Profile: Karen May Di

Transitioning: From Employment to Self Employment and Dealing with Loss Cont . .
This month’s Cottle's Professional Consulting Women in Business Profile is Ms. Karen May Dy of Karen May Dy - Social Media Marketing Girl: Smart Virtual Edge located in Dumaguete City in the Philippines. Ms. Dy is the owner and manager of a virtual assistant business for the past two years with a clientele of mainly women consisting of coaches, consultants, network marketing trainers, speakers, authors and online business owners.

The goals of Karen’s virtual assistant company are two fold. Firstly her goal is to provide a cost-effective solution to the small business owners who need her social media services in order to grow their business. While her second goal, is to free the small business owner from the time-consuming tasks of marketing their business. Focusing more on how her business service is of benefit to her clients, Karen points out that “I assist them by utilizing online technologies such as social media and Internet marketing so they can focus more on the income-producing side of their business. I love helping other small business owners most especially women. She adds, “Ultimately, I want to be my client’s partner in their success. When a client is happy, it means I am not only able to take that unnecessary workload off their shoulders, but I am successful in helping them achieve their business goals.”

Ms. Dy is a nurse practitioner and a certified social marketing specialist. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Nursing and is a certified Registered Nurse. She also received training to be a virtual assistant and currently holds designations as a Certified Social Marketing Specialist and Certified Internet Marketing Virtual Assistant. Before getting into her own entrepreneurial venture, Karen points out that she worked as a registered nurse in the internal medicine department of a tertiary hospital here in my city and adds that “I enjoyed every minute of it and it’s a profession that I’m very proud of.”

In response to the question, why did you start your business? What factors are responsible for you starting your business?

Karen: “I already knew that someday I will have a business of my own being raised in a family with two successful local businesses: I have always challenged myself to follow the footsteps of my parents. The difference is that I wanted to have a name for myself — a business that I’ll be starting from scratch, and a business that I’ll truly be proud of. The quote “Do what you love to do and you’ll never work another day in your life” has remained influential all these years. I knew there would be something that I’ll be passionate about. I just didn’t know what it was until my a-ha moment came when I landed a freelance job wherein my client in 2009 (who is still my client up to this day) asked me if I can post her articles on social networks. I was already doing that long before I even knew about the virtual assistant industry. And so I said, “Yes definitely! I can do that.”

I started my business mainly because of my passion for social media. Long before businesses were using social media for marketing, I have been active already on social networks and other social channels. I was actively sharing information, interests, pictures, and other media online and have engaged in conversations with people. This sort of “addiction” made me realize that this is one area that I can pursue as a career. I was also a writer for the school publications in my academic years.

Karen also pointed out that, one factor though that really compelled her to start (her) business was because of turning point in her life. “It was due to a family member’s critical health condition”, she notes. “I had sleepless nights back then and being the family’s private nurse wasn’t enough for me. I had to do something. I knew I had skills, so I went online and discovered virtual assistance, and then the rest was history! From being a medical virtual secretary and transcriptionist, I became a social media marketing specialist, and now manage a team of home-based virtual assistants that I train.” And she goes on to say, “not only was I able to build my own virtual assistant company but more importantly, I was able to help skillful local professionals become Virtual Assistants also. It has been an amazing journey and I’m excited for what’s in store for my business this year.”

Below are more questions that Karen had to respond too for this Women in Business Profile. Read her responses to them.

What are some of the challenges you have had to overcome and how have you overcome them?

Karen: Dealing with difficult clients and pricing her work that would be accepting to her and her clients are two challenges that she faced and that other women in business can identify with. This is what Ms. Dy had to say. “Every virtual assistant would definitely say they have worked with difficult clients. This is one challenge that I’ve overcome, but it took me more than a year to really find a solution. It wasn’t a healthy working relationship and it just wasn’t working for me. I attended virtual assistant seminars and that was when I changed my mindset. I was ready to let go so I can take my business to the next level. I was able to convince my client (finally after so many attempts) and recommended another VA then ended my long contract, but did it in a professional approach.”

Ms. Dy also states “another challenge that I’ve overcome is the fear of pricing my services that would be reasonable for clients who take my geographical location as one of the biggest factors. I have overcome this fear by showing how much value clients will get by working with me and I have proven this to the wonderful clients I have worked with. This is still a challenge that I continue to face but I’m confident that I will be able to prove myself again to clients.”

What business strategies have you used to grow your business?

In order to grow her business Karen has adopted several business practices that have helped her tremendously to take her business to a viable and sustainable level. Education, networking and surrounding herself with people who are successful are important to Karen success. Ms. Dy points out that, “I have taken specialized trainings so I can cater to the growing needs of business owners. Once I started offering niche services, I’ve taken my business to where it is today. The investments I have made were mostly on advanced trainings to enhance my skills. Aside from investing in my education, I have also been active in networking with fellow virtual assistants, both with new and veterans. I believe that in order to be successful, you have to surround yourself with people who are successful because they have been where you are when you were still struggling and have made it to the top.”

What is the role, if any has computer-based technologies played in the development of your business?

Karen: As a virtual business, the role of computer-based technology plays a critical role to the development and success of: Karen May Dy - Social Media Marketing Girl: Smart Virtual Edge. Karen notes that “my business is purely virtual . . . and as a result online technologies play a tremendous role in getting the word out about my business, particularly in the areas of social media and Internet marketing.” Karen goes on to elaborate by saying, “I'm very thankful for the Internet for it allows me to operate my business smoothly on a daily basis.

Two of the main technologies that I use every single day in working with clients are email and Skype for making calls. Aside from this, I use online project management tools such as Basecamp and DeskAway to better streamline the activities. It makes my clients feel at ease that their projects are done on schedule and they are updated of milestones.” Karen also uses other computer-based technologies to facilitate the scheduling of clients’ meetings. She notes “Whenever I have meetings with clients and potential clients, I give them access to my online calendar showing my availability. This saves tons of time in determining what time works for both parties (rather than sending emails back and forth until confirming a date). Karen also points out that, “every single day, I work with documents, spreadsheets, blogs, and social networks, to name a few. Having Microsoft Office, social media monitoring dashboards, Google Docs, photo editing tools, video editing tools, screen recorders, file hosting service (for backup), antivirus and external hard drive makes my life a whole lot easier. For payments, I use Freshbooks and PayPal ― having these systems in place makes my business run smoothly.”

What are your business philosophy and personal philosophy, and how have they influenced your business?

Karen: I believe that having highly satisfied clients and being able to partner with them to see their business grow for the long term is what makes my business significant. My business revolves around making clients happy with what I do for them. I strive not only to meet my clients’ standards but also to surpass them. These is the very reason why I continue to enhance my skills so I can render more services and simply make their lives a whole lot easier. As a client your business continues to grow, so does mine and I’m always excited to see their visions come to life. My clients and potential clients want to work with someone who knows what they’re doing, someone who is dependable, and can be a partner in their success. This philosophy is fundamental to my approach in my business.

My personal philosophy has been shaped by several factors including wonderful mentors I’ve had, my experiences in doing charitable work in my locality, and growing up in a business-oriented family. These factors including my business philosophy have played a huge influence in my business. All these motivate me to continuously strive to be the best in my field so I can be of better service to my clients.

Is there support for women owned business where you are located? How accessible is it?

Karen: No. Unfortunately there are no organizations that support women entrepreneurs in my area. This is the reason why I have searched online and I’m thankful that I have found this group — CPC Women in Business of amazing women in business. I've always wanted to belong to a group that supports women entrepreneurs. How important is passion to you in the development and continued growth of your business? Karen: One thing that has really helped me get to where I want to be as a business owner is my passion. It really is essential for the development and continued growth of any business. You will ask yourself somewhere along the road “Why did I start this business in the first place?” If you are passionate about what you do, then you will have this driving force to continually strive to be better and take your business to where you want it to be.

How do you maintain a balance in your life? What are some things that you engage in to keep your body, mind and spirit in tune with your well-being?

Karen: Because I work at my home office, I see to it that I have at least a day off in my busy workweek. I keep myself fit by going to a health and fitness gym early in the morning. It makes me feel good before I start my daily routine. I also catch up with close friends at least once a week to make sure I still have a life beyond the four walls of my workspace. My favourite would have to be spending time with my mom during Sundays. Aside from these, I enjoy reading one of my clients’ blog. Her articles about love and life give me a relief whenever I need it. Recharging during weekends allows me to clear my mind off things and come up with fresh ideas so I can be of better service to my clients.

What lessons have you learned along the way that you will give to other businesswomen, or a woman now venturing in the area of entrepreneurship?

Karen: As someone who started a business from scratch, I have learned that you need to be passionate about what you do. Without passion, you will not have the determination. I have encountered a lot of trials and have asked myself if this was really worth it. I’ve had those reflections in the middle of the night and reflected about my business. I always go back to the reason why I started it and it was my passion for social media. Another lesson I’ve learned is that we need to surround ourselves with successful people. I love connecting with people who are successful in their businesses because I want to learn from them.

What future goals do you have for your business venture? Where you want to see your business in the next 5 -10 years?

Karen: I am slowly taking my business to the next level. My goal is to come up with products in the long run (not just services) that would help in addressing the needs of my clients. Hopefully in the next 5-10 years I will be able to expand my business and be able to have a company that would serve as a one-stop shop for coaches, consultants, speakers, authors, and small business owners.

Was previously published in June 2011on Women in Business Networking and Leadership Group.

Karen May Dy - Social Media Marketing Girl | Smart Virtual Edge

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