This week it is my pleasure to introduce you to Rona Campbell of Cloudberry Services – I cannot believe it is over 5 years ago that Rona started on her VA journey – and I love how she shares something she did back then, that she will do again in this blog… read on to learn more.
Hi, I’m Rona and I moved to London as soon as I finished university and got a job in sales for a well-known property company. I swiftly realised I disliked sales and wasn’t suited to it at all. However, there was a PA there supporting the CEO and I immediately thought that’s what I want to do. When I went to see a recruitment agent to see about getting a PA job I was furious when I was told I couldn’t do that because I had no experience. That just made me more determined and I soon found a company which could see I had the skills to be a great PA.
I set up Cloudberry Services in January 2015 with the aim of helping successful people get stuff done. I live with my husband and two daughters in Sheffield, right on the edge of the Peak District and love the flexibility that comes with running my own business. My husband is a Kiwi and as long as I have my phone and laptop I can work from anywhere in the world which means I don’t worry about what’s going to happen to my business when I’m occasionally in New Zealand for weeks at a time.
I’ve been on maternity leave twice since setting up Cloudberry, so started using Associates sooner than I might have done, but I’m pleased that my team has grown. I go through a robust process to ensure I find the right Associate for a client, to know they’re being supported by someone who I can trust to do a job to our exacting standards!
People choose Cloudberry because we’re reliable, we listen to what they want and we do what we say we’ll do. We’re authentic, credible and trustworthy which ultimately gives clients confidence in the service we provide. I was pleased to be awarded Best Newcomer VA Runner Up in 2015, not long after starting my business.
What or who inspired you to become a Virtual Assistant?
I was an Executive Assistant for over 13 years and had always had a desire to run my own business and be my own boss but wasn’t sure what it could look like. When my Yorkshire based boss decided he wanted to spend more time in London I decided it would be the perfect opportunity to make the move from EA to VA, a world I had only recently heard about. My boss’s decision was the catalyst I needed to set up on my own.
How did you go about establishing your business?
I was fortunate that my boss at the time was very supportive of the idea of me setting up as a VA and agreed to become my first client. It was a great way to get going and working with someone I had already established a business relationship with worked well when we started working remotely. At the same time, I completed the VACT VA Mastery Course and graduated in 2016. It was really useful and gave me great insight into what was required to make a VA business successful.
Did you have any savings or financial support in order to start your business?
I dipped into savings to get myself going and bought a laptop, a new mobile phone, domain name, had a website built and started going to networking events. I was lucky to have a fee-paying client from the beginning which certainly helped with the initial costs.
Was there ever a point when you thought it wouldn’t work out?
I don’t think so. I knew I was good at what I did and could offer a first-class service that really added value. I was certainly nervous about selling myself. As an EA it’s not something I was used to and it’s quite a leap going from EA to business owner.
What support did you have around you to set up your VA business (family and friends, Coach or Mentor)?
I spoke to as many people as I could about the VA industry and business in general and had a supportive husband and family which helped a huge amount. I was particularly appreciative of my Dad who had lots of business experience and gave me great advice around the practicalities of setting up a business and using Quickbooks.
If you could go back and change one thing that you did when starting out, what would that be?
I think in hindsight I would have spent more time thrashing out my sales process and really trying to understand who my target market was. It wasn’t really who I thought it was at the time and I’ve spent a lot of time reviewing it recently.
What is your best advice for someone who is just starting out or someone who is considering becoming a Virtual Assistant?
I’d say sign up for VACT and it will be money well spent. You not only get a really structured course but you also then benefit from ongoing support and advice which is priceless when you work on your own. Feeling like part of a community and having a support network makes running your own business less lonely. As supportive as friends and family are, it’s important to have the support of people who really understand the nitty-gritty of what you’re trying to achieve.
How would you describe the good, the bad and ugly of being a Virtual Assistant?
Good – Flexibility, self-management and the feeling of being in control of your own destiny. All my clients have children of their own and understand (especially in the COVID era) that if I answer the phone on a day when I have the kids around that there may be some background noise. I regularly communicate with one client by WhatsApp on a Sunday evening, but it works for both of us!
Bad – Juggling a business around two small children isn’t always straightforward but I figure this will only get easier when they’re both at school. I never totally switch off either, but I don’t mind when it’s my own business.
Ugly – There’s nothing ugly about it!
What is the best business book you’ve read and how did it impact you and your business?
One of the best business books I’ve read recently is Purple Cow by Seth Godin. It’s all about transforming your business by being remarkable. Although it’s mainly based around products rather than services there are some good lessons to be learned around targeting a niche. You can’t be everything to everyone and your marketing should cater to the clients you’d choose if you could choose your clients. How to be a Thousandaire is another great book I’ve just finished reading, written by Catherine Adamson. It’s particularly relevant for VAs as Catherine has run her own successful VA business for many years. It’s full of practical advice for growing a microbusiness whilst finding a work-life balance.
How do you stay on top of your own professional development?
I try to read as much as I can, not just about VA specific things, but business in general. I have regular calls with a business coach and she pushes me out of my comfort zone and holds me accountable at the same time as being really encouraging. She lives in France, so I’ve never actually met her in person! I’m also a member of Amanda’s VA Membership Programme which has been invaluable as a resource, sounding board, safe place to ask questions and place to learn from others.
What do you love to do when you’re not working?
I have two pre-school age girls and love hanging out with them. I also try and keep fit and play in a weekly netball league (pre-Covid!). My daughter has recently learned to ride her bike so we’re out every day at the moment, come rain or shine. On Monday evenings I’m a GirlGuiding volunteer and hang out with 15 Rainbows doing tons of fun things.
Tell us one thing you can tell us about you that not many people know?
I used to work in London for a very well-known MP.
What does the future hold for your business?
My business is now five years old and as part of the VACT course, I wrote a letter to myself five years ago as if I was in 2020. I really enjoyed the process of looking forward and am now writing a letter to my future self in 2025. It will say that I’ll continue to grow my VA business, supported by Associates, offer the best service to my clients, whilst remaining true to my values. I’ll definitely still be helping people get stuff done!
Learn more and connect with Rona
Website URL: cloudberryservices.com
Facebook URL: facebook.com/cloudberrybusinessservices/
LinkedIn URL: linkedin.com/company/9284868/admin/