Lizbeth Walker has an interesting cure for shyness: start a business. That’s what she did, founding the staffing agency, Qwalifize Staffing & Consulting.
It came from her realization that, “I need to be able to talk to people and just get over that fear”. She says it was a defining moment for her.
INDUSTRY: English and Bilingual Staffing
STARTED BUSINESS: February 2020
LATINO CONNECTION: Born in Puerto Rico & mom is Puerto Rican
DREAM JOB AS A KID: Become a veterinarian because I loved hamsters and bunnies.
Create and invent something to somehow change the world. I would paint and customize pencils and sell them for a quarter each.
BIGGEST GOAL YET:
Professionally: Present more offerings to employer clients and job seekers.
Sell & license a patent and fund it to scale.
Personally: Show my sons that I walk the walk - a faith walk. Faith without works is just being hopeful.
Walker also says she’s had a lot of random jobs on her road to business ownership. She’s done everything from selling knives (yes, knives) door-to-door, to selling mobile credit card machines to cleaning toilets while working as a manager in the retail industry. And she doesn’t mind telling people about these jobs, adding, “To me, there’s no shame in doing a thing that helps build character.”
“PICK A SIDE”
There was also something else she had to contend with along the way. She was told she didn’t belong - because of her race. Walker is half Puerto Rican and half African-American. She remembers often being told to “pick a side” when it came to her race. Well, she didn’t want to pick a side. She wasn’t going to pick a side. Walker is proud of, and identifies with, both sides of her heritage.
THE LONG VIEW
She also remembers being sidelined on different occasions and told, “Those aren’t conversations or meetings you should be in.” That’s even though, in many instances, she says she knew a lot more than some of the people managing certain projects. Inside, she thought to herself, “You’re looking at the short-term. I’m looking at the long-term.” So she did what she was told and quietly worked on the long view; she put into action her plan to own a business.
That means she ended up driving 75 miles each way from Kissimmee to Riverview for six months for a temp job. She says, “I had bills to pay, and it was funding my dream.”
“SO WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?”
While Walker does have certain certifications to operate her business, Walker refused to allow the lack of a college degree to keep her from limiting her dreams and options. To her, achieving any dream comes down to asking yourself and then answering a simple question: “So what are you going to do about it?” Then she found a way to do it.
To this day, she’s still emotional about her initial request for start-up money. Walker wrote a letter to six of her closest family members and friends, outlining what her business plan was and how much money she was seeking. The letter also included a chart she made, showing where her donors’ money would go.
ENOUGH TO START
Only two people responded.
But that gave her $1300 to start her bilingual staffing agency. It was just enough to buy a laptop, DocuSign software, as well as software for accounting and payroll for one month.
And that was enough to keep the dream alive. Her donors provided the funding. Getting accepted into the University of Central Florida’s incubator program with the Small Business Development Corporation provided the fuel, the fire and the know-how. The program not only provided her with low rent, but she also received free business-related advice that would help her succeed. As she describes it, the organizers’ focus is economic development. They have goals to meet. They, in turn, encourage the small business owners who are part of the program to also set goals and meet or exceed them.
Walker now specializes in hiring for tech, human resources and administrative roles. She is also focusing her business on government contracting.
THE SINGLE MOMPRENEUR
So how was this single mother of 15-year-old twin boys able to do all this? She attributes it to her faith in God.
OF PIES AND PROBLEMS
There have been bumps along the road, but she has a way of looking at problems in a way that doesn’t just work for business. She looks at problems through the prism of a pie. Yes, a pie. Take, for example, a pie with 12 slices. Walker explains, “If something bad happens over here, it doesn’t have to affect the rest of it.” Compartmentalizing problems keeps them from becoming overwhelming. She says it helps her better visualize a problem and discipline herself. It’s something she has also taught her sons as a way of dealing with problems.
Walker is forging an even more non-traditional approach to inspire others who don’t fit into a neat category.
She may have started out on this journey to fight her shyness. But she’s not only found that the title of staffing CEO suits her. She’s discovered that she “belongs” in many other categories, including that of innovator. Proof positive is that, just last year, Lizbeth Walker was awarded a patent for a medical device. It confirms something she taught herself and is instilling in her sons and others: “I belonged wherever I decided I belonged.”
THE TIP JAR (tips passed out courtesy of Lizbeth Walker)
-Tap into free resources around you
-Physically step into an office or setting similar to what you envision for yourself. It’ll show you someone else's ideas and dreams manifested into something tangible. If they did it, you can, too!
-If you cannot physically get there, don't limit yourself. Create a digital folder, a Pinterest account or vision board full of pictures and words you are working toward achieving. It will definitely keep you motived. Think of it like planning for a vacation: Research it online, find a great spot, review ratings, save up for it, set a timeline and then, finally, you'll be able to book it!
STEEPED IN SKILLS (mid-career):
-Put your experience AND intuition to work
-Think about how shortcuts and short-term patches have gotten companies you’ve worked for into trouble. Avoid that path.
-There are great business consultants and well-intentioned people around you. But if they’ve haven’t truly been successful running a business, they don’t have all the answers.
- People may see your value and get you to work for them. If it funds YOUR dream, you may want to do it. Otherwise, do NOT be deterred or led astray from pursuing YOUR dream.
-Write down or create a spreadsheet of what did or didn’t work last time. Be sure to include software that can help you start and sustain the business.
-There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Research how other successful companies work. Gathering data is important so you can build a strong foundation and be a better service-provider for your future business.
I’LL NEVER DO THAT AGAIN:
-Sulking for an extended period of time is not healthy nor productive. I’ve learned not to let my pity parties last too long. What’s done is done. Taking ownership to move forward will make you stronger mentally.
BEST ADVICE FROM “LA CASA”:
-Mom would say, “Todo lo que es gratis no es gratis.” Translation: Everything that is free isn’t free.
The best advice didn’t always come from conversations. It came from watching my parents’ behavior. They didn’t just talk. They showed me that no one else was going to save me and that whatever I wanted, “I” had to be the one to make it happen. And, as many of us will understand, sometimes, she let the “chancla” speak for itself.
This is a great little guide you can Google translate to English. It’s called “For the Mind, For the Body: Humor & Laughter. It not only tells you how humor and laughter positively affects your body, but it also provides 10 tips and activities for incorporating humor and laughter into your life.
THE INSPIRATION BEHIND THIS ISSUE:
So many times, it’s the loudest person in the room who gets the attention. We’ve all seen it; both men and women who are starved for attention and who do almost anything to make sure they’re the center of it all vs. letting others sometimes have their moment in the spotlight. That’s why I get so inspired by people, especially women, who not only defy expectations, but who quietly, yet effectively, assert themselves.
Enter Lizbeth Walker. She’s a woman who wasn’t going to allow her introverted nature to keep her from missing out on her small business dreams. I also loved the fact that she showcases a different type of Latina, one who is biracial. Afro-Latinos don’t get anywhere near enough coverage in the news. And that’s why I thought she’d be perfect for this newsletter – to inspire others. Besides, anyone who can claim selling knives, inventing a device and juggling a small business on her resume, all while raising teen boys on her own, is someone who can teach us all about pushing for a life with limitless possibilities.
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