Riah Gonzales is an accidental entrepreneur. This former career nurse left behind a toxic work environment and reinvented her career path as founder of Linq Consulting. Not even a horrific car accident would keep Riah from earning a six-figure salary as a “virtual assistant matchmaker” (trademark pending) and helping many bootstrapped entrepreneurs in the process.
Riah was all-in on the nursing path but she wasn’t happy. When a layoff made her reevaluate her career trajectory, she had to take a long, hard look at her skills and how to best move forward in the job market. Riah explains, “I didn’t want to go into business. I didn’t intentionally start like this. It was out of necessity because I was so afraid to apply somewhere else and be rejected.”
Riah has always been organized and meticulous about details. She decided to offer her services as an administrative virtual assistant because she noticed that friends (no matter the industry) would get bogged down by quotidian routines that stifled growth. She started taking over the mundane tasks like sending emails, following up with employees, data entry, scheduling meetings, and ordering office supplies. These are pivotal functions for businesses to run successfully. Riah’s gamble not to go back into a nursing position proved lucrative.
Riah invested in a business coach to help her map out the next few months. She wanted to expand her services and find more clients, but she wasn’t sure how. She credits the coach with helping to change her mindset from trying to do everything herself to hiring others to help manage the workload. She also studied to become a mobile notary and loan signing agent to broaden her services.
Scaling a Business
Riah was apprehensive at first. She explains, “My mentor told me to scale. But I said that people are hiring me because it’s me. And he said, well then, make fifty more of you. You can train.” Riah kept expanding so she hired two virtual assistants from the Philippines as well as an account manager and support staff stateside.
Everything came to a halt in 2020. Riah was in a car accident at the beginning of the global pandemic that caused her to reevaluate her career for the second time. She was recovering from the sheer terror of the event (both physically and emotionally), and she was doing it completely solo.
The hospital had just instituted strict quarantine and Riah’s husband couldn’t visit. Riah had no backup plan so she needed to continue working even while rehabilitating.
But Riah’s quality of life was poor. She says, “I was injured, and it was a pandemic, and I was worried about what my clients were thinking because they were so demanding. I should’ve been worrying about myself, but I couldn’t, not even with multiple surgeries.”
Riah worked through a broken collarbone and a broken wrist. She had to petition the hospital to operate in the middle of the pandemic because surgeries were being delayed. Riah leaned on her virtual team, which was something new for her. She could not micromanage every detail and had to give up control. “I really had to lean on them and it was an excellent exercise in doing that because I had no choice.”
Riah simply could not afford not to work. She explains, “I was not equipped for how expensive it is to start a business. If your business is your baby, I’m an episode of the show, ‘I didn’t know that I was pregnant’, but it somehow turned out okay.”
Shifting her Business
Riah had to figure out which part of her business she could scale. She had a lot of success working with virtual assistants in the Philippines. There was no easy or obvious way to make these connections, and Riah had an epiphany when a friend asked her for help finding a virtual assistant. Riah then pivoted from virtual assistant to the de facto “VA matchmaker” for fellow entrepreneurs who could benefit in the way that Riah did when she first started.
Riah works with women in the Philippines that “are strapped to the home.” This is intentional. She wants to help women grow professionally. Riah helps by providing training, a fair wage, and a stable job in a competitive market. Riah explains, “The Philippines has one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia, and while that means an influx of prosperity and lucrative opportunities, it also means fierce and often ruthless competition in the Philippine business space.” Similarly, Riah can also help bootstrapped entrepreneurs in the states find affordable assistants.
Riah is now the host of a podcast that teaches fellow entrepreneurs both life and business lessons. She explains, “It’s a holistic look at business. It’s marketing and sales and also self-care and nutrition. It’s diversity and inclusion and a wide variety of topics.”
Riah charges a flat fee for her services and she bills the entrepreneur who then pays the assistant. For $1,450, Riah will do a thorough placement. This includes reference checks and a narrowing of the top three clients. Once Riah matches employee and employer, she stays on board for a smooth transition. She explains, “Most of my clients have not had an assistant before. They do require a little bit of hand-holding so that they feel comfortable.”
Flat Fee vs. Subscription Model
Riah is intentional about not charging more than an initial fee. “We break at the point that they’re hired because I believe that somebody who’s working should receive their full pay.” Riah serves a wide variety of clients ranging from an ed-tech startup to a physical therapy office and everything in between. Riah needs to match like-minded people so she looks not just for hard skills, but soft skills as well. Riah also evaluates personality types to ensure both parties get along well.
Riah’s advice to fellow bootstrapped entrepreneurs is not to succumb to fear. “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to hire a business coach. Seek out free resources and workshops. Utilize and exhaust them. Give yourself a runway. You’re not going to pay yourself for a long time. Don’t get distracted by the shiny things. Just because something is deductible does not mean you need it.”
Riah also encourages finding someone to keep you in check. She says, “Hire a bookkeeper because you need someone to keep you in check. They will help you understand your numbers. Be thoughtful in your spending because every dollar you spend is a dollar you’re not putting in your pocket. Don’t be afraid to make the investments that are going to make you twice the amount of dollars. Be really thoughtful about your spending but don’t get into analysis paralysis because you will waste your time and your ability to move forward.”
Riah has weathered a few storms, and her business is currently at $10,000 MMR. She hopes that there are no more unexpected accidents. For now, Riah is looking forward with a mixture of renewed strength and excitement.
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