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Women’s History Month Small Business Spotlight: An Interview with Lindsey Holmes of Usable Tech Co.

 

An Interview with Lindsey Holmes of Usable Tech Co.

Altice USA has committed $3 million to support relief efforts for businesses impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic through partnerships with the Save Small Business Fund and the Coalition to Back Black Businesses. We are proud that 40% of the businesses supported through these programs are women-owned. One of these businesses is Usable Tech Co. owned by Lindsey Holmes.

With over 15 years of experience in writing, Marketing/Digital PR and business, Lindsey Holmes has vast knowledge on how to leverage digital platforms in order to grow business. This led her to create Usable Tech Co, an online strategy and management firm specializing in Social Media Campaigns and Management, Mobile Application Development and Technology, Productivity, and Evernote Workflows for business. Through her years running Usable Tech Co., she has become an award-winning usability, digital and tech strategist and has used her self-taught programming skills and her strong passion to empower through tech, to become a key player in the Web 2.0 industry.

What advice would you give about starting a business?

Just do it. Do it now and whether you have the means or not - do it ‘lean.’ But by all means, do it NOW. Many of us fall into the old business stereotypes that say that you need a fancy office with a secretary. That mindset can be defeating for most. And it’s definitely not necessary. I think Covid has shown us that virtual offices can actually be much more productive as well as cost-effective. Starting your business for as little as possible now allows for a lean mindset from the start.

How would you recommend setting goals/achieving goals?

Be consistent. Do mind maps of your goals. Or simply write them down. Putting your goals on paper and looking at them often is a great way to manifest them. Also, find a workflow around goal setting that works only for you. I use Evernote and its integrations to take me from mind dumping to even creating and managing sales charts. A range of goals can be achieved with the right productivity tool. An added bonus is having all of my goals in the same system. This eliminates distractions as I can avoid moving from one tool to another.

Do you have any suggestions regarding funding or overhead?  

As I mentioned starting lean and staying lean will ensure your business stays around for the long haul. I knew that I couldn’t afford expensive marketing and CRM tools in the early growth stages of my business, so I didn’t try to. That was added pressure that I did not need to put on myself. Instead, I looked for free to low-cost solutions (believe there are some for your industry, just search) or even some that might have been slightly higher out-of-pocket, but that had no monthly payments. These tools have grown with my 15-year-old business and kept me in a lean mindset. Tools don’t have to have exorbitant price tags to work.

What essential business communication/technology tools do you recommend?  

Evernote is my preferred hub. It keeps me productive and allows me to manage all of my thoughts and content easily. Find your hub ––that's most essential. Where can you store but also share everything with ease? I also use different integrations –– tools that work well with Evernote that allow me to customize my workflow. Then there is my calendar. I put everything there, from actual calendar dates to To-Dos.

Oftentimes it is thought that as an entrepreneur, business and personal life do not exist separately. In your experience, how do the two affect one another and how do you find balance?

They absolutely won’t exist unless you make a conscious effort for them to. That effort can be as simple as separating your workspace if you work from home, turning your phone off at a certain time, and making time for self-care such as exercise and …food (the entrepreneurs reading this did not laugh). There also might be a level of soul-work that makes the application of work/life balance a bit harder as well.  One must be positive enough to know that opportunities will come even without constant thoughts of your next ‘business move.’ There can be a constant fear of the unknown for an entrepreneur - especially one that feels like they are relying on themselves for sustenance. That fear can lead to a stress that migrates between your business and personal life.

Sometimes there is also a welcomed convergence between an entrepreneur’s personal and business life. You dream of new business ideas over drinks with friends, in your free time you seek the latest opportunities online, etc. My entrepreneurial journey has been about doing what I love and creating opportunities that align with my values, passions and life’s mission. So my balance is often found in simply living my truth.

What are some tools, tips and tricks you’ve used and felt were helpful in your entrepreneurial experience?

Making organization and productivity a focus has been paramount. The small amount of time it takes me to work on goal setting, To-Do lists, or set up automations around my daily minutia pays big dividends in my work/life balance and overall mental clarity. By effectively managing my time, I have been free to work when I want and from wherever I want, like the beach, allowing for effortless balance. I also invested in strong tools from the inception of my career. Evernote, the productivity app, and its integrations have been integral to my workflow.

How did you know it was the right time to grow and expand your business and what is your advice on how to do so?

There should always be a willingness to grow and evolve in your business. If your business model becomes stagnant or simply doesn’t seem to produce the results that it once did or that you want it to, it may be time to not only reassess your business focus, but your client demographic or even your company values. Studying trends and being futuristic in your business will serve your clients, lend longevity to your business and create a competitive advantage. An honest reassessment might lead you to the idea of pivoting and that’s okay as well. Our business model has evolved greatly. We started as a boutique firm specializing in social media marketing and have evolved into a full-service digital marketing and tech agency. We saw that the digital marketing space was still very cloudy for most and our prospective clients wanted a one-stop shop when looking to create campaigns. It wasn’t enough to just create an editorial calendar of content for their social channels anymore. They wanted us to shoot the video, coordinate the photographer and boost their campaigns with SEO. So we became well-versed in all things needed to create and scale a digital marketing campaign.

Listening to my clients, truly loving my craft and the small businesses that I work with has made my firm even more full service. Our knowledge of productivity has become a line of business, as our clients felt that the way we managed their projects could help them solve issues in their own business workflows. We even began doing business development. When our clients felt that their brand should not only be taken to ‘another level’ with our marketing and design prowess, but also through being certified and even through business sustaining grants and procurement opportunities, we stepped in there as well. If you are providing value in a holistic sense, opportunities for scale and expansion just occur. Our one-stop shop model has not only allowed us to stay profitable amongst our peers, but also allowed us to develop a strong thought leadership in our space and stay true to our name as a truly ‘usable’ company.

As you were building your business, did you ever experience challenging thoughts such as imposter syndrome or lack of confidence?

Absolutely. Primarily at the beginning of my career, the core setbacks that I faced were navigating a new industry, as a black woman in a white male dominated field, without a willingness to compromise my values and beliefs to make my business profitable. I believed in this new industry (social media/later digital marketing) and fought everyone around me that challenged its validity. I did this publicly, however at home self-doubt often crept in. I pride myself on being a futurist but we can exist on a ‘lonely island’ as you challenge others to think beyond the here and now. As this doesn’t often happen in mass, you begin to doubt what you know. Then when you gather amongst those that might be of like mind, very real issues of race and sex plague that process. You find major disparities in funding, adoption and hiring in the digital space and that lack of acceptance can further your lack of confidence and validation.

Have you ever experienced roadblocks during your entrepreneurial journey? If so, what were some of the roadblocks you’ve experienced and what are some solutions that helped you overcome them?

The roadblocks that I’ve faced in my entrepreneurial journey aren’t unique. There has been a struggle for steady income, the loss of contracts, several pivots, a striving for a competitive advantage, a pandemic, etc… I think what has been unique is my willingness to work through these roadblocks with full force. I’ve always had a personality that thrives on being challenged even if it means challenging myself and roadblocks present me with an opportunity to problem solve, to retool and remember my purpose.

My faith is also a huge factor in overcoming challenges. I don’t separate my spirituality from my business. I have prayed to get a contract in the same vein that I’ve created a Powerpoint for that contract. This duality works well for me.