Jessica Zambarano saw the rise of the virtual assistance, business coaching and personal coaching businesses. She started her business Personal Assist U www.personalassistu.com more than six years ago, providing coaching and business development services for personal assistants and virtual assistants. She hedged her bets that these businesses will catch on, and she was right!
Today, she offers workshops, mastermind groups, professional guest speaker events and personalized business development coaching to personal assistants and VAs to guide them in building their own businesses.
We interviewed Jessica about her experiences and learnings thus far from running her business:
Can you tell us a bit about your company?
Personal Assist U offers:
(1) Virtual Assistance for Entrepreneurs with a specialty in working with women entrepreneurs in the coaching industry
(2) Coaching, Consulting, Resources, Support & Community for Personal Assistants, Personal Concierges, Lifestyle Managers and Virtual Assistants.
My services for entrepreneurs include social media strategies & implementation, affiliate program setup & management, joint venture & strategic partnership consulting, event planning & management, business management, financial management, and administrative assistance.
I also offer a wide variety of services for other personal assistants and virtual assistants such as: one-on-one guidance (coaching & consulting), and workshops such as my “The Personal Assist U Enrichment Series”. I also run the PA Resource List, Personal Assistant Wisdom: The PA Coach Blog, and The Elite PA Mastermind Group. I also manage The Personal Assist U Community on Facebook http://www.facebook/com/PersonalAssistU
What inspired you to start your business?
I started my business in 2004. I had been working in administrative, client service and research positions in the financial industry since graduating from Skidmore College in 2000. At the young age of 25 I was already disillusioned by corporate America and truly desired more freedom, more flexibility and the opportunity to be independent. I decided to use my transferable skills and my business savvy to go out on my own.
What did you do in your previous life?
I worked as an NASD Registered Sales Associate at a major brokerage firm in Boston, and then took on a role as Equities Trader and eventually Equities Research Assistant at a small investment advisory firm in the city. I graduated from Skidmore College in 2000 with a degree in Business & Government, with honors.
What has been the most challenging part about starting your own business?
There is SO much to learn! And what most new entrepreneurs don’t realize (I think) is that it’s very difficult to get everything right the first time, especially when you are trying to go it alone! The most challenging thing for me was to learn that it’s ok to NOT be perfect, and it is ok to make mistakes. It is a natural part of entrepreneurship.What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far in starting and running a business?
As a young entrepreneur I felt early on in my venture that I had to know everything and do everything and that asking for help was sign of weakness. It took me a few years to realize that asking for support is the only way you will receive support! And that most people, when given the opportunity, are happy to assist you and support you in any way they can. Now I know that the key to building a successful business in building a circle of support and feeling comfortable asking those people for help when you need it.
What do you find most exciting about being an entrepreneur?
As an entrepreneur you have the opportunity to make your own rules! If your interests change, or your passions lead you down a different path, you have the option to follow that path. Nothing is set in stone. Today, social media has changed the game. You can network with 100 new people overnight and that opens a lot of doorways. There is always the opportunity for new experiences, new relationships and new rules.
Do you think being an entrepreneur makes it easier or harder to balance your work and family responsibilities? Why?
As a single 32 year old woman, I have an active lifestyle that includes lots of family-time and social activities. Being an entrepreneur makes it possible for me to merge my personal life and my professional life. I have the ability to work from anywhere I like (with an internet connection, of course)! And I have the option to work non-standard hours. While I typically do a 9-5 day, I love having the option to amend my schedule as necessary so that I can keep important commitments and truly enjoy my life!
Do you work at an office or from home? What are the positives and negatives of this arrangement?
Most days I work from home although sometimes I work on site with my local clients. Some days working from home can be a challenge because it presents me with certain distractions. As a new entrepreneur I found it especially difficult. It’s very easy to be lured off-course by the veggies in the fridge that need to be cooked, or the laundry that needs to be washed. Sometimes I would find myself running various errands on a daily basis. But after years of experience I have found that as long as I make a plan for my day I tend to stick to it. I try to keep household chores to nights and weekends, I plan personal commitments outside of business hours whenever possible and plan one day per week to run all of my (and my clients’) errands to save time. The biggest positive? I’ve never been much of a morning person, so I LOVE rolling out of bed, doing yoga, grabbing a cup of coffee, making the short trip to my desk and starting my day with ease!
What other lessons can you share to other women entrepreneurs?
1. Embrace entrepreneurship! If you are thinking of going out on your own or if you have just made the big decision to be “self-employed” don’t be afraid to think of yourself as and act like an entrepreneur. It’s the only way to go! Be sure to look at the bigger picture, make connections, constantly be on the lookout for learning opportunities and BE CONFIDENT in yourself!
2.Know yourself. Knowing yourself will allow you to build a business that is true to who you are, work with clients that are on the same page as you and create a business model that is true to your values.
3.Take good care of yourself. Know your limitations, ask for help when you need it and take time off BEFORE you get burned out. This will help you to be successful in the long run. No one can make important decisions and complete important tasks when they don’t have the energy to get out of bed in the morning.
How do you see your business 5 years from now?
Truthfully, I’m not sure how I see my business 5 years from now! That’s part of the excitement. Things can change very quickly! What I do know is that no matter what my particular day-to-day role is, I am certain I will be supporting others on their entrepreneurial journey. Entrepreneurship is my passion and helping others succeed in entrepreneurship is a complete joy!