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Latesha Byrd is a career coach who launched her own firm a few years ago. You may have seen her name in national publications like Forbes or Money Magazine. She’s also an occasional SkillPop instructor.
Byrd, 30, grew up in Raleigh and as a kid, always loved numbers. She’d create little budgets as a way to help out around the house. Eventually, she became a certified public accountant, then later transitioned to recruiting and career counseling. Despite the pandemic, Byrd has experienced a surge in demand for her services in recent months. She has big plans for further growth in Charlotte and beyond.
(The following has been edited for clarity and brevity.)
What brought you to Charlotte?
I have an aunt that lives here and I used to come up and visit her during the summertime. I’ve always loved Charlotte because it was the first major city that I was exposed to growing up. Later I came back to go to UNC Charlotte and majored in accounting.
What was your first job after college?
After graduating, I went to N.C. State, got my master’s in accounting, then took and passed the CPA exam. After that, I started at one of the big four accounting firms, KPMG.
What made you want to branch out on your own to start your own consulting firm?
I transitioned into recruiting after about six months at KPMG. I helped out with doing mock interviews at UNC Charlotte and just loved it. I felt like I was really able to connect with the people that I was meeting. It felt very natural.
I had friends and family who started coming to me for career advice and help with getting jobs and getting into graduate school. They’d tell me they got the job, or got some huge raise. So I just said, You know what? The next person to come to me for help, I’m gonna charge them. And that’s really how my business started. I left corporate in early 2018.
It really just started off as a hobby. I don’t like to think that I founded my company. Rather, it founded me.
What sort of work were you doing at first?
My company started off as offering resume-writing services — helping with grad school applications, LinkedIn makeovers — and then I was doing workshops in the community around resume building, interviewing, and goal setting for your career. I went and got certified as a career coach and a certified life coach.
As of late, companies have started to reach out to me to say, “I see that you’re doing all of this for women of color for people of color. Can you come into our organization? Or can you give us some consulting around how we can be more inclusive?”
Which industries do you work with?
I’ve worked with clients in all industries. Right now I like to focus on tech because it’s booming. I also like media. Those are the two that are big for me right now. But I’ve done banking, finance, accounting, project management, higher education, health care.
What sort of soft skills do you focus on?
Career visioning and positioning. Letting go of what you thought you wanted to do or what your parents wanted you to do. You know, it’s sometimes releasing that and having the ability to say, you know what, let me do this for me professionally, let me release all of the standards that society has placed where they said, women can’t do this or whatever.
How much did you have to invest into your own business at first?
Around $1,500. That included paying for a website, business cards, my email, getting the business registered online.
How has your job evolved within your business?
I’m coaching on a very limited basis now. I’m in an interesting point because I’m really looking to scale a million-dollar business or even multimillion dollar business. So that is going to require me to remove myself from the day-to-day and focus more on strategy, business development, building my team out, and really having that solid infrastructure. In April, I launched a membership club called Career Chasers.
What’s the goal of the membership club?
People like to go through experiences together. One thing that I’ve realized with coaching Black women or women of color, is that they all have very similar experiences. It’s mind blowing how often women of color are overlooked and not supported.
What do you see as the club’s future?
Right now it has 500 members and they’re all over the country, from the U.S. to Sweden to South Africa to Nigeria. I want to scale it, so my goal is to have 5,000 members by 2021. I would love to get corporations to sponsor a few hundred of their female leaders to join, because it’s literally doing something that a lot of companies aren’t able to do.
These women feel encouraged. They motivate each other. They share resources. They have a whole tribe of women that are right there, rooting them on. We have an online group with a monthly masterclass I lead. Each each month has a different theme, such as salary negotiation or building out your LinkedIn.
How has your business fared these past few months?
March was a very tough month. I had a lot of speaking engagements get canceled. I kept up with virtual events. As a business owner, I felt helpless. I wanted to do something to help because a lot of people were losing their jobs. … I put out as much free advice as I could, including a video about how the pandemic could affect the job market. After that, I had a couple of news stations that reached out to me here in Charlotte. I posted a thread on Twitter about interviewing virtually. That kind of went viral, and an editor from Money Magazine reached out and asked me to write about it.
When it really picked up for me was after George Floyd and all the social unrest going on. 2020 has been the most transformational year for me personally and also professionally for my business. Now my work is being amplified and is being recognized. Companies really want to make the change. They want their companies to be a safe space for their employees now.
I’m sad that has taken something so horrendous, with police brutality as well as with this whole pandemic. But it has actually helped my business grow.
If you could give one piece of advice to 22-year-old Latesha what would it be?
You can define and redefine what success looks like for you as much as you need to.
What is your No. 1 piece of financial advice?
It’s important to understand the areas where you’re lacking in knowledge. Hire someone. It’ll pay off in dividends. I started working with a personal finance coach in January. She’s helped me with my budget, with paying off credit cards, and with creating an emergency savings fund.
Want to read more about personal finance? Find our Cash Confessional series here.