Raquel Wilson is the Founder and CEO of Peachtree Versatile Assistants (AKA Peachtree VA), which helps business owners get their time back by providing executive-level admin support, operations management, bookkeeping, and graphic design services.
Meet Raquel Wilson!
What inspired you to launch your web-based business? In all honesty, I fell into the virtual assistant (VA) industry because I was looking to create a solution that worked for my family. I needed and wanted to work – but my former professional life as a clinical social worker and the schedule that comes with it didn’t fit my family’s lifestyle. I started working as an independent VA at the end of 2014 and, shortly after, realized that the VA industry was one that was becoming mainstream – and quick! Virtual Assistants solve a huge problem for independent professionals and small businesses – so growing Peachtree VA was an obvious choice.
How has your previous employment experience aided you professionally? I have a Master’s degree in Social Work and worked as a therapist and case manager for 10 years prior to becoming a VA. Some people might consider the career shift as “wasting” my master’s degree – but actually, my experience as a social worker has given me an edge. When I was working as an independent VA, the skills acquired through social work allowed me to help easily build trust with clients which lent itself to forming collaborative partnerships with them. Once we reached this level, I could easily help them identify and navigate problems that were getting in the way of their business growth and professional success. Even though I don’t client interface in that capacity anymore, I strongly believe that my social work background has equipped me with the leadership skills, empathy and conflict resolutions skills that it takes to be a successful CEO.
What is the most challenging part of being a businesswoman? Social work school, even at the graduate level, teaches you zero about being a business owner or entrepreneur. I had to learn everything about starting and growing a business from scratch. It’s been scary and exhausting at times – but worth it. Fortunately, social work school does equip you with the know-how to reach out for help. My “village” includes my family, friends, business coach and plenty of other successful female entrepreneurs – all of whom have helped me get through the valleys and have celebrated the successes alongside me.
What is your favorite way to unplug from work? I have young children, so I try my best to be intentional about turning my ringer off and keeping my phone out of sight after 5pm during the week so they have my full and undivided attention. Aside from quality time with the family, I practice hot yoga several times a week. It’s the one place in my life where I literally can’t take my phone or computer – so I am able to truly disconnect for that hour.
What are some of your proudest accomplishments? Professionally, my proudest accomplishments have come in the form of providing paths to success for other women. In year three of my business, one of the first VAs I hired reached out to tell me that she was able to purchase her own house on her own income, in part, from the opportunities that Peachtree VA afforded her. These moments really drive me to continue growing my business and providing even more opportunities for others.
Personally, my proudest accomplishment has been becoming a foster family. My husband and I became foster parents two years ago when our biological kids were just 3 and 5. We’ve welcomed five children into our home so far, giving them a safe place to heal and grow. It’s been the best experience we’ve had as a family.
What three web tools can you not live without?
1) Asana – for project management (I love checking things off a to-do list!).
2) Slack – for quick, functional and comprehensive team communication.
3) LastPass – for password sharing and storing (safety first!).
What are some risks you have taken that resulted in positive outcomes? While it appears from the outside that I’m a big risk-taker (entrepreneur, foster parent, etc), I’m actually innately risk-averse. But working through this has paid off in the best ways. The risk that has produced the most impactful positive outcome has been growing my team – first with more VAs, then with specialists like our bookkeeper and graphic designer and most recently with bringing on two Client Relationship Managers. I could’ve chosen to remain a successful independent VA, but I had a different vision for my business and that vision forced me to push through the fear and face the risks.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date? That you can’t do it all alone. I’ve invested in a bookkeeper, a business coach, a small business attorney, and a payroll company. These are just a few of the professionals who have helped bring my vision for Peachtree VA to life.
What tips would you give other businesswomen to maintain work/life balance?
- Stay organized: Using a project management tool (I use Asana) is a no-brainer for work projects, but I also use it to set due dates, reminders and recurring events for my family. A shared family calendar (I use Google) has been a game-changer.
- Work smart: Mornings can be a bit chaotic, especially if you’re a parent of school-aged children. I pack lunches and backpacks the night before and always make sure the kitchen is clean before I go to bed. I get up before my children so that I can attend to CEO tasks interruption-free.
- Invest in a co-working space: This has been huge for me since my work is 100% remote. Having a dedicated workspace that I do not have to clean, and that has all the amenities I need to be productive (conference room for meetings, a phone booth for calls, printer, etc) has been worth the nominal investment.
Where’s your favorite place to work from? I have two! The Lola, a member’s club and workspace for women in Atlanta, has been amazing for hosting meetings, working alongside my Client Relationship Managers and getting to know other women business owners in-person. Edwin Jarvis, in Avondale Estates, is my long-time co-working space and allows me to put my head down and really crank work out. It’s also a print and ship depot which allows me to check a lot of personal tasks off my list while there, too.
What is a quote you live by? “Don’t worry about what you should do, worry about what you can do.”-Gloria Steinem
Do you have favorite podcasts? I’m obsessed with How I Built This by NPR. It’s a dream of mine to be featured on the podcast one day, but for now, I’ll settle by getting the chance to attend a live taping.
What does your typical day look like?
5:30 or 6am: Wake up, coffee, CEO tasks in silence
7am-8:30am: Morning with kids, school drop-offs, etc.
9am-2:30: Meetings, calls, business development tasks and a yoga class if it fits!
2:30-4pm: Afternoon time with my kids, start dinner prep.
4pm-5pm: Finish up outstanding work tasks, zero email inbox out.
5pm on: Family time and preparing for tomorrow’s wake up.
What advice would you give your younger self? Don’t waste so much time being consumed by fear. Take the risks, make mistakes, and reap the rewards sooner.
What is the #1 piece of advice would you give to someone who’s aspiring to run a web-based business? Do your homework – on everything! I’m getting better about taking risks, but only because I face my fears with facts. I research tools and test out free trials before I lock myself into annual contracts. I consult with professionals, like my bookkeeper, my business attorney and a payroll company, before I make job offers or big purchases. Doing your homework will save you financially and emotionally in the long run.