Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hey everyone! My name is LaKenya Kopf and I'm the founder of Kopf Consulting Virtual Assistance. Manifested from frustration and insane pricing structures, Kopf Consulting has provided affordable and professional virtual technical support to all levels of entrepreneurship for over 14 years.
While Kopf Consulting's primary focus is to provide dedicated virtual tech assistance, we have also expanded to providing training, consulting, and hiring services.
Over the last decade, we have found that some entrepreneurs prefer to keep a tight hold on their business and just want someone to hold their hand or teach them the “how” so they can do it themselves. By adding training, consulting, and specialty hiring services, we are now able to support every facet of a growing business.
As our focus is on the software and not a particular niche or location, our reach is universal and international. Whether our client is a beauty salon in California or an accounting firm in Canada, a real estate company in New York or a life coach in Australia, CRMs and email marketing systems will work just like. They’ll allow us to provide them with the care and support they need for nurturing leads, converting sales, and managing their customer journey.
What started as a favor to a friend has flourished into a full-time, six-figure, tech-support company with dedicated clients, international recognition, and a constant waitlist that continuously births innovative ways for Kopf Consulting to work with clients without being overloaded or sacrificing the quality of service.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
There is a saying in the Marine Corps “If the Corps wanted me to have a wife, they would have issued me one.” They weren’t kidding.
As a military spouse, attempting to be hired AND hold onto a job while constantly PCSing (moving from base to base) was a nightmare. In 2007, virtual full-time work with companies was nonexistent to external hires.
No one is an overnight success story. It may seem like it but it takes years, persistence, struggles, disappointments, and a lot of pivoting to find your stride and succeed.
After trying for months to find work only to be politely rejected, I decided there had to be a better way - something that would allow me to have a steady income and could move with me, no matter where we were stationed.
My primary concern was that my skill set was hands-on tech support. Having worked at Circuit City as a PC Technician and as a Technical Consultant for Stress-Free Computing, I knew software and hardware on individual computers, I had no idea how I could translate that to virtual work.
I started talking to a friend of mine about it and she mentioned that her job was having a residency weekend and was looking for an independent consultant to help with the event. The problem was she was located in Virginia and I was living in Maryland at the time.
The solution: I would complete the vast majority of the work virtually (creating badges, documentation, managing registration, etc) and travel to Southeast Virginia for the week of the event to play the role of on-site assistant.
That was it! She was in another state but I was able to support her virtually for her administrative tasks. As a child of two Navy Admin parents, admin work was in my blood. Couple that with my knack for computer software and I could offer a combination of administrative support and quick over-the-phone tech support (same as when people would call into Circuit City with a problem).
I realized the idea was perfect. It wasn’t tied to a location so no matter where we were stationed, I would be employed. The military had a MyCAA program that would send me back to school for a Master’s Degree in Information Technology Management, so I would have the education behind the skills I already possessed.
My friend had already proven there was a need, I just needed to find more companies looking for the same thing.
Take us through the process of designing and setting up your service offering.
Attempting to create a concept that only a few had tried and wasn’t universally needed was difficult (it wasn’t something I was finding in the help wanted ads).
I spent hours researching “Ways to make money online” or “Ways to make money from home” to determine a broader span of services to provide.
My first step was brainstorming. What was I good at doing? What had I done in the past that could translate to work?
For the first two years, the business was more of a side hustle, working primarily through word of mouth and picking up odd jobs here and there.
In October 2011, DEK Consulting was officially formed. At the time, I hadn’t heard of WordPress and knew nothing about hosting services so I built my very first website on Wix.
I spent hours researching “Ways to make money online” or “Ways to make money from home” to determine a broader span of services to provide. The results led me to a need for an online receptionist/customer service, transcribing, and administrative assistance.
I checked out books from the library and researched what I needed to do to create a real company. I registered my DBA for $50 and created my first business account with BB&T. As I was able to do everything online, the entire setup process took one night
I began volunteering and bartering for increased exposure and reviews. I took note of everything I needed to create for my business as I began to expand and added those items to my list of skills.
Through trial and error and with the help of freelancer sites such as Elance (now UpWork), I learned about online marketing and the digital ads space, self-hosting versus fully hosted sites, social media marketing and management, CRMs, email marketing systems, CMS (primarily OpenCart at the time - WordPress would come later), and lead generation.
I was finally ready and had what I needed to design services and offerings that worked for other small business owners. I realized having two different tiers of business worked best. Retainer would provide a more stable/steady income for me while ‘Pay As You Go’ created more affordable flexibility for those on a tight budget.
While Retainer clients would be a priority, both tiers would provide dedicated virtual support for their business. What I didn’t know, I would learn on my own time so I could support a small business - allow them to receive the help they needed, and constantly expand my knowledge pool.
Describe the process of launching the business.
In 2017, I decided I wanted to rebrand my business and designed to launch Kopf Consulting as a full-time support company. I also wanted to "practice what I supported" by creating a better online presence through search engines and social media.
Taking the skills I had learned over the years, I built my first stand-alone website using WordPress (Hostgator was the hosting service), I created social media accounts on all the established platforms at that time (including Google Plus), I applied for my first business credit card and changed my business checking account to my new business name.
My goal was to keep overhead costs low, again—this is what I wanted to teach to other businesses as well—how to establish a business without breaking the bank. I had a modest marketing budget using Google Ads, adding my business to online business directories, regularly posting on social media, and continued to find work using sites such as Freelancer, Guru, Hire My Mom, and Elance.
After the renaming and launching of Kopf Consulting, it took eight months before I grew from a part-time side hustle into a full-time business. Through those eight months, I very quickly learned to fine-tune my business presentation, what signs/flags to listen for when interviewing potential clients, and what questions to ask to ensure the fit is mutual for both sides (as well as establishing boundaries from the beginning).
I also learned the value of bartering and volunteering as well as the limitations. The biggest lesson of all was the importance of SEO. Having switched names and branding without making a direct tie between DEK Consulting and Kopf Consulting cost me all the SEO and notoriety I had built over the past four years. I was essentially starting from scratch.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Over the last four years that I have been "all in" and have grown Kopf Consulting exponentially, what has continued to work is my output of knowledge.
Being an asset is more valued and more effective than any amount of marketing.
I do not spend money on marketing or advertising.
What I spend is time and energy becoming certified and learning how digital marketing works and what aspects need to be in place to be a part of the Customer Journey.
Becoming familiar with the Buyer's Journey, I focussed my organic marketing efforts on the awareness stage. By creating blog posts to help fellow entrepreneurs identify problems (and solutions), answering inquiries in Facebook Groups, posting suggestions on LinkedIn and Instagram, and creating a free resource guide for entrepreneurs, I have become valued in my niche.
To expand this further, I am also a member of several female-oriented entrepreneur networking groups. When attending meetings, I provide industry-level insight that members retain and apply to their business. That free knowledge extends to a mental business card for further training/consulting in the future or Word of Mouth/Recommendations to a colleague that may have a similar problem.
Being an asset is more valued and more effective than any amount of marketing. It is customized to the individual or applicable to those who read it. I can create a generic Facebook/Google ad that (depending on the number of variations) "may" be the solution to your problem or I can respond to your Facebook group post with specifics and screenshots that not only eliminate the issue but provide proof to the inquirer and to the others that I have the skills and knowledge to help with your business needs.
I also believe in full transparency within my company and the concept of “Under promise, Over deliver”. When potential clients come to me, there isn’t any “selling”, just confirmation and reassurance. They come in knowing what to expect and recommend me to others for that exact reason (no games, no stress, no upselling or hidden intentions, just WYSIWYG).
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today, Kopf Consulting is not only a highly sought after Virtual Assistance Company, it has expanded to providing training and consulting services to solopreneurs, freelancer hiring services to entrepreneurs and small businesses who want to expand their personnel but don't have the time or desire to recruit, Flex Support Services that allow those starting on a tight budget to receive certified help without crushing additional costs, and the latest addition - one time services to help get small businesses up and running (i.e. setting up a domain, podcast setup, website migration, Zapier integrations, etc).
With a social media following of 10k across the board, daily website traffic of 50-100 visitors, and an ever-growing waitlist for retainer clients, Kopf Consulting continues to exceed the expectations of its initial side hustle form.
As Kopf Consulting's revenue continues to grow, it adheres to the needs of social responsibility by contributing profits and affiliate marketing commissions to charity organizations around the globe.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Research helped me avoid several common missteps of those starting a new business; however, I did have a few lessons I had to learn the hard way. The first lesson is the importance of boundaries when creating new business relationships as well as setting precedence. If you tell a client you do not work nights and weekends but occasionally respond on nights and weekends, you nullify your boundary. If in the future, you say you are not available, you receive the inevitable "In the past.." or "You did it before...".
Another lesson is the "Power of no". Whether it is declining a potential opportunity, saying no to something you prefer not to do, or simply reaffirming your boundaries, it is ok to say "no". If it causes you to lose a client or miss out on an opportunity, it or they were not the right fit for you.
The most important lesson is that you are the owner of your business, not your clients. There is absolutely NO reason you should have a toxic work environment when you are your boss. It is ok to fire a client. No one has the right to treat you less than and no amount of money is worth any type of degradation, abuse, or your peace of mind.
One "oops" I would advise against is not collecting emails from the beginning. I never thought I would care about email marketing or creating a newsletter and it took me years to implement this strategy into my business. When I did, I realized I missed out on a decade of collecting emails and being able to provide new business solutions to past leads.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
My business wouldn't be able to run without Asana. It is my preferred task management system. I have used Teamwork, Basecamp, Productiv, and Trello - Asana has been the only one that allows me to stay organized based on clients, tasks, recurring tasks, and allows me to choose between creating a list and creating a board (and switching between the two). It isn't more than what I need (like ClickUp and Monday) and has been a cornerstone of my productivity for years.
Other tools that help my business thrive are:
- Book Like a Boss for my training and consulting business and
- Honeybook for my one-time services.
- Combined with Asana, these three tools are Kopf Consulting.
Outside of the tools that I use for business administration purposes, I LOVE Keap Max Classic (it is my favorite CRM), Socialbee.io for my evergreen social media scheduling, Later for my one-time social media scheduling, Wishpond for my freebies/landing pages, and Canva for my graphic design needs.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
The three books I read that made the biggest impact on my entrepreneurial journey and contributed to starting my business are E-Commerce Get it Right by Ian Daniel, How to Start a Home Based Online Retail Business by Jeremy Shepherd and The Stay at Home Mom’s Guide to Making Money by Liz Folger.
Each of these books provided hands-on experience of how they started their business, what they wished they knew, what they learned, and the steps to take, not only to get up and going but to thrive in a competitive market.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
My advice for those who are looking to get started is this: no one is an overnight success story. It may seem like it but it takes years, persistence, struggles, disappointments, and a lot of pivoting to find your stride and succeed. No one person has the answers and a single resource for information isn't enough. Don't be afraid to ask questions, do research, go to networking events, and admit what you don't know (how else do you learn). You will be surprised how often others want to share their wisdom.
Often I see ego and arrogance get in the way of success. They don't want help from others and don't believe they will (or can) make missteps or mistakes in their business. Other times I have witnessed many falls to the lure of shortcuts or impatience.
If I can leave a reader with anything, it would be this - people lie and are probably not making as much as they are saying and/or are not as successful as they claim, sustaining success takes time, always having a backup plan, and trust your gut - you will have a lot of people telling you how you "should" do it or how they would do it - listen to them, consider their advice - and then go with your gut. You may implement a part of what they are saying or you may use their idea as a jumping-off point, upgrading it to something that fits you better but always listen to your intuition for what's best in your business.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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