The idea for VaVa struck Lauren while at work one day. She was working in sales, in a typical corporate office setting, when the idea came to her. She says she remembers the moment because she stepped out into the hallway to call her dad and tell him her idea.
She realized many small business owners needed help with day-to-day operations and administrative tasks, but they either didn’t have the money to hire someone in-house or didn’t require full-time help. She knew a way to deliver services quickly, economically, and remotely. However, she couldn’t do it alone. A mutual friend and Lauren’s roommate at the time, Lindsay Audette, put her in touch with Melanie. Without Lindsay, VaVa may not be what it is today. She set the entire thing in motion.
Melanie and Lauren met at a Panera Bread in North Hollywood, CA to flush out the idea and discuss what their new business would offer. Melanie came up with the name “VaVa” on the spot because they were a business of two virtual assistants (VAs) and it just stuck. Having previously felt a little uncertain in what her calling was, she was on board right from the get-go because it allowed her the freedom she desired to explore what she wanted in her career.
Melanie: It helped me realize that what I valued most in my workday was helping others and having freedom to own my own days. It offered me clarity and ended up being the perfect fit.
VaVa was always meant to be a virtual gig, even though many people were still fuzzy on what a virtual assistant actually was way back then. This ultimately allowed for great conversations with potential customers.
Melanie: It was really good that we had each other in the beginning. Neither of us had a network of other entrepreneurs to lean on, and it’s hard to talk about what you’re going through when you’re building a business if the other person has never done it before.
Lauren: It’s hard to support something or someone if you don’t understand what they do in a day. (Having each other) was nice because no one got it yet, no one even knew what a virtual assistant was yet.
Melanie: We just had to believe in what we were doing and lean on each other because it’s hard to support something that you’re still trying to figure out for yourself. We make great business partners.
Lauren: Not everyone gets it right with a business partner but we did. I just love that. We’re extremely blessed that so many things have just lined up for us. I was nervous Melanie might leave VaVa to be a psychologist when she started grad school to get her MA in psych. We’re such a great team and I never wanted her to leave.
Both women agree they hit the jackpot having each other for business partners. They’ve not only been able to overcome fear and self-doubt, but have been there to motivate and support each other every step of the way.
Lauren: We didn’t really know what we were doing, we didn’t have anyone to lean on or help us, but we still went with it. We followed our intuition, and we didn’t let ourselves get too scared to start or to make the decisions we knew we needed to make in order to grow.
For the first couple of years, VaVa operated day by day, week by week. Lauren and Melanie were trying to run the business as CEOs but also doing all the administrative assistant work for their clients themselves. It took nearly three years before either of them felt they were gaining any traction. Lauren said she never doubted that it would be successful, but she kept working her job in sales for the first couple of years to make ends meet.
Lauren: I know many people didn’t really think of us as a solid business until we started actually making money. And maybe we didn’t either. I saw success early on, but it finally clicked when I started paying my bills with the money I was making in the business.
Within the first six months, they knew VaVa would be successful. They may not have known when things would finally feel solid, but they kept pushing forward with the confidence that it would. Now, VaVa has evolved and grown into more than either of them ever imagined.
Melanie: When we started, we didn’t have long-term vision. Where we are now far exceeds where I thought VaVa would be when we started. I actually didn’t imagine that we would employ such a big team. I’m so happy we’ve grown into this because we can serve so many more business owners to help make their dreams a reality, employ so many wonderful and talented people, and offer great quality services with everyone’s skill sets.
In the beginning, the pair did everything together from client calls to administrative tasks. A business coach pointed out to them that doing things this way was really holding them back, especially when Lauren was living on the East coast while Melanie was living on the West coast. Neither one of them was wholly playing to their own individual strengths to maximize efficiency and productivity. Not to mention, Melanie was in grad school while Lauren worked another job, all while trying to get VaVa off the ground. Truthfully, even up to this year, they’re still dividing up their roles at times and figuring out what each one should be solely responsible for.
Despite some hiccups, they each believe that they got extremely lucky with most things regarding VaVa. It may have taken some time to really take off, but it did really take off. Every lesson they’ve learned has helped them to be stronger as business owners and individually, growing the confidence in their careers and within the company to make the tough calls and face changes bravely.
Money, not surprisingly, was once particularly hard for them to talk about. Money is historically considered a taboo talking point for most women, so much so that over 60% of women would rather talk about their own death than money! As both Lauren and Melanie came from similar backgrounds, with families that were extremely conservative with talking about money, they too had to jump that hurdle in their business. It’s perhaps one of the biggest learning curves that women have had to conquer. Thankfully, another female entrepreneur and friend helped them out early on by teaching them, “know your worth and ask for what you want.”
Lauren: We got taken advantage of a lot in the beginning because we didn’t know how to ask for what we wanted. When it came to talking about money, our families just didn’t. But we have to talk about it, that’s the reason we’re doing this. We as women have to get comfortable with it. I’ve had calls where I knew what I wanted, but I didn’t say it and I was frustrated with myself.
With time, they’ve learned a ton of valuable lessons that have helped them to streamline their business processes, attract the right clients, and grow their staff, enabling them to focus on business growth and the future.
Melanie: We just want to keep supporting more and more businesses. We also want to build training programs, classes, and certifications for VAs coming into the field and be mentors for others in the space.
Lauren: I’m a firm believer in speaking it into existence because I think that truly helps to hold us accountable. If you don’t, then what is it? You’ve got to talk about it or it won’t happen! For instance, we made a goal before July that we would get 30 new clients in three months. I mean, pre-Coronavirus we were only signing three or four a month. But now we’re not even two months in since making this goal, and we’ve already welcomed 27 new clients.
The power of intention has certainly never let them down. Melanie and Lauren are also extremely proud to make VaVa a new partner of Roam, a workspace for entrepreneurs and small businesses operating without their own office spaces. It offers a flexible meeting place for teams like VaVa, and Melanie and Lauren frequently host their own brainstorming sessions there. This new partnership and endeavor is huge for VaVa’s growth and their reputation. They’re on the fast track to becoming the nation’s best, largest, and most reliable virtual assistant firm.
Lauren: When I set out to do something, I really set out to accomplish it because I’m determined not to fail.
VaVa was born in Los Angeles, but before the business turned one-year-old, Lauren decided she had had enough of the hustle and bustle of the West coast. She moved to Atlanta, where small businesses have a better chance to thrive. A few years later, Melanie joined her. That’s when the magic really started happening for VaVa.
Lauren: Atlanta is so good for the small business community. We’ve had so much growth out here. The people are amazing, there’s so much to do. It was definitely the best choice!
Melanie: I was finishing up grad school when VaVa really took off and I thought, “This is where it’s at!” It’s the career I’ve always wanted because it really lets me utilize my strengths and creativity in the ways that feel the best to me. I will want to be a part of VaVa forever, and as the team grows, my role will change to fit what I’m needed for.
Thanks to the original genius plan to make VaVa a virtual company, it has fortunately been spared the hardship other companies have faced during the pandemic and is thriving. Although there were some slower days, VaVa kept most days business as usual for their employees. They were ahead of the curve when stay-at-home orders had people scrambling to find a way to work remotely, thankful to be in the buzzword space of remote and virtual work solutions.
Melanie and Lauren are just as nice in person as they seem on the page. They truly care about their team and their clients, approaching all business partnerships with care and openness. Their method has been to keep growing organically to meet their clients’ evolving needs, and it hasn’t failed them yet. To set a consultation with these amazing ladies and see for yourself all the wonderful ways VaVa can help you, contact them here.