Stepping out on faith: a CEO dares to expand her business

By: Kweli I. Wright

Verizon Small Business Digital Ready gave Clarissa Pace new confidence to work to turn her small business into a large corporation - and to drive customers through social media.

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Clarissa Pace wears a few hats, as a wife, mother, grandmother, and city councilwoman. As a pastor, she mentors congregation members, and feels that her impact is felt as a woman of color who is also a CEO. Credit: Stephen Ironside. Mural courtesy of Erin Ashcraft

On Sunday mornings, you’ll find pastor Clarissa Pace offering a sermon to her congregation in Monticello, Arkansas. On Mondays, Pace shifts gears to another passion — helping individuals with tax prep, credit restoration and other kinds of financial services through her company Shekinah Services, LLC.

What started as a small business, run out of her home, has evolved into a thriving company with a brick-and-mortar office and full team of specialists. In addition to helping individuals, Pace empowers other entrepreneurs. “We counsel clients on how to build businesses, and how to see which business structure best suits their products and services,” Pace explains.

Gaining new skills and customers

Starting her business was a spiritual calling to help empower people financially and to support her family, Pace says. Credit: Stephen Ironside

Despite her successful track record as an entrepreneur, Pace recently wanted to boost her own business prowess. She turned to Verizon Small Business Digital Ready, a free portal that offers personalized learning modules, one-on-one coaching, networking and grant opportunities to help entrepreneurs succeed in this digital age.

Courses on the Verizon Small Business Digital Ready portal, such as ‘A Guide to Selecting Legal Structure,’ ‘Creating Content That Matters,’ and ‘Find the Right Financing for Your Business,’ gave Pace reassurance that her business savvy was up to par—and that she had the skills to grow her company. She also picked up new email marketing skills, and is now gaining more customers through email and social media campaigns.

‘Am I on the right track?’

Pace has touched the lives of many individuals in Monticello, a college town of 9,500 people in southeast Arkansas. But when it came to getting business advice, she leaned on her late mentor Leon Gibbs. Credit: Stephen Ironside

In the past, Pace called on her devoted mentor, Leon Gibbs, founder of Gibbs Contracting Inc. His guidance and advice gave Pace the confidence she needed to run her business. But after his passing several years ago, she was left heartbroken and defeated. “I kept saying, ‘What am I going to do?’ Because I could always call him and say, ‘Am I on the right track?’” says Pace.

With big plans on the horizon—Pace is ready to evolve her small business into a corporation, and leverage tax incentives to expand operations—Pace felt that Verizon has become a new kind of mentor.

“Verizon is a wealth of knowledge. For me, it’s mentorship in a bag,” she says. “I can go to the Digital Ready online portal at any time. I have it at my fingertips and I can grow my business. All it takes is stepping out on faith.”

‘It’s time to grow to another level’

Pace is proud of where she is and tries to pay it forward in honor of Gibbs. “He said to me, ‘Whatever I do for you, I want you to pass it on,” Pace says. “So that’s what I’m doing.” Credit: Stephen Ironside

Next up for Pace is re-thinking her business structure in order to grow her company. “I’m structuring my businesses to win strategically,” she says. She plans, too, to keep up with new free courses from Verizon. “I logged into the Verizon class and it was like remembering that this business has always been my dream,” says Pace. “I’ve been anxious to get back in. It’s time to grow to another level.”

For a CEO devoted to her employees and her community, growing always means bringing others along with her. “I want my employees to have what they need to be thriving business owners,” Pace says. “Although they work for me [now], I’m pushing them to work for themselves.”

Verizon Small Business Digital Ready provides on-demand courses, live coaching, networking, planning aids, and grant opportunities for eligible small businesses. To sign-up for this free program, visit verizon.com/smallbusinessdigitalready

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