Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal and business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Maria Velasquez, Founder, and CEO of V&N Consulting Services, LLC., located in Wilmington, DE, USA.
What’s your business, and who are your customers?
V&N is a global consulting business originally funded to deliver subject expertise and thought partnership to the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Over the years, V&N Consulting Services has expanded, servicing myriad industries, including child welfare and social services, health care, and nonprofit and local government, for over 12+ years. V&N clients range from national foundations such as the Annie E Casey Foundation, Casey Family Programs, and Latino Justice Puerto Rican Legal and Education Fund to Academic Institutions such as The University of Pennsylvania and nonprofits such as the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers (NJ), Wilmington Metropolitan Urban League (DE), and Accion Colombia (PA).
Tell us about yourself
Years ago, while working at a youth venture organization funded by Ashoka, I listened to Bill Drayton talk about his vision and definition of social entrepreneurship. It was at that moment, working as a Director of International Programs for a global diabetes organization, that I realized my professional goal and purpose.
As Bill said, “Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry.” This goal and purpose of revolutionizing the social service and healthcare industries in which I have worked for the last decade is the reason behind V&N Consulting Services, LLC.
What’s your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment continued to be the trust earned and gained from my clients. The projects I have been able to participate in and lead all positively advocate for or impact communities that are most marginalized or least included. For example, I have spent the last two years working with Casey Family Programs’ Board of Trustees and leadership on an unprecedented study to conduct a landscape analysis using the social determinants of health to examine the challenges that Latinx families and children face in the child welfare system. The study will be used to provide recommendations for foundation investments and policy development for the organization to inform their executive leadership team and state-level consultants in their decision-making on how to invest in child welfare systems in 50 states and Puerto Rico.
What’s one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
I wouldn’t say this is hard but rather a daily challenge… as a proud leader and someone who truly values and enjoys coaching and supporting the growth of teammates (especially BIPOC teammates because, as a Latina and a woman, it’s imperative for me to ensure my people are growing along with me) it can be a bit hard to go from being a salaried director with a bigger team to work with and coach to a “Solopreneur” space.
However, that challenge can be turned into an opportunity as I’ve been able to slowly grow my team to include subcontractors and teammates who not only embody the diversity of race and ethnicity but also possess an array of professional skills that are complementary to V&N and its clients’ needs.
What are the top tips you’d give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- In a time where digital nomad life and consultancy are the new cool thing, I would encourage anyone looking to jump into freelance/entrepreneurship to do your homework and prepare for the leap. Definitely go for it! However, these are not times to jump without a plan. Make projections, see what the bare minimum you need to live, decrease unnecessary costs, try and find a client or two prior to and then go for it!
- It absolutely makes sense to start alone to keep costs manageable and to better define what the direction of your business will be. However, don’t forget the proverb: if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go with a company! I truly believe that we are stronger when we connect with others to create!
- 3-6 month rule… as you start to grow, it truly is smart to ensure that you have at least three months (ideally 6!) worth of your living costs in savings to keep you from accepting clients for the sake of bills and move you towards defining what your business and your ethics will be based on who you associate with.