Black History Month & Virtual Assistants – Celebrating Tara Spencer
During Black History Month the Association of Virtual Assistants is proud to celebrate seasoned VA and pioneer in the industry, Tara Spencer.
Each Association of Virtual Assistants member is making history and setting a new path for their lives and the lives of their families. This month’s blog series is dedicated to our African-American members and future members.
Last year we featured Tara on the AVA blog during Black History Month and it was one of our most popular blogs of the year! We’re excited to have Tara share again as she clearly provided value and insight to so many. You can read Tara’s previous interview here.
Q. Please share some of your background so our readers can get to know you better.
I began my VA journey in November of 2012. I left my position with the American Psychiatric Association to become a stay-at-home mother. I wanted to supplement my family’s income and still have the flexibility to be with my children physically. I partner with entrepreneurs, thought-leaders, c-suite executives, and consultants to provide them executive-level assistance. I have also joined a think tank based in Philadelphia as the membership and administrative coordinator. I have over 22 years of administrative experience; and have worked with executives at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, American Psychiatric Association, and the United Negro College Fund.
I’m originally from southern California. I lived in the DC and Northern VA area for 18 years. I currently live just outside of Atlanta, GA with my family.
Q. Why is Black History Month important to you?
I absolutely LOVE Black History Month! I plan weekly events for my children to ensure that they are aware of how unique our ancestors were and how proud they should be of their heritage. Honoring Black Excellence at any time is wonderful, but this is not just a month for African Americans to acknowledge historical figures and accomplishments. We must also see this time as an opportunity for those outside of the black community to recognize the deep-seated racial issues that continue to plague our nation. There is an immense amount of atonement, and change that needs to be done in order to achieve true equality for everyone who calls America home.
As a nation, we must never become disengaged from this month of celebration and reflection. The facts surrounding the building of our nation and the vast contributions of African Americans should be promoted and accessible to a wider audience. My ancestors have played such a vital role in the larger narrative of America. If we are a diverse nation as we proclaim, we should discontinue the dilution of facts and begin having conversations about African American history, no matter how painful or uncomfortable. We should all be celebrating black excellence, and the triumphs we have made through the struggles of African Americans because it is a major component of our American history.
Q. How are you celebrating Black History Month?
Our family comes together in the evenings to have the “Black History Moment of the Day.” We research and prepare short summaries of historical figures, and share them with each other. This year, I’m very excited to add on research of our maternal ancestors to our celebration! I recently received exciting results from AfricanAncestry.com that revealed our maternal lineage comes from Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. We will focus on the geography of these areas, known tribes, and what life was like for our ancestors prior to the start of the transatlantic slave trade. I believe it’s very important for everyone to have knowledge and understanding of life before Africans were enslaved. There is so much rich history to be discovered. I can’t wait for my children to ask questions that lead to us all finding the answers and having discussions about our ancestors.
Finally, there is a new four-part limited series, One Thousand Years of Slavery – The Untold Story we will be watching. It is described as a more comprehensive view of slavery and its impact in the New World. We’ll watch this together, and have discussions about the effects of slavery and how what efforts we can individually make to honor our ancestors.
Q. What or who inspired you to become a Virtual Assistant?
When I began searching for options to bring additional income to my family in 2012, I was unaware of the virtual assisting profession. I had not met another virtual assistant. It wouldn’t be until two years later that I became connected with other VAs. During my time at APA, I participated in a new telework program they developed and was one of the first to work remotely on a part-time basis. I learned from that experience that I performed at an even higher level working from home, without distractions, and found I preferred working virtually. I don’t think I could return to working in a traditional work setting. The flexibility to work whenever and wherever I want is a freedom that’s indescribable. It’s a true blessing that I’ve been successful for the past nine years supporting my family on my own terms.
Q. What steps did you take to start your business?
It’s comical because I would never recommend this to a VA starting a business now but I placed my first marketing piece on Craigslist in 2013 and contracted with my first client, who I still work with today. I established longstanding partnerships with anyone that I worked with. That led to referrals and wonderful opportunities to grow my business..
Q. What has been your best strategy for getting clients?
Referrals and word of mouth go farther than any other marketing strategy, funnel or website. I have not had to market myself, because my clients share their experiences with colleagues and friends. As a VA, it’s extremely rewarding to know that you are valued and that your clients would recommend services to others looking for assistance.
Q. Tell us about your services and what kinds of clients you enjoy working with.
I offer remote executive assistance. Most of the tasks under the administrative umbrella are what I enjoy. I am at my best when I can find ways to partner with clients. Yes, they need assistance, but they also need personal support, guidance on best practices and I have found the ability to offer that type of connection very fulfilling.
Q. When it comes to the VA industry, do you feel you are provided the same opportunities as others? Why or why not?
Discrimination does exist in our industry, just as it does in every other profession. It begins before an interview or hiring consideration. It’s very likely I was overlooked while a potential client viewed my profile image or LinkedIn profile; identified that I was African American and attended a Historically Black College or University (HBCU). Discriminatory practices touch on every aspect of our lives, many times they aren’t easily identifiable.
Q. What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
That is difficult. I’ve been very blessed with the best clients! They are very kind, respectful, and generous. No challenges there at all. One of the biggest challenges personally and one that I’ve recently begun to tackle is the lack of physical activity that comes with working virtually. Many people assume because you work virtually that you have loads of free time. Exercising and getting outside for vitamin D just haven’t been a priority over growing my business and now also my duties as a virtual learning mascot for my children. Last year, I joined the AVA fitness accountability group, which really help support my goals to start healthier fitness and wellness practices. The group was a really great motivator to help me start on this journey to better health. I am still working on this goal. Hiking, getting outside and working a co-working spaces a few days a week has really helped me to not only address my health, but also allows me to network with other entrepreneurs.
Q. How has the AVA made you feel welcome or how did you know you belong and are valued in the AVA?
I felt the value of joining AVA instantly! There are frequent check-ins, not only to share our expertise, but to provide free training. That is extremely valuable to me. Everyone on the AVA team that I’ve personally encountered has been very welcoming, responsive, and helpful. The offer to participate in this interview was a wonderful opportunity. It shows a commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Q. How do you want to be remembered in history?
I wear many hats, but my responsibilities as a mother to my three wonderful children is my priority. I feel blessed to work with clients who value this, and are willing to be flexible. Starting my virtual assisting business has truly been the best decision that I’ve made. My hope is that I am honored by my descendants as a woman that approached life with positivity, resilience, grace, and a youthful spirit. I took a huge leap of faith to develop my own business, and am reaping the rewards of consistency, and professionalism. I want to be remembered as a woman who lived freely, took risks, and supported her family on her own terms.
The AVA is proud to call Tara a member and is thankful for her many contributions. May we all be catalysts for change and remembrance as Tara is.
You can connect with Tara on LinkedIn.
Want to be celebrated by the Association of Virtual Assistants? Join the waiting list and be notified when we reopen membership again.