Movers and Shakers | Cydelle Stewart | Cydelle Stewart PosAbility Ambassador and Onit! Communications
Cydelle Stewart is a Business Operations Architect, Virtual Assistant Coach and Founder of VA Agency, Onit! Communications. Onit! Communications is an end-to-end Virtual Assistant Agency that provides professional business support to Coaches and Consultants, globally, from ad-hoc or day-to-day support, to one-off projects and everything in between. Cydelle has been in business for 12 years.
What drove you to start your own business?
In my former life when I was an Executive Assistant, I was also a Spoken Word Artist. I began managing bookings, marketing and PR for fellow artists during evenings and weekends. When my full-time role in financial services was made redundant, I had 4 months gardening leave and a tidy redundancy package which I used to take a PR qualification and ONiT! PR Limited was born. I figured that with my extensive, corporate Executive Office and Operations experience, I was well placed to use those skills in the business world.
What was your career path prior to starting your business?
My career path began as a Sales Team Secretary during the days of making instant coffee and performing traditional secretarial duties with old school typewriters, index card filing systems, switchboards, projectors, faxes, carbon copy paper and colleagues spewing cigarette smoke at their desks!
Tell us about the business planning stage (for example: did you write a business plan? did you contact any business support agencies?)
Ha! Business Planning?! What’s that? I didn’t plan my business, outside of knowing who I wanted to work with (Independent Entertainers) I didn’t have a plan – I was going with the flow and drumming up business via my extensive contact list.
How far ahead do you plan and what keeps you on track and motivated?
I tend to plan 2 quarters in advance with some flexibility to make changes. What keeps me on track is a drive to succeed at the things I set out to do and I’m quite naturally motivated to be honest. However, motivation during this pandemic has been very challenging as I live alone – dealing with all of the ups and downs it has presented has been quite difficult, but the fact that my business is online specific, means I’ve been super busy so there hasn’t been much room for a lack of motivation.
Can you describe a typical working day?
A typical working day for me varies tremendously; on one day, I might be running a VIP day with a client, which is a full day strategy session with a specific outcome in mind, or I could be working on a new system build such as creating a Client Management System for a Coach, that will enable them to propose their services, have a new client sign a contract and pay, in one sitting.
On another, I may be training a new Virtual Assistant team member on how to work with our clients, induct them on the tools that we use. At the moment, my days are filled with preparation of my forthcoming training called ‘From PA to VA in 90 Days’ that will run in June of this year. It’s been a long time coming and I’m super excited to get it out into the world.
What has been the most amazing day in your entrepreneurial life so far?
One of the most amazing days in my entrepreneurial journey was when I had a five-figure month and realised a few days later! I felt so proud as it’s a milestone I’d been working towards all year and I achieved it in December 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, for the first time in 12 years! I was gutted that my Mum is no longer here for me to share it with her, but it was a very proud and special moment.
What has been your scariest moment?
My scariest moment in business was during April 2020 when my business came to a complete standstill. My income dwindled to £350 and the global uncertainty had me feeling very on edge. Fortunately, 6 weeks later, my business was the busiest it has ever been.
How do you work on making your business grow?
My business growth has been slow; for a very long time, I was simply operating as an employee in my business rather than actually running a business. Turning Onit! Comms into an agency model in 2019 was a real turning point that opened up a lot of doors when I realised that I could bring team members on board to deliver services, so that it wasn’t all on me. Now, I have a core team of 6 with 3 ad-hoc team members who assist on an as-needed basis.
What is the best thing about being your own boss?
The best thing about being my own boss is the autonomy to create a lifestyle that I want. I’ve engineered it so that I am 100% location independent and have had the pleasure of a stint of travel when I spent 6 months in Barbados, some time in Germany, Trinidad and St Lucia, which I would never have been able to do with a traditional job. Being my own boss gives me the freedom to live my life on my terms.
What are the challenges of working for yourself and how do you tackle them?
One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced whilst working for myself, has been isolation. It can be lonely at times, due to working full-time from home with no children or partner. I tackle it by having a close-knit community of friends – some of whom are also in business – so they understand the nuances of working for yourself in ways that family don’t necessarily appreciate.
Who do you admire or look to for inspiration as a business owner?
My biggest inspiration in life and business in my late Mumsy, Barbara Stewart – she was a Pos-ability Ambassador who had a disability and spent her life advocating for the rights of people with disabilities around the globe. I saw her touch and change lives in the most amazing ways, both here in the UK and in Jamaica, where we visited together on numerous occasions.
Mumsy made me understand that there are ALWAYS pos-abilities, irrespective of the level of someone’s ability and taught me to feel the fear and do it anyway. My other inspiration in business, is Angie Le Mar – having watched her on TV, heard her on radio and read her words throughout my twenties, meeting and going on to work with her in my 30’s was one of the highlights of my career to-date. She is a living legend and I feel super proud of all of her achievements in business, as if she were my own family!
What piece of advice has had the most impact on your business? And who was it from?
I actually don’t remember who told me this advice (shamefully), but someone once told me, “It’s always business and never personal!” It’s a mantra and ethos that I live by and it has served me very well over the years. It helps me to stay grounded in decision-making because I’m able to approach challenges without the emotion that can influence personal decisions.
What are the three books, websites or resources (professional or personal) that you would recommend to other business owners?
Book: A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown. It is THE most remarkable story of resilience and triumph over tragedy and the only book that I have ever read 3 times
Website: www.airtable.com a favourite tool of mine that I use in my business EVERY day. It’s a spreadsheet and database-in-one that can be used for a multitude of purposes, from content calendars and asset banks to course schedules and CRMs.
Spotify: I listen to podcasts daily, to get my fix of what’s going on in the business world – some of my favourites are Black, Busy and Blossoming, Snack Sized Sales and I’m launching my own podcast (shameless plug), Virtual Duality, a podcast for Aspiring and Emerging Virtual Assistants, which drops on 5th May.