When I was looking for a VA, your agency stood out because your packages were all named after black, female activists, like Shirley Chisholm, Nina Simone, and Dr. Frances Cress Welsing. What inspired you to title your services this way?
This all comes from who I am as a person. My friends and family call me an old soul. Since I was young, I’ve been very observant and intentional. I wanted to translate that intentionality into my business in an authentic way, and I think that’s why it hasn’t backfired. I want them to think, “She’s friendly, she’s cool, and she has a large respect for the people who came before her.”
An example would be Shirley Chisholm and her political impact. I’ve taken so much from her saying, “They don’t give you a spot at the table. Pull up your own chair.”
When I entered the virtual assistant world, it didn’t resonate with me. It seemed like all of the assistants were Boss Babes or Boss Chicks -- all of those categories that are so easy to fall into -- but it’s not necessarily reflective of who you are as a person -- so I wanted to be really intentional with my messaging so I could make it clear.
Was there a time when you either wanted to speak up and didn’t or when you learning how to find your voice?
My voice has always been really strong but even to this day, it hasn’t been about finding it, it’s been about voicing. I’ve learned the line between sharing my opinion when it’s useful and progresses thought and sharing it when it’s offensive. There are times, even today, where I’ll be silent no matter how vocal, bubbly, or energetic I am.
I perform a lot of restraint when I don’t see my messages bringing unity, which is what my business is all about.
4ourty started as Fourty, and it’s an acronym for our unity. Over time, that morphed into the number 4 because of the adage 40 acres and a mule.
When you look back, what were the biggest sources of inspiration that formed your opinions today?
My family is from West Virginia, and two generations before, we moved to Fries, Virginia, which is a very rural area. My grandmother is 87, and she was born on a sharecropper farm in the 30s. In that time, their family was still in the position to be sharecroppers. She helped raise me with my mom. She went to the 6th grade, my mom went to the 11th grade, and I’ve been able to graduate from college and start my own business.
So when I think about being successful with my business, I see faces. I see my family members that I’m helping. I see all of the work that was put in so I could be what I am. My granny & I are very close, but she doesn’t let me forget where I came from. She’s prissy, like Queen of England prissy, so you would never guess that this woman laid on her bed and looked up at stars because there was no roof, that she had to use the outhouse, or that she had to go get water in the morning from the spring.
Those types of experiences inspire me.
Tell me how 4ourty began.
When I saw that people were starting businesses in a couple of months, I realized that I could do it too. I’m the type of person who if you give me a little back, I’ll make my own with it.
Before I became a virtual assistant, though, I had written two e-books, one called From Go-Getter to Graduate and the other Go Getter to Graduate School. Since I was in self-publishing, I had to learn how to market, hire, and do different things to get the book off the ground.
So all of the skills that are associated with being a VA came naturally to me after that experience.
What social justice issue are you most fired up about and why?
My whole life is fired up, haha. But here’s one instance that I’m most interested in seeing the impacts of. There was an Iranian beauty blogger, and she was on a news station in Chicago. She was originally asked to be there to talk about her blog, but instead, they asked her how she felt about Iran’s nuclear weapons.
Her response was that America gave the weapons to them, which was pretty fiery. The way they framed the question was for her to bash Iran, but when she didn’t, they told her that her answer didn’t sound American.
It was interesting to me to see the Eastern perspective on America, and I hope that people got that understanding because I’m a history person. History is written by the person in power, but it doesn’t mean that the interpretation is true.
So, it was nice to see America being judged fairly based on action and merit instead of the idealism.
Have you been in any situations in your lifestyle or your business where you compromise your values?
When I first started my business, I didn’t value my own time. I didn’t know what the value was on my own time. While I spend a lot of my time in the online world, I still volunteer often with a lot of organizations locally. So if I don’t value my time when I’m running my business, then I’m wasting time that I could be giving back to my community.
To me, that is one of the reasons why I run my own business - so I can be the master of my time. So whenever I don’t keep that commitment to myself, I feel so icky.
In what ways are you involved in your community?
Right now, I’m planning for a gymnastics scholarship. I was a part of the event last year as a donor, but after I saw what this organization was doing, I couldn’t help but be more involved. The organization is called Humble Hustle, but they have a lot of different programs that fall underneath the organization, like Humble Hikes, which basically takes low-income kids and gives them a different perspective.
Outside of that, I also have a Back-to-School drive. It’s not just targeted to underprivileged families. We do it in the middle of August, and the families that show up in that heat are the ones that need it and are very appreciative of it. We do haircuts onsite and give hairstyle appointment vouchers, clothing, and shoes. I also do a coat drive every year in July, and then I do a second one in December.
When you’re tired, what’s your favorite inspirational movie that gives you life again?
Because I’m always learning something. When I relax I REALLY relax. When you have an online business, there’s always something to do, so I really have to tell myself to relax.
Right now, I’m watching How to Get Away with Murder. Another guilty pleasure that I have is To Rome with Love on Bravo.
How would you describe the intersection of being a strong businesswoman and being a socially conscious business leader?
It means patience and trust because when you are a strong woman you have the ‘ I can do it myself’ mentality. A strong woman makes it work, but I say patience & trust because every business gets to the point where you can’t do it by yourself. Knowing that makes you stronger.
When you allow people to help you and be on your team without expecting them to do it how you do it, you’re stronger. It gives you the opportunity to trust someone else in your business.
What socially conscious business do YOU look up to as a role model?
This is difficult because I really admire the peer I’m working with at Humble Hustle because their nonprofit has been able to be unconventional in a way that scares me. I’m the planning person, and they respond to needs in real time. I’ve really learned a lot from them about how to make it happen.
Another person that I look up to Lisa Nichols of Motivating the Masses. She’s my model because she’s taken her business, which is really her experience, her wisdom, her knowledge and made it packageable so she could go to Wall Street. She’s not selling an asset-based product. Her product is her mind, and that’s unheard of on Wall Street.
What's a book you're re-reading right now?
Will It Fly? by Pat Flynn. It’s perfect for market research, and it’s important for me to read because my business is shifting.