Lady Bosses I Love: Maddie Hunt
Although I have never met Maddie in person, we first connected last year when I was looking for a virtual assistant to help me roll out my new branding course. I was feeling overwhelmed with all the client work that had landed on my plate and the thought of doing more work on my own business marketing seemed impossible...until I spoke to Maddie. I liked her immediately, and I loved that she employs only women. As a woman owned business, it's important to me to be able to give back to women, engage with (and support) other woman owned businesses and employ women whenever I can. Maddie made it easy to accomplish all of that with one decision. The most impressive part? She built the business during the pandemic, after having to move back home with her parents. Keep reading to learn more about how Maddie built her VA empire.
Maddie Hunt: Her
What is the name of your company and what do you do?
My company’s name is her. We are a business development and virtual assistant agency for female-identifying business owners looking to create an impact within their community without burning out. We provide business owners with a wide array of services including web design and development, social media management, email marketing support, brand design, graphic design, and so much more! We are a full service agency on a mission to give women their time back…time that they can spend doing more of what they love with the people they love.
How long have you been in business?
We have been in business since March 2020.
How did you decide to launch your own business?
It’s a funny story actually! Right before the pandemic hit, I was getting ready to graduate college with a Bachelor’s of Science in Public Health. At the time, I was living in Philadelphia and teaching Yoga around the city pretty full-time as I wrapped up my degree. Around February 2020, I started to apply for more “corporate” Public Health jobs along the East Coast to begin once I graduated in May. Suddenly, as we all know, March 2020 closed the United States down. All the Yoga studios I was working at closed, my college moved all classes online, and I decided to move out of the city and back in with my parents for what was supposed to be just a few weeks. While I was home, I received emails from all of the businesses that I had applied for jobs at. Each one of them said that, due to the pandemic, they were enacting a hiring freeze. So here I was with no employment opportunities, unable to teach Yoga, and living with my parents all the while trying to navigate a pandemic. Needless to say, I was freaking out (as was the rest of the world during this time).
One night, my dad and I sat down in our dining room in front of a large post-it note and started brainstorming some ways I could make money while waiting to re-apply to the jobs I was wanting. The first question he asked me: what skills do you have? As I rambled off my skills, he jotted them down on the post-it. When I was done rambling, he took a step back from the list and we took a moment to analyze it. One skill popped right off the page: virtual assistant. Over the past 6 months, I had been working very part-time for my friend, Alana, who owned a coaching business as her VA. I had been loving the work, but never thought of pursuing it as a central avenue for income; it was merely a side project that I was doing to help out a friend and help pay for some groceries. As my dad and I looked at the list of my skills, however, it all just clicked. Getting more VA clients was totally plausible for being able to support myself during the pandemic. It was 100% remote, businesses were needing support transitioning into a digital landscape then more so than ever, and it required little-to-no upfront investment.
The next day, I decided to send out some emails introducing myself and my services to coaches from Instagram that I had been following and had admired, offering to be their VA. Within just a few short weeks, I was booked with a full roster of clients. Over time, I started to receive an abundance of referrals and eventually began to hire family and friends to support me as we brought on new clients. Before I knew it, my solo VA gig turned into a full-service agency overnight thanks to the incredible support of my team and our amazing clients who continue to refer business to us to this day.
What challenges did you face in the process of launching your business?
The biggest challenge I faced in launching my business was the loss of my younger brother, TJ. Just as I had made my first hires and had expanded our clientele, my brother passed away in a tragic accident while he was on his college internship in June of 2020. I was just four months into owning and operating a business: I was trying to figure out how to be the best VA I could, how to manage a small team, and how to keep clients happy when I was faced with the worst thing to ever happen in my life. All of a sudden, everything changed. I had no energy. My memory was completely unreliable. I was overwhelmed with grief. I was trying to figure out how to exist in the world without my brother all the while trying to navigate what it meant to grieve in my family home alongside my parents and my other brother. My business needed me, but I needed me too. When my business was at its largest peak since its initial launch, I had to learn how to let go, lean on my team, and ask for grace when all my pre-grief self wanted to do was power through and work overtime to maximize the success we were experiencing. To this day, two years later, that time was the hardest period for me to show up as a founder, yet, from that tragedy, I have developed an immensely strong foundation of trust with my team and have become even more rooted in our mission of giving women more time to do what they love with the people they love most because we never know when that time will come to a close.
Did you feel as though there were resources available to you, specifically as a woman business owner?
A lot of my work in the beginning was entirely dependent on YouTube. I bootstrapped my business with tutorials which, lucky for me, were abundantly available to me at the time. My business required little-to-no start-up investment, so I didn’t need any financial resources.
The one thing I did feel as though I was missing in the beginning were female-identifying mentors…other women in business who I could lean on for support. I didn’t feel as though my local community had any organizations in place for female founders which was definitely hard in the beginning, but, luckily, over time, I was able to find some incredible mentors online!
Do you have a mentor?
I do! I have multiple actually:
Pia Beck is the person I go to for all things business strategy and development. She has been incredibly helpful in helping me hone in on our messaging/offerings and continuously inspires me to think of business in new and innovative ways.
Jeannine Johnston is my financial advisor and has been an incredible mentor when it comes to creating a business that is profitable while also impactful for our clients and our team.
My mom and dad have been my mentors since I was a little girl and have instilled in me a strong work ethic, a drive to help people in any way that I can, and a strong value of compassion and understanding (both of which have been extremely important values for me to uphold as a business owner).
Lastly, my partner, Bryson, has been one of the greatest mentors of all over these past two years. He has always encouraged me to take risks and listen to my gut; to take a beat before responding; to prioritize work/life balance because I deserve to enjoy my life too; and to stand strong in my boundaries and values. I am eternally grateful to have the amazing mentors that I do.
Books you recommend?
So many! Some of my favorites to recommend are: Peace is Every Step by Thich Naht Hanh; Untethered Soul by Michael Alan Singer; Untamed by Glennon Doyle; Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer.
What do you love most about running your own business?
I have two things that I love most that are tied for #1!
As someone who recharges by being alone in her own space, one of the things I love most about running my business is being able to work in comfy clothes in my bed. It has been SO healing for my nervous system to be able to work in the comfort of my own space.
I love being able to support my team and see them grow. It is incredible to provide so many women with a stable income while also seeing them excel in their work. It is an extreme honor to work alongside so many amazing women.
What is your least favorite aspect of running your own business?
As the “woman in charge”, more often than not, when things hit my desk, it is because something went wrong. A client has a complaint, a team member has a family emergency, a project is taking more time than what we had billed for. My team members hear praise on a weekly basis via Slack and in their meetings. They know very intimately the immense transformation they are creating in the clients’ lives, so, when they have a hard day, they can still lean into the impact they are creating and remain fueled by their purpose.
I, on the other hand, am not the person people go to when things are going right. I am not the person they sing praises to since I’m not integrated into a client’s day-to-day communications. I am the one they go to when things need fixing, so it can be difficult, sometimes, to continue to feel inspired by our work when I am the chief “fixer” and “complaint catcher” in the business. Luckily, we don’t often (knock on wood) have many fires to put out with clients or our team, but this has definitely been my least favorite aspect of running my own business. As the business has grown, I have learned a few things that have helped me continue to find strength and inspiration within the business even while be the chief “fixer”: don’t take things so personally; there are always 3 sides to every story (theirs, ours, and the truth); pause before responding; people, overall, have good intentions, but sometimes just bad delivery; I’m not a firefighter, doctor, or police officer…this work isn’t life or death so I don’t need to let my nervous system think that it is.
What is your best piece of advice for other women who are thinking about launching a business?
Such a great question! My biggest piece of advice for other women who are thinking about launching a business is to get support early, whether that be from a mentor, a partner, a friend, a co-founder, a virtual assistant, etc. Running a business and being a founder aren’t easy and, if we want our companies to thrive sustainably, we need an eco-system of support that will allow us to stay with it for the long haul. Oftentimes, I see women starting a business because they want to regain freedom over their time and energy again only to watch them pour even more time and energy into their business (we’re talking 50+ hour weeks) than they did into the corporate job they were trying to escape from.
Lean on other people so you don’t get trapped by your business. Lean on other people so you are reminded of why you do the work that you do. Lean on other people because it is human to need and want love, support, and validation from your community.