How It Came About…
The beginning of my Virtual Business Services company did not start with a big plan, or even a business plan at all. My business just sort of ‘happened’. After moving to Virginia, we were fortunate enough to purchase a home and we really needed an extra income, even if only a small one. I, however, did not think I could ever work again, as I had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis several years earlier. I could not even imagine what I could do that did not involve leaving the house and still allow me to homeschool my three children at that time. I was skilled, and had years of working in the ‘Corporate world’ in the Administrative and Accounting fields, but could I do that from home? Even 8 years ago, the online business ideas were usually scams, and I can tell you I fell for at least one. So I resolved to looking in the local paper to see what I could find, when one day I read an ad that would change my world, and I didn’t even realize it until about year later.
I met an insurance agent, who had placed that ad, and needed help with making phone calls and appointments. This also led into some assistant work eventually. It turned out I was pretty good at lead generation and many of his colleagues began asking where he was getting these appointments? So I began to help others in the industry as well, all while the first agent was telling me, ‘you know this could be a business’. I kept saying, ‘no’. As I continued getting calls from others who needed assistance, I finally resolved that I WAS Indeed in business. How did this happen?
A Higher Calling
I loved helping others, but I also knew that if I was beginning a business, and IF I ever had enough clients that needed help, I wanted to help other disabled professionals to work. Surely, I am not the only one who wonders if they will ever work again, or who has skills, but physically cannot go to a job outside of their home. It took a couple of years to get to the point where I could ‘share’ the work. I was so excited to finally get to this place and to work with our local Department of Rehabilitation and Division of Blind & Visually Impaired. I did not realize, however, how difficult it would be to find those who:
(1) would be a good fit for the team I was creating
(2) who were willing to make cold calls for the appointments.
I quickly realized that as disabled professionals, we often lack confidence because we feel a bit ‘beat up’ and looked down upon by society. Therefore we often come with some ‘baggage’ (I am speaking from personal experience also). Confidence is not something you can simply ‘muster up’ or ‘buck up’ and do it. It is a characteristic that is developed through positive reinforcement and accomplishing tasks. It can also involve work that is appreciated. Something begins to happen in a person as they work, but even more than that, as they begin to feel a purpose to their life, they begin to exhibit new confidence. So, how could I expect my team to have confidence BEFORE beginning any work at all? I suddenly felt like, I had done the wrong thing and that this would never work!
Making It Work
Just as quickly as that thought entered, God pushed through another thought: ‘why not change the business structure to embrace more of the virtual assistant work?’. ‘What?!’ ‘Change it all?’ – I thought surely I had heard Him incorrectly, because I had worked so hard to get to the place where I could actually build a team and now I needed to change it? Yet, change it is exactly what I did! I did away with all of our lead generation services and began promoting more of our virtual assistant services. Not only virtual assistant services, but we have now added so many more services and skill sets, like: Bookkeeping, Digital Marketing, Virtual Assistant Services (of course) and Writing Services too. This was a real changing place for our company. This is where we excel and not only me, but my team as well. I have had many disabled professionals whom I have worked with that have AA Degrees, Bachelor’s Degrees and Master’s Degrees! They have all been amazing and I am so blessed to work with them, my entire team (disabled and able), past and current.
Sometimes, one change can make all of the difference to see your business in a new light. Often that can end up being your ‘sweet spot’ and you will find it is more passion than work. I have learned so much through the journey of my business and continue to learn every day. I add skills and certifications to our abilities to assist clients and their many needs. I love helping others, including clients and my team. I hope that in another 8 years we will have grown to have an even larger team, because that will mean empowering more disabled professionals to work. I am glad that it has not been all at once, though, as going step by step in our journeys in business ends up making us have the lasting power to stay a great company that has a good foundation, built one step at time.
Learn more about Tammy's business and her mission by visiting her website!
- How My Virtual Assistant Business Led Me To A Higher Calling - October 18, 2018
Such an inspiring article! Yes, my uncle is legally blind (from a fall in childhood) and was able to work as a movie extra. Unfortunately, CA worker’s compensation and social security laws prevented him from continuing to work. Growing up, I saw what a great mind he had and how much he wanted to any kind of work that helped others. It is such an important thing to give people a chance to do something that makes an impact. Thank you, Tammy, for your role in this!
Rachel – so sorry I missed your comment. Yes, in the U.S. there are certain laws that seem to keep disabled ‘locked’ in place and unable to use their talent. Unless on the ‘Ticket to Work’ program, many are penalized for earning an income at all. I had one team member, in fact, that began (she was paralyzed from neck down, but had overcome so many challenges), only to be called by her work Counselor to tell her she could not work at all. When we asked why, it was because her health insurance was under Medicaid and if she earned anything she would lose that benefit (& more)! She was a young, intelligent woman, wanting to work and our society was penalizing her if she worked. So it seems that many cases, it is difficult to get off of the Government dependance and become Independent (which only creates additional issues). Please do not misunderstand, as I am all for helping those who are in need, but I also think that should be a way around this and not penalize those who need and want to earn an income. I highly recommend, for anyone reading and is in this situation, to speak to your local Department of Rehabilitation and also connect with someone who handles the ‘Ticket to Work’ program (this helps them to gradually come off of the Gov. assistance to self sufficiency. Being Disabled does not make you unemployable any more! There are also so many more opportunities in today’s tech driven world, to be able to work from home. Thank you for sharing your story Rachel (again sorry for delay). I appreciate so much that you saw his ‘Ability’ not just looking at his ‘disability’ and it is a shame that he was not allowed to contribute more. Take care.
Wow, thank you for the encouragement Rachel! You do not know how often I run into the same thing and it grieves me so much! 🙁 I have even had some working on our team, but then had to stop. Many disable people WANT to Work, have the Skills (degrees & Master’s degrees) to Work, but because of the system & the penalty they receive for working; end up not being able to work. I know it sounds crazy and like it is a backward system, but if they are not on the ‘Ticket to Work’ program, most of the time they will be end having less money come in after they begin to work, because often they have their disability decreased! I am certainly not an expert, but have seen this over and over when trying to ‘vet’ people onto our team.
People want to work for many reasons, sometimes, simply to help meet needs. Let’s face it, disability does not pay much (I am not expert on this, but have dealt with it so much that I feel ok in saying that often it does not pay nearly enough to survive on), so working, even part-time, could be a significant help. Yet, the system is set up to punish them almost, for working. I would love to see this change as well eventually, but one step at time and if we all help one another, we will make an impact. Thank you again for your kind comments.
This is an awesome beautifully written article, Tammy! It reminds me to have faith, put one foot in front of the other, and move forward even when you’re not 100% sure where forward will lead you to. Thanks for sharing your inspiring story.