“I have achieved in one year what I set out to achieve in three”
One businesswoman proves business start-ups can still thrive despite COVID
As the admin and business support services sector continues to rise, one Northamptonshire virtual assistant is proving that business support start-ups can still succeed in the changing landscape.
Sarah Damani, from Wellingborough, is celebrating her first business birthday having launched her Alchemy Virtual Assistance (VA) Hub in December 2019, three months before the pandemic when high business birth rates were up to 19.3% in the business administration and support services sector, and Wellingborough was among the fastest growing areas for business births in the entire country (indicated by ONS data)*
Sarah says the success she has achieved in her first twelve months as a virtual assistant highlights how much opportunity there is despite COVID, and how more businesses are now opening up to the idea of outsourcing.
Through her Virtual Assistance franchise Hub, she now supports multiple business owners with their PA, marketing and administration, reinforced by the trusted and award-winning Alchemy brand.
“As a new business I could either sink or swim when COVID hit, but I have managed to achieve in one year what I set out to achieve in three. The support and backing of Alchemy VA has empowered me, it could have easily been a different story if I had gone it alone,” said Sarah, who has just hit ‘Executive Status’ – the highest rung on the Alchemy franchise development framework.
Sarah has also recruited a small team of handpicked, high calibre virtual assistants to help her manage the increasing workload, renovated a tailor-made home office space, left her job as a business advisor to focus entirely on growing her Alchemy VA franchise hub, and more recently became a finalist in the ‘Rising Star’ category in the PA Life Star Awards 2020 programme. For Sarah and Alchemy VA, business is booming.
“More people were fearful and somewhat untrusting of remote working pre-COVID, but they have now seen that it works. Suddenly hiring a virtual assistant to manage what some consider to be menial admin tasks is far less scary than it might have been before. Most clients who have started working with me and other Alchemy VA Hub Managers in the last year started out wanting one thing and ended up realising we can assist with so much more. Many of our contracts have grown when clients realise the vast skillset of our VAs and how much time and headspace we can free up.”
Former Judo Olympian and Co- owner of Neil Adams Effective Fighting, Niki Adams, says Sarah’s VA services have helped them diversify and stay afloat during COVID. “We had just built our own studio to train judo athletes, but when COVID hit we had to close our club and review all our plans.
“Sarah has helped us get our processes in check, but more than that, she has helped us secure £3,000 of funding to launch a new online fitness programme for over 50s and people with health conditions. This was a totally new business idea, and we couldn’t have done it without her organisational skills, connections and expertise. She is now an essential part of our small business – she helps make Neil Adams Effective Fighting run more smoothly. I had no idea a virtual assistant could have such a positive impact.”
Sarah’s achievements have been mirrored across the wider VA industry and Alchemy VA group, as other Virtual Assistant Hubs thrive, and the Alchemy VA business receives high-profile award recognition. With another new franchise Hub launching in January 2021, the Head Office team has also been strengthened to ensure that Alchemy is in a strong position to continue the high level of support they provide into the new year and beyond.
Founder of Alchemy VA, Suzy Sanders, added: “This year has been a wilder ride than any of us expected but one thing that’s remained constantly true is the way Sarah, and all our VA Hub Managers, have focused on their businesses, supporting their clients and each other with such grit and grace.
“We’ve seen a huge influx of interest in what we do at Alchemy this year from both potential clients and franchisees. I believe this has been mostly driven by the dramatic shift in focus, priorities and with so many being forced to adapt to new and different ways of working. Whilst this year has bought untold challenges, I’m immensely proud of Sarah and everything we’re achieving together.”
For more information on Alchemy VA – their virtual assistance services for entrepreneurs and small enterprising businesses, or to learn more about Virtual Assistant franchise opportunities – visit www.alchemyva.co.uk
* This builds on ONS data from the past three years, where between 2017 and the end of 2019, Wellingborough placed top of the list of fastest growing areas across the country.