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How skills training and a microloan helped Consuelo Rosales thrive through the pandemic

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Consuelo Rosales, who owns a small cleaning services business in Jonesboro, Arkansas, draws strength from adversity. A Mexican immigrant and mother of three boys, Consuelo has faced plenty of it in recent years.

Trapped inside an abusive marriage, she decided to start her business with a clear objective in mind: making sure she’d earn enough to make ends meet as a single parent. Once the business got going, she found the strength to leave her husband. But as the business gained momentum with a growing stable of clients, the pandemic hit, and most of her business dried up.

That’s when she leaned on a website she had built with the help of Communities Unlimited, a nonprofit that she connected with through GoDaddy’s Empower social impact program that provides digital skills training and other support to people in the rural South.

Being online has allowed her to bring in an entirely new set of customers and propelled Consuelo Cleaning Services to new heights.

“It’s during difficult moments that I feel like I’m propelled forward,” Consuelo says. “I’m falling down, but get back up stronger.”

Today, Consuelo has an office, two full-time and four part-time employees and around 30 steady clients, including restaurants and businesses. And she has the flexibility to be home at 3 p.m. when her kids return from school.

“It’s been a huge change for me,” Consuelo says. “This business has helped me to believe in myself. It’s helped me have this time with my kids. I can control my schedule and take them to their after-school activities. And most importantly, I’m showing them that they, too, could choose to work for themselves someday.”

Steps to starting a business

In many ways, Consuelo is representative of micro-business owners throughout the country, 92% of whom have fewer than 10 employees, according to a Venture Forward survey. When COVID-19 hit, rather than close shop, many, like Consuelo, moved online, with 60% saying their website helped them navigate the pandemic, the survey found.

For Consuelo, the journey has been anything but easy. When she left her husband three years ago, Consuelo had been working as a housekeeper and custodian. As a single parent, she quickly realized she would need multiple jobs to make ends meet.

Her sister suggested she start a cleaning business. Her first try, with a partner, quickly flopped. Without any savings, she decided to start again on her own.

“My only asset was my know-how and experience as a cleaner and my hope of creating something,” she says.

To find customers, she would go door to door, offering her services. Business picked up slowly, spreading through word of mouth. But her big break came when she connected with Communities Unlimited. The organization gave her a microloan to buy more cleaning equipment and supplies, taught her basic business skills, and helped her build a website with GoDaddy Websites + Marketing.

Access to capital and help with marketing are among the top challenges facing micro-businesses, according to the Venture Forward survey. In the case of women entrepreneurs, 53% report needing less than $5,000 to get their businesses off the ground. Just 34% say they need more than $10,000 compared with 40% for all others.

Meanwhile, women who own microbusinesses are 68% more likely than men to say they want to convert a side hustle into their primary income.

Growing the business during the COVID-19 pandemic

By early 2020, Consuleo had two employees and nearly a dozen clients. She felt confident enough to rent an office.

The pandemic hit a month later and derailed everything.

 

As customers canceled, she moved in with her father to save money.

“No one knew what was going to happen, how long it would last,” Consuelo says.

Almost ready to give up, she decided to give herself two months to learn some new tech skills that might help her drum up new business.

With the help of Communities Unlimited and someone she hired, Consuelo learned new tech skills and got her website listed in Google’s local search directory.

Then the calls started coming in, slowly at first, and pretty soon with more frequency. “I no longer have to go find new customers,” says Consuelo. “They come to me. And once I have them in front of me, I’m good at closing the deal.”

In addition to making her website more discoverable, a Facebook page with glowing customer testimonials and a reliable staff have helped.

All of Consuelo’s Cleaning Services workers now follow COVID-19 protocols and wear uniforms adorned with the business’s logo. Even her 6-year-old son, who sometimes accompanies her on new customer visits, has a shirt with the logo. “It makes him feel he’s part of the business,” Consuelo says.

And while Consuelo still cleans on occasion, she spends more time in the office handling invoices, customer calls, inventory of supplies, and other matters. She also goes on site visits to ensure they’re cleaned to her exacting standards.

Helping other female entrepreneurs

Her success has allowed Consuelo to dream big.

“I’ve got a long way to go before I reach my goals,” she says. She wants to be able to give back, advising other women on how to start their own cleaning services, perhaps even as franchises under her name.

She’s likely to find receptive ears. She believes a lot of women who lack basic business skills, English language proficiency, or access to capital could benefit from her experience.

“Maybe I can help them make fewer mistakes than I made,” Consuelo says. “I’d really like to do that. It’s a long-term goal.”

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Starting A Business

Signs You Need a Career Change and What to Do About It

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Burnout is a real thing, and it is not fun. For some people, burnout is a badge of honor, but it should not be. Pushing yourself past your limits on a consistent basis while identifying that you need a break or change and ignoring your base instincts to take one can have lasting impacts on your physical, mental, and emotional health. Before you find yourself in a spot where you are spinning out of control, look at the elements of your life and identify where the biggest stressors are originating. For many people, their job is the main culprit. Just because you have a need to make a living does not mean that you must subject yourself to a career that fills up your finances but drains every other part of your life. 

Career changes are more and more common especially in a post-pandemic world. If you are curious about making a change and are just waiting for the right time, it is not coming. There will never be an optimal, perfect day or moment in time where the right time appears out of thin air, you must create it. Before you make your final decision think about some factors that will be beneficial to you not just during the initial transition but also in the search process leading up to it. Especially if your reason for seeking out a career change is a toxic work environment, be sure that you have identified what has made it toxic for you personally so that you can avoid falling into another less than desirable situation. 

You Cannot Hide Your Feelings

One of the biggest signs that it is time to get a new job is disengagement. Often, once someone has reached a state of disengagement they are past the point of salvation regarding the specific topic. You need to stop, look, and listen within your own mind and body, as well as your surrounding for signals that you have become disengaged. 

If you find yourself going through the motions, without emotion, that is disengagement. When this becomes more of the rule and less of the exception your productivity will likely suffer as well and your mental and emotional health. If the first thing you do when you begin each workday is start the countdown until it is over, you are not setting yourself up for success. Consider as well how this disengagement might be trickling into your life outside the office as well. 

It is completely normal to vent or rant to a spouse or friend at the end of a particularly tough workday, and in fact, venting is an important element of managing emotions, but pay attention to their responses. If the people who love and know you best have started to voice concern about your well-being coming off a vent session, do not ignore that. Additionally, consider their feedback, if you voice a specific complaint about a person or element of your job, and their feedback has a tone of suggesting that perhaps more is wrong this one-off incident that can be a sign of the need for change. 

You Are Easily Triggered

Being on edge, or easily triggered is a classic sign of burnout. Regarding your job, if you are noticing that even the smallest things are setting you off and leading to thoughts or actions that make you feel out of control, it is time to look elsewhere. No job will ever be completely free from stress or irritation however it is important to know the difference between a healthy level of stress and a dangerous one. As mentioned before though, no reaction is often stress in disguise. We all operate differently and while one person’s sign of burnout may be an audible outburst or throwing things off their desk, another’s may be silence and neglect.

You Are Not Fairly Compensated

Part of any business plan is going to be managing the payroll piece of the budget. With managers notorious for watching the dollar and trying to get more for less as a facet of their job, do not let your employer get you at a discount for an extended period. Gone are the days where discussing your salary is taboo. In today’s world, talking about your earnings and the perks and benefits associated with your employment is a smart way to be sure that you are getting compensated fairly. 

Having said that, be able to recognize when you are not, and when that fact determines your future with the company. If you are happy and fulfilled and the money is the only missing piece know how to ask for a raise in a way that best sets you up for success. However, if money is just another element of your job that feels intolerable, say sayonara. You spend too much of your life working to not be earning top dollar for your contributions. 

What to Do About It

At this point it should be obvious if now is the time to make a move but admitting that fact and taking the steps to make it a reality are two different beasts. Do not let intimidation deter you though, just create a workable plan of action. A well thought out list of must-haves for your next gig is a great tool for your job search and the fact that it will be personalized means that you can sort through options more efficiently. Below are some questions to ask yourself and what the answers might lead you to.

  • Do I work better in autonomous roles? If the answer here is yes, think about jobs that take you away from an in-person office and into a more independent environment. Long haul trucking comes with travel and autonomy, but you might not have arrived at this career opportunity had you not identified your preferences first. You can review a guide on if long haul trucking is right for you to move forward within this industry or not. 
  • Do I need control over my schedule? If you need a flexible schedule and control over it, that will narrow down your search significantly. Be in tune here with what the role demands though, for example, it might be unrealistic to identify a desire to work in the accounting sector but not be willing to put in extra time during the height of tax season.

What salary does my budget demand? You can tailor your job search to your budgetary demands, or you can tailor your budget to your earned income. Either way, you need to know in advance of seeking out a new job what you consider an acceptable earnings range for yourself. Do not forget to consider factors like hours worked, and potential perks that might make up for a gap in base salary.

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Business Ideas

9 Reasons Why You Should Consider an Entrepreneurial Career

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If you are looking for a change of career, becoming an entrepreneur and running your own business could be a great option. 

There are so many reasons to start your own business and before you sign on for the next predictable 9-to-5 job, consider what you could do for yourself to improve your career prospects and your financial prospects by running your own business instead. 

An Exciting Career

Running your own business could be an exciting career choice that leaves you feeling fulfilled with the satisfaction of seeing that your hard work has paid off with success and profit. 

Whether you are into social enterprise, home services, or manufacturing and selling your own products, there are plenty of opportunities to choose from and to be creative in how you build your business. 

Being your own boss offers you the opportunity to work the way you want to work and allows you to take an individual approach to projects and tasks that are important to your business. 

Whether you are a budding engineer eager to start your own business or just looking to make money on the side, this list will help you make your mind up.

You Are Your Own Boss

One of the biggest reasons for becoming self-employed is to be your own boss and thankfully there are lots of options for people who want to be their own boss; being an entrepreneur nowadays is easier than ever. 

There are a lot of options available for people who want to be their own boss, such as running a simple blog, start-up, or even service business such as coaching or becoming a lawyer and running your own practice. 

No matter what you do, the opportunity is yours to grab and to make a success of. 

With the right amount of determination and enthusiasm coupled with a decent idea, almost anyone can find success in being their own boss.

Time Freedom

Having the option of working from home and having some time freedom is another plus side to being your own boss – whether you work all week or not at all, the choice is yours. 

Running your own business can also allow you to take time off for holidays, short breaks, or even time out to rest and recuperate from the hectic lifestyle of modern-day life.

Work-Life Balance

By choosing to become self-employed, you can establish a much better work-life balance. 

By being your own boss, you can allocate time for yourself when you want to spend time with friends and family or take part in hobbies or interests that you would not have had the chance to do if working for someone else.

Multiple Income Streams

As an entrepreneur, you have the opportunity of having multiple different income streams that can create a healthy balance in your bank account. 

Multitasking is encouraged as a self-employed business owner; you have multiple ways of earning money from your business according to what works for you and your business. 

This helps to create a much healthier lifestyle and a more comfortable financial situation.

Being your own boss offers you the freedom to dedicate time to what really matters to you such as professional development, education, hobbies and family. 

You Could Have A Flexible Schedule

If you are a busy person, running your own business could be the answer to having a flexible schedule. With offices or workstations being less visible than before, there is now more flexibility. 

Your company could be located in a different part of the country than where you live, and you could still have the opportunity to work from home as long as your Internet connectivity is sufficient.

Thanks to the global health pandemic, working remotely is becoming a more regular option with companies becoming used to staff working from home or anywhere else they have an Internet connection.

Flexible working hours are becoming the norm and flexibility is prized above all else when it comes to employees who want a successful career, and there is no reason why you should not take advantage of that mindset change as an entrepreneur.

Working With Like-Minded People

Working from home can sometimes feel isolating, and it is great to be able to work with like-minded people when you are self-employed. 

Even if you hire employees to work for you, a workplace of like-minded entrepreneurs and self-starters is always a positive experience. Working with like-minded people will always inspire you to new heights and encourage your creativity.

If you are running solo in your career, collaborating with others or joining a coworking environment is a great way to improve your work productivity while meeting others who have a similar situation to you.

You Are Your Own Supervisor

Being your own boss means that no one else can tell you what to do or when to do it. You are your own supervisor and have complete control over how your business works, what direction it takes, and when things get done.

Running your own business means that you are in charge. No one else is in charge of telling you how to do things and how long things need to take.

One of the most rewarding careers is one that gives you the opportunity to take control of your own destiny and work in a position where you are able to work for yourself, set your own hours, and have the flexibility to work.

You Have More Freedom to be Creative

In a corporate job, it can sometimes feel like you are just a small cog in the machinery that is your company. 

Creative freedom is something that is not really present in many corporate jobs, but being able to decide how you run your business is a massive opportunity for an entrepreneur who wants creative freedom.

With the freedom to be creative and make yourself stand out from the crowd, being self-employed can open up a huge number of doors for you.

Having A Job That Fits With Your Values

Many people are choosing to go into business for themselves because they want the freedom to do what they love and make a difference in the world. Many want to have a job that reflects their values and being self-employed means you are not limited to one company or job description.

Being able to reflect your values into your work is a great way of making sure that you never have a boring day at work, it is something that will pay you back ten times over in terms of satisfaction.

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Business Ideas

Starting Your Own Business After Military Service

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The average age that American military personnel retire is 46.8 years old. After a full career of service, for many veterans the question is – what’s next? This is the ideal time to think about starting your own business and pursuing your passions in life. You can be your own boss, set your own hours and kickstart a new future for you and your family.

When you are starting your own business however, it is important to find your own niche market and develop your ideas. It is virtually impossible to compete with the conglomerate giants, but if you have a great idea that is realistic and manageable, you can build a successful business after military service. 

Funding your business

To get your business up and running, you are going to need startup funds. It may be that you have accumulated savings during your years of service, but if you haven’t, there are still ways to get your business off the ground. A Hero Loan is a VA loan program that is designed specifically for veterans and military families.

This type of home loan could give you the capital that you need to fund your business. Kickstarter is another popular option for raising business capital, but you will need to have a clear vision that you can market to the masses, showing that you have an investable product or service. Successful companies that were built using Kickstarter include Oculus, Pebble and M3D. 

Get some great advice

If you are new to the business world, it is a good idea to get some advice and mentorship to help develop your business plans. There are many free programs for veterans that can help you to succeed and thrive. In fact research done by Experian has found that businesses that are owned by veterans have greater sustainability and longevity than non-veteran-owned businesses. The Reboot program is open to all veterans and their spouses and can help you get to grips with entrepreneurial business concepts and fundamentals. VETRN helps to train new small business owners, completely free of charge, so if you’re on a tight budget, this is a great program to get involved in. 

Developing your ideas

Even if you are completely new to the world of business, the average veteran has a wealth of life experience and an understanding of the community that you can build on. Look around your local community and see what they need – it’s a simple concept – find a need and then fill it. You can then start creating a business plan to incorporate your goals, service or product development and financial projections. It will help to develop market surveys and take part in competitive analysis to help bring your niche business ideas into fruition. 

After military service, there can be a great career ahead of you, developing your own business. With some startup funding and a mentorship program, you can work towards turning your business into a thriving, successful enterprise.  

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