Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Andrena Sawyer, Founder, and President of P.E.R.K. Consulting, located in Baltimore, MD, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
P.E.R.K. Consulting is an advisory firm that specializes in business development and capacity-building support for nonprofits and small businesses. Our services include business & nonprofit registration, business plan development, staff & volunteer training, strategic planning, and grant & proposal writing.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Andrena Sawyer. I am an author, consultant, and entrepreneur whose background includes surviving the civil war in Sierra Leone. I am the Founder and President of P.E.R.K. Consulting, an advisory firm for small to mid-sized nonprofits and businesses.
Originally from Freetown, my family and I moved to the United States when I was nine years old due to a civil war that left thousands dead and untold numbers maimed and displaced. I now credit my family's move during the war for her interest in human triumph and perseverance. I have since actively worked to mobilize and empower others. At age 15, I founded Triple "T" MAD (Teens Trying to Make a Difference), a community service organization for teens in central New Jersey. As a student at Howard University, I continued to cultivate my interest in community development by founding Rock, the M.I.C.—an annual outreach for youth in the D.C. area. These experiences laid a firm foundation that continues to define my work.
Since its launch, P.E.R.K. Consulting has worked with hundreds of nonprofits and small businesses, helping each move from idea to execution. For my work with nonprofits and small businesses, I received numerous awards, including The Black Business Review's 40 Under 40, The International Alliance for Women World of Difference 100 Award, the Women-Owned Small Business Award by the Associated Black Charities, and the Hope for Africa Leadership in Community Development Award. In addition to my work at P.E.R.K. Consulting, I am the author of several books, including The Misadventures of a New Entrepreneur: 5 Things They Won't Teach You in Business School.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment to date is staying in business for 11 years. When I started, it was difficult to imagine five years of sustainability, much less eleven years. Since our launch, we have successfully supported hundreds of entrepreneurs. I am proud to be a part of their success. I have also been able to launch the Next Gen Scholarship fund - a program for first-generation college graduates. To date, we have awarded three scholarships to deserving local students. Overall, entrepreneurship has allowed me to shape my own professional course. I am extremely proud of that and excited to see what's next.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
One of the hardest things about being a business owner is the unpredictable nature of business. From challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic to cash flow and personnel retention, there is a part of business ownership that is completely out of your control. Anticipating some needs before they occur and remaining flexible enough to pivot has been critical to our success.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Be persistent. As cliché as it sounds, do not give up. Entrepreneurship can be extremely stressful, and founders may find that they initially encounter a lot of rejection. Do your due diligence by ensuring the idea is viable. Get the support of trusted mentors and advisors, and push through the challenges.
- Be creative. The average millionaire has about seven streams of income. There is a lesson to be learned there—if those who are thriving financially are always looking for ways to earn more, I believe that businesses can thrive in much the same way. As long as it is consistent with the business' value proposition, there is no limit on how creative founders can get in generating revenue or reaching their audience.
- Stay true to yourself. The market, your industry, and even your customers will change in business once you identify your "why," stay true to that. Being consistent communicates credibility, helps you to stand out among competitors and streamlines your process and decision-making.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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