Next-level networking in the digital business world

Experienced entrepreneurs share their expert tips for making the most of free networking opportunities from Verizon Small Business Digital Ready.

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Jevon Wooden (left), founder of Live Not Loathe business and life coaching in Houston, TX and Samantha Sinclair (right), founder of Pathway to Purpose college prep firm in Brooklyn, NY., met through the Community Connect virtual networking event. Credit: Tania Fernandez and Michael Le Brecht ii

As busy entrepreneurs, Jevon Wooden and Samantha Sinclair know to focus on what matters. Wooden is the founder of the coaching business Live Not Loathe in Houston, Texas; Sinclair’s college prep company is Pathway to Purpose in Brooklyn, New York. Despite their full schedules, each of these business owners places a premium on networking with fellow entrepreneurs. Sinclair and Wooden both jumped into Community Connect, a virtual networking event for small business owners available at Verizon Small Business Digital Ready.

Verizon Small Business Digital Ready is a free, online curriculum that provides personalized courses, one-on-one coaching, and community—all to help entrepreneurs thrive in the digital economy.

Writer Taiia Smart Young sat down with Wooden and Sinclair to discuss their business journeys, tips for digital networking success, and how they are using Digital Ready resources to optimize and grow their enterprises.

TSY: Jevon, what was your path from the U.S Army to becoming a business coach?

JW: At 17, I faced seven years in prison, but was fortunate not to have to do any time. This experience changed my mindset. I enlisted in the U.S. Army where I was an Information Technology specialist. I did 12 years in the military, including three tours overseas, two to Kuwait, and one in Afghanistan - where I received the Bronze Star Medal. When I returned from Afghanistan, I had PTSD and suicidal thoughts, forcing me to get help. Getting help taught me that pain and adversity can be temporary; I use that concept in my coaching business. I shifted from feeling hopeless with a scarcity mindset to feeling hopeful with an abundance and growth mindset.

Credit: Tania Fernandez

JW: In 2017, I launched Live Not Loathe to support entrepreneurs and business leaders as they move from distress to success in their personal and professional lives. You can’t be successful in business without having your life in order.

TSY: Samantha, how did educating young people become your passion?

SS: My family is from Guyana, and my parents came here to provide unlimited opportunities for my siblings and me. Part of that was education. Education is the foundation of who we are as a family. Sundays were church, dinner, then the library. I went to University at Albany-SUNY for undergraduate and got my Master’s at Columbia University. I’m now getting my PhD in education at Seton Hall. For my PhD, I have researched the challenges that students face in college prep. I started Pathway to Purpose in 2016 to make college prep innovative and fun. Since launching, Pathway to Purpose has supported 15,000 students.

Credit: Michael Le Brecht ii

TSY: Samantha, you’ve been in business for six years, what’s been your biggest challenge?

SS: When COVID hit, we lost over $100,000 in contracts, and that’s not counting the pending contracts and invoices that were on the way. At the time, we were just releasing our first product, which is our college study flashcards. We had to find revenue sources to keep the business afloat, so we started looking for grants. I came across Verizon Small Business Digital Ready and applied for the $10,000 grant.

TSY: The two of you met at the Community Connect virtual networking event in June. Jevon, you led a discussion on Revenue Generating Activities. What was the focus of your talk?

JW: We talked about how entrepreneurs can serve clients and turn them into fans along the customer journey. I covered the first two pieces of the journey, which are awareness and consideration. To me, that’s most important because that’s marketing. If people don’t know you, how can they buy your services and products?

TSY: And Samantha, what inspired you to jump on the video call? And what did you expect from the conversation?

SS: The Community Connect call was during my birthday week, and I was in Jamaica. I decided that the one-hour call was worth losing one hour of vacation, to ensure that I was growing and learning as I was getting older. I saw it as an opportunity to connect with fellow business owners with expertise outside of my own. I didn’t expect it to be so dynamic and engaging. When the presenter is lively, energetic, and enthusiastic, that makes it better. Kudos to Jevon for an awesome session. I learned key points to keep in mind as we grow and scale.

TSY: Speaking of growth, how do you use social media to network virtually and move your business forward?

JW: I don’t use social media. I use business media. Everything I do adds value. I’m not there to be social and waste hours. I’m intentional with my time. It’s a useful tool to help people see me. I’m talking to folks in the DMs, and reaching out on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. It’s about being intentional in establishing quality connections.

SS: Social media is about storytelling. And honestly, the best story wins. Funders want to see the story you’re telling on social media. It’s a means to highlight the great work we’re doing, to share resources, and support our students and families.

Credit: Tania Fernandez

TSY: What’s the best way to make the most of Community Connect events?

JW: Don’t be a fly on the wall. Be involved. You’re going to get out what you put in. Suggest different topics and courses. Be engaged because that’s what the community is for. There are different communities you can join, like the Black-owned business community. Join and get involved. Be one of the instructors. Be one of the mentors. Do what you can to create an impact on the platform.

Credit: Michael Le Brecht ii

TSY: Samantha, you’ve taken 10 Verizon Small Business Digital Ready courses, including Selling with Storytelling. What was your biggest takeaway from this specific course?

SS: The course was a beautiful reminder to continue perfecting my storytelling — especially as we launch our new Prep-On-Demand product that we hope will help 1 million people over the next five years.

Pay attention to the audience. Understand what they need to hear to move forward with your service. We’re training our team to understand that in any moment, during any interaction, you’re telling a story and that story is associated with the business.

TSY: Jevon, after taking Operating Efficiency Essentials: Smooth Operator, you restructured your workflow. What do you now delegate to your executive assistant?

JW: Mostly everything, like researching and creating PowerPoint slides and graphics. I had to relinquish control. Now, I have a 3DA formula: Delegate, Delete, Delay and Automate. I’m the face of the organization. I’m the thought leader, that’s what I focus on.

Verizon Small Business Digital Ready provides free personalized courses, live coaching, networking, micro mentorship, and grant opportunities for eligible small businesses. To sign-up for this free program, click here.

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