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A Flourishing Venture

A Flourishing VentureFlourish VA (http://www.flourishva.com) is a professional business support firm that provides its clients with all of the services they need to build, manage and grow their businesses. Such services include virtual assistance, web design, web content and so much more.

I launched my company September 1, 2011 after I recognized the need for my services while working as a freelance writer.

Since leaving the corporate world and embarking on a life as an online writer in 2008, I found myself working with mainly women who had decided to launch a business after they became moms or simply because they weren’t being fulfilled in their corporate positions. Many of my clients would come to me with writing requests but would need so much more – whether it was a website, someone to book travel or answer email or someone to simply offer some helpful advice.

These women are busy and, while my writing services helped launch their websites and businesses to further success, I knew they’d benefit from having just one place where they could go to outsource all of the things they didn’t have time for. It was especially after I became a first-time mom in 2010 that I recognized that other moms who are running businesses are especially busy. I knew this was a market that could benefit from all-in-one business support services.

And so the plans to launch my virtual assistance firm began.

As a new mom and small business owner, it was important for me to keep start-up costs to a minimal. And so, it was a no-brainer to use the very same ideas I suggest to my clients to get their businesses in front of their targeted market – use a combination of social networking, link building and keyword-rich content to gain relevant online exposure and turn website traffic into long-lasting paying clients.

A Flourishing Venture

Caroline

I’m an avid user of social media. I use Twitter and LinkedIn to connect with prospective clients and position myself as an expert in my field. I use my Twitter account www.twitter.com/carolinepigott mainly to share my latest blog posts, news and marketing and “mommy” tips. LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/profile/edit?trk=hb_tab_pro_top is more of a professional site. I use it as more of my online resume but I do participate in some group discussions. It’s wonderful for connecting with past colleagues as well as present clients. Facebook is also an amazing tool. I am currently working on the Flourish VA Facebook page and will have it up shortly!

In addition to social networking, I’m establishing my site’s online reputation through link building. By link building, I mean I’m creating quality backlinks to my website through trusted, relevant resources. I’m doing this through writing and distributing press releases and articles with a link to my website to popular distribution sites and submitting my business information to online directories. I’m also writing quality information on my blog and sharing it with contacts via Twitter and on such social bookmarking sites as Digg and StumbleUpon.

I’m also ensuring all content I put out is peppered with relevant keywords. Conducting keyword research through the Google Adword Keyword Tool and implementing them into website pages, articles, press release and social networking content is essential to increasing page rank and driving traffic to your website.

As for my branding, I did a lot of the work myself. I created my own website for very little cost using a premium WordPress template I purchased from StudioPress and learned how to customize my site by watching tutorials on YouTube and reading the StudioPress support forums. My hosting was purchased through a site called JustHost and I pay $5 a month for unlimited email accounts, free domain name, unlimited domains (purchased for $14 each), unlimited GB’s of space, unlimited GB’s of transfer and unlimited SQL databases. It’s a great deal and I haven’t had any problems with it!

As for my logo, I found an amazing logo design company called LogoNerds. For less than $50 you can get a good quality logo within three business days!

It’s also the connections I’ve made along the way that has kept me going. You can’t launch a business alone – whether it’s a shoestring business or a big corporation, you need a supportive team behind you who will be there to answer your questions, offer advice, or provide a service. Seeing this first-hand really drove home to me the importance of a virtual assistance firm like Flourish VA. We provide our professional business support services so entrepreneurs can focus on their business operations. It makes sense to have outside support because no one can do it alone, myself included!

While I’m the Principal at Flourish, I am making connections with outside providers to help with some of the services I cannot personally provide my clients. Graphic design services are sub-contracted to a graphic design firm I’ve partnered with and some of the administrative services are sub-contracted to another virtual assistant. A great website to find sub-contractors is ODesk but I’ve also talked to some qualified professionals through Craigslist! It all comes down to doing your research and interviewing the people who will help you with your business to ensure you find the fit!

Considering it just launched a couple of months ago, my business is doing quite well. I’m not in the “red” but am not at the level I’d like to be at either. I know this will take a few months at least to generate leads and build my reputation. Ideally I’d like to gain most of my clients via referral and hit my projected annual revenue of $50,000 by July 1, 2012. In the future, I see my projected revenue jumping to six figures so long as my “team” of talented sub-contractors continue to grow and my services remain relevant to my clients. I’m hoping to achieve this by the time my business hits its first anniversary – in September, 2012!

Launching and marketing my virtual assistant business on a “shoestring” hasn’t been easy but it can definitely be done. I believe, as an online home-based business, I’ve been able to avoid a lot of the costs often associated with launching a new business. I’ll admit, in the beginning it was definitely a roller coaster as I juggled my roles of motherhood with my role as entrepreneur. I actually started and stopped the business plan several times before pushing forward and putting together a solid plan – it’s the business plan actually that provided me with the clarity I needed to keep on going. Without it, I would be blindly running this business. I can now understand why many businesses fail without a plan. It forces you to ask yourself the difficult questions you need in order to succeed. I look forward to growing Flourish VA and seeing where it goes. I plan on providing my business support services for clients around the world for many years to come!

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