I went from a corporate job to launching my own business in two weeks. Here’s how.
This article is part of LinkedIn’s Business Reimagined series, where entrepreneurs and business owners share their toughest challenges and how they made it through. To see more articles in this series, follow hashtag #BusinessReimagined.
I didn’t know what I would do next when I left my job as the global lead of inclusion marketing and communications at Amazon Web Services in September 2020. The one thing I did know is that I could not go back to the corporate rat race and it was time to start my own venture.
Although I’d been in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space for 20 years, I was in the midst of adding a diversity coaching certificate program to my repertoire when the social justice demonstrations took off in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. DEI became the topic du jour and thousands of diversity consultants and coaches flooded the scene. I knew this was the path I wanted to take but struggled with how to stand out amongst all of the newfound competition.
Then a series of serendipitous events occurred. I received a phone call from a diversity consulting firm I’d spoken with earlier in the year. They wanted me to join them as a facilitator while I built the foundation of my own firm. Shortly after, a separate consultant working with a client I aided 15 years prior reached out — the client remembered me and wanted to see if there was an opportunity to work with them again.
In a matter of days, I had two clients and the jump I needed to get my firm — whatever that was — off the ground. Next, I had to figure out what exactly my niche would be and how I’d differentiate myself from the scores of other DEI consultants.
I turned to my cousin and mentor for advice. She’s been in the DEI industry since the 1980s, working in multicultural marketing, and this was the perfect opportunity to find how she started her own consulting business. Through our weekly discussions, she helped me identify which aspects of DEI were most important to me and which aligned with my skills and talents. She also helped me identify the two separate but related areas I wanted to focus on for my business: diversity coaching and consulting. Even the name of my company — The Equity Equation — was inspired by one of our conversations.
I have another cousin who had just left her job a few months earlier to launch her home organizing business (check out Sweet Digs!) and was just a few steps ahead of me. She helped me think about which systems I wanted to use to stay organized, covering everything from scheduling tools to managing my social media presence. She provided me with such sage advice on how to automate the business processes I would need to keep in place.
While my business-side was ready to go, I still needed to ensure I would stand out as a diversity consultant. After watching the industry develop, a few key points stood out. I have been active in the DEI space for nearly 20 years and was an established voice in the industry, which gave me a leg up. I was able to bring life to the work through storytelling and providing practical tips and solutions. Two accreditations — Certified Professional Diversity Coach and 4 Stages of Psychological Safety Certified Coach — not only supported my lived experience but gave me further credentials to bring in clients.
Relying on my family and network moved my business along faster than I could have imagined. I moved up my November launch date to September 15, 2020, exactly two weeks after leaving my corporate job.
This has been an incredible journey in one of the most challenging times in human history. But I remain optimistic and know that when I begin to question decisions or bumps in the road, I can always lean on my network to get me through.