Colorado Springs, CO
An Interview With Sharai Johnson
Sharai Johnson is the founder of WeAssist, a Colorado based company that strives to support businesses by matching them to administrative professionals and providing long-term opportunities for professional candidates in the United States, that wouldn’t traditionally have access to remote work or are underutilized due to non-flexibility.
Tell us about your business and what you do.
My company is called WeAssist, and was founded in 2018. At the moment, we provide virtual assistant services that include the matching and the staffing of virtual assistant roles, such as administrative data entry, and other clerical type roles. Right now, we are 100% remote. We provide job opportunities as well, and try to target disenfranchised communities; such as minority women, minority men, single parents, college students, and military-affiliated people.
What are some benefits of having your own business?
I would say one of the greatest benefits is freedom. I like being able to run my schedule, prioritize myself and my mental health, and to be able to raise my family alongside. This way of life is really fulfilling to me. The type of work I do not only does that for me, but it’s also allowed me to change the people’s lives that I’ve matched. My overall goal is economic development in the black community, so it’s really awesome that I get to spend my time doing that.
What are some challenges that you face?
One of the biggest challenges that I face is wearing a lot of hats. No one ever told me that when you run a business you are like 20 employees all-in-one. Also, being a first generation business owner is all about learning to navigate the entire entrepreneurial landscape. Being able to learn as you go, to continue moving forward, and trying not to expect everything to be perfect the first time.
It’s important to learn from your mistakes, but the entire process can become extremely taxing. It is both physically and mentally exhausting because it is all so new to me. It’s not as easy as just going into a corporate job and doing what they tell me to do for the day, I have to plan my own work if I want to be successful.
What is some advice that you have for business owners who are just starting off?
I wish I knew the importance and the benefits of using a business advisor, business coach, or someone that can provide strategic guidance. I’m just starting to get business advice through Ellie Redcloud, who I found through My Black Colorado. It is important to have someone on your team who can help you utilize the free resources around you. You should be utilizing small business development centers, mentorship programs in your community, and even listening to YouTube podcasts. You should be willing to try anything that you can get your hands on at a low price barrier before you make those big investments.
The biggest thing that I’ve learned is prioritizing your mental health. For me, therapy has been a great way of doing that. Like I said before, it can really become mentally exhausting sometimes especially if you are working from home. It’s hard to find the right balance at times. I started to pinpoint the periods of my life where I would get burnt out. My therapist has been helping me learn balance, boundaries and not creating a traumatizing experience of owning a business. Having a therapist helps me to come up with ways to deal with it in a healthy manner so that I’m not overworking myself. Mental health and self care should be of utmost importance.
How do you hope to make a difference through what you do for the community?
Directly providing jobs remote and flexible job opportunities to the community, and making them entry level and accessible to people of color is one of my biggest goals. I would like to provide jobs that people in our community traditionally wouldn’t have access to. They need help, and they need a second hand. We serve as that middle person to help connect those two people and make the match so that both of them can experience some relief to the point that it becomes mutually beneficial to the person and the business.
The definitive trait of a healthy community is everybody playing their role, helping each other thrive in that role, and coming together as a whole. Sometimes, we pair two clients together who may seemingly be different, but that’s what makes them perfect for each other. Each person needs the other in order to do the best for the greater good. Bringing together two people from two totally different paths of life and connecting them over something they share is a beautiful thing to witness. I feel honored to be able to bring opportunities like that into the community.
Interview By Talisa Caldwell