Shortly after moving from Dallas, Texas native Brittany Stephenson embraced her wanderlust and relocated to Greater Hartford, where she began to lay the foundation for her business and turned her passion into profit.
Since the launch of Busy Bee’s Virtual Assistance & Management, LLC in early 2016, she has gained clientele through strong word of mouth and built a growing team of seven to 10 freelance employees and three interns.
Brittany is also completing her Master of Science in Human Resources Management at the University of Connecticut School of Business (2021). MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price spoke with Brittany about starting her business, how her master’s degree will benefit her business, and her involvement with local organizations.
NAN PRICE: How did you develop the business concept for Busy Bee’s?
BRITTANY STEPHENSON: My professional background is in (C-Suite) administration. Since undergrad, I’ve held positions increasing responsibilities for local government and municipalities. My passion is for helping others. I just leaned into what connected both of those realities and here we are.
I moved to Connecticut five years ago and, during that time, I began to help one of my best friends balance life as a super-busy surgery resident. I started out small, making food for her and taking care of her personal needs while she worked on saving lives. Her colleagues were impressed with the fact that she always had healthy food options and one by one started asking her to cook for them. The answer to that was 100% yes! That transitioned to me doing meal prep and grocery shopping for about 10 people.
At the same time, I was helping her with administrative tasks such as booking flights and conference registrations. I loved finding the best travel deals and she loved how seamless the process was for her. She trusted me to meet her needs, which included helping her close on her first home and, in turn, I enjoyed organizing her life.
I was working a “real job” at that time, so I didn’t think much of it. I was just helping my friend. Soon I realized people actually needed my services and needed a way to reach me. I created a honey-colored business card that said, “Honey, let me handle all your needs.” It was so Texan and so me at the same time. My friend started handing them out at work and telling her family and friends how much I streamlined her personal life. Although I eventually changed my business cards, my phone has never stopped ringing!
NAN: Is word of mouth your primary marketing tool?
BRITTANY: Absolutely! My clients are 98%referral-based. I have a huge client base in Dallas and in a number of major cities including Cleveland, Chicago, and LA. I am also very happy to have clients locally and in the New England region.
NAN: In what ways has COVID-19 affected your business?
BRITTANY: In some ways, we were impacted like everyone else. We lost a couple of clients who were trying to streamline and figure out if we were in their budget or slowed services with others who wanted to keep us but in a decreased capacity. But we’ve also been very fortunate because we are a virtual business. We took on projects that included getting people comfortable with virtual platforms and such. We thrive in the virtual world. In fact, we helped clients with major virtual events every Saturday in September.
In a real sense, we’re just what people need right now. Whether people are transitioning back to the office or continuing remote work, they need administrative assistance and management. If you can outsource your administrative support, you no longer have to carry that overhead of having a full-time employee. It makes sense!
NAN: You’re running and growing a successful business, what spurred you to return to school for your master’s in Human Resources?
BRITTANY: Great question. I had an epiphany a couple years ago. Law school has always been a dream for me but being a free spirit is my reality. That said, I realized law school wouldn’t be a good fit for me right now because I do not want to be “barred” to a particular state (pun intended). I thought about HR because I love people connections.
I googled Human Resources Management programs in the region one night and noted UConn had an info session scheduled for their program. It was for the entire business school and although I’ve always been adamant about not wanting a MBA, I loved the idea of a Masters in People Management. Initially, I didn’t really understand why the program would be in the School of Business but of course, that question has been answered a million times since being accepted into the program.
Through the HR program, I do tons of beta testing using my business as the model. I take the course content and apply it to my business. I restructured my intake process and enhanced my data and metrics analytics process. I also get the best writing prompts from my clients—talk about case studies.
NAN: So, it’s really enabled you to work on your business while you’re working in your business.
BRITTANY: Exactly. In real time. The alignment is perfect. Simultaneously running a business and being in the class, I’m learning how to avoid business mistakes I would have made on my own had I not been in this program. It’s like having a personalized mentor or business coach.
NAN: What other programs, organizations, or mentors have you engaged with on your entrepreneurial path?
BRITTANY: I’m a member of the Human Resources Leadership Forum of Southern New England (HRLF) and I’m the newly elected Director of Professional Development for the Urban League of Greater Hartford Young Professionals. I’m also the immediate past president of Playhouse Theatre Group’s Young Professional Advisory Board and member of the PTG Advisory Council.
Building my network has been one of the most pivotal points in my career as a business owner. As I’ve built my business toolbox, I realize that you need the right people to bounce ideas off of and get tips and advice. Building that tribe of people has been very helpful. People are more than willing to support you in any capacity and I’m grateful for each interaction, coffee, or Zoom meeting scheduled in that regard.
As an example, my connection to Andréa Hawkins sparked this very conversation and you inviting me to be on the IDH 5-Year Anniversary Higher Education panel. That’s the byproduct of networking and making those connections.
NAN: What’s your biggest takeaway from launching your own business?
BRITTANY: That’s a hard question! I’d say the biggest takeaway is the realization that people will pay for what you are passionate about and like to do. Going into business ownership and developing this from something I was passionate about has really been rewarding. I’ve found comfort in serving people the best way I can. It feels good. It’s helping other people and it’s helping me.