an office of my own.
You Have A Business
Shortly after I began working with this agent, his colleagues began asking about the appointments he was getting. They all wondered how he was doing it. Apparently, I was pretty good at lead generation and building relationships with businesses over the phone. The next thing I knew he asked if he could give others my name.
That is when I began adding his colleagues to my schedule. And in a meeting with the original agent, he looked at me and said, “Tammy, you know you have a business, don’t you?” I answered by saying, “No, I don’t”. To which he replied, “Yes, you do.”
I hadn’t dreamt of starting a business, yet I ended up with the business of my dreams eventually.
What Happened Next
What happened next surprised even me. Once I recognized that I had really started a business, I knew I wanted to help empower other disabled persons to work from home too. As I continued to receive requests it was overwhelming and I needed more help or I would have to refuse the first agent’s colleagues. So, I reached out to local resources to see if they could help.
“According to Gallup, 4.7 million people currently work from home in the U.S. This figure has grown 150 percent in the last 13 years. The future of remote work continues to grow, and the technology to support remote workers is only getting better.“-Telnet
Building My Team
I began interviewing and bringing on wonderful individuals to help me.
I recognized that most of them lacked the confidence to make phone calls on behalf of the agents I worked with at the time. This was truly unfortunate. As it would take too long to help them build that confidence first, instead, I tried something different.
Confidence or Services
What would you do in this case? Would you just let them go or change your program and service offerings?
For me, there was no question about it. I wanted to help empower them to gain confidence through working. So, I changed my business model and what we offered. I took off the lead generation services and kept administrative services only at first.
This became our VA Agency (virtual assistant agency).
Later, I added bookkeeping and social media to meet clients’ requests. We also took continuing education courses to up our skills to match the need.
By changing the services this enabled me to keep some of my contracted team. I knew I could add more team members as we grew again. Those who were able to help me in this new capacity grew by leaps and bounds, especially in their confidence. They were proud of what they were doing and that they were earning money.
And this is how we transitioned into a small digital marketing agency.
As our VA agency flourished, it became apparent that we had outgrown our virtual assistant identity. Expanding further, we transitioned into a small digital marketing agency, attracting more clients seeking our comprehensive services. Which now included email marketing, SEO blogging, social media management, and graphic design services.
Alongside this growth, I found myself mentoring and coaching others, sharing the lessons I had learned along the way. Guiding them to grow through analytics and revenue or to scale by adding a team to build their own agency.
Looking back, it seems like overnight, however, I know that it took fifteen years and a lot of trial and error. Not to mention much work and many long hours that I put into it.
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Lessons To Passed On
My journey as an accidental entrepreneur has taught me invaluable lessons that I am eager to share, for they have become the bedrock of my passion to support and encourage dreamers on their own business journeys.
- Accept Truths – I really didn’t want to admit that I had a business until someone else pointed it out. Be willing to hear and accept the truth from other entrepreneurs who want help. Not everyone giving advice will be helpful and you will learn to tell the difference. You will also know in your heart if it is the truth you need to accept.
- Follow Your Gut – my business began because I followed my gut after being misled online. You may not understand why your gut is telling you something but there is usually a reason behind it and it’s best if you listen to it.
- Do What Is Right & Is In Your Heart – always do the right thing. When my team didn’t have confidence, I changed the business so that I could work with disabled persons as this was very important to me (in my heart). I knew the confidence would grow as they worked on the right tasks.
- Listen To & Know Your Clients – by listening to clients and learning more about them you get to them. This is how I knew when it was time to add more services, up our skills through courses, and transition the business.
- Perseverance, Resilience, and Faith Pay Off – by believing I had been given a gift (the business) from God I was able to persevere and be resilient. This paid off and enabled me to build the agencies.
- It Is Not Easy but Do Not Give Up – be strong and do not give up. Keep your faith and whoever helps to encourage you to be strong. It may not be easy but it is worth it.
- Business Is A Journey – enjoy the ride. I like to tell my clients that “business is a journey, not a sprint”. Do not rush your journey and be open to the transitions and windy roads along the way.
I Purposely Started A New Business
You may be asking or wondering if I am still running the agency. The answer is no. At the end of 2020, due to my health challenges, I had to reevaluate. I decided it was time to embrace coaching full-time (as I had been doing it while running the agency too).
Although it was bittersweet to exit the agency and the incredible individuals I worked with, I knew it was the right choice. I always felt that this business was a means to an end.
It allowed me to embark on a new chapter, pursuing my true passion without compromising my health. And I absolutely love what I am doing now.
Well, that’s a little more about my journey and how I started a business by accident.
What I Know To Be True
As I reflect on my journey, one thing I know to be true: resilience and unwavering faith are essential ingredients in overcoming challenges that threaten to keep us from our dreams. Your circumstances and aspirations may differ from mine, but the core message remains the same—do not surrender to adversity.
Remember that no matter where you are today or how you feel, you really can overcome challenges that seem like they should destroy you. You are stronger than you think. You can find the strength believe it or not. For me, my faith has always been that place where the ‘rubber meets the road’. For you, it may be something else but do not give up. Your business or dream could be right around the corner.
I like to think I’m a dreamer but lately, I’ve been more of a realist. I want to believe that the best can happen to everyone if they try. I hope today you will take a step closer to that dream and try to reach for it.
Thank you for joining me on this winding road of accidental entrepreneurship.
[Please leave a comment or ask questions. If you have a topic you want to know more about let me know that as well.]
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