Running an Ethical VA Business – Year 2 Reflections

Founder Maya delivering a talk about her journey growing an ethical Virtual Assistant business

September 2023 marks 2 years since I founded our ethical VA business, Planner Bee VA Services and it has absolutely flown by! Last year I wrote a blog post with my reflections and learnings from our first year in business, so I thought I would continue the tradition and sum up some of my highlights and learnings from year 2. With ambitious plans to be bigger and better this year, as part of our vision to become the go-to Virtual Assistant service for sustainable and ethical businesses, this has been another brilliant year filled with fabulous clients, huge highlights and of course, lots of learnings.

With 30% of businesses failing in the first 2 years, we are really proud to be celebrating our second business birthday, because running a business (particularly as a young woman entrepreneur) definitely isn’t easy. But we have made it this far, supporting more than 35 amazing SMEs through the provision of social media management, copywriting, email marketing and exec VA services; providing more than 2,500 hours of support during our second year in business!

10 Highlights from year 2 of running an ethical Virtual Assistant business

1. One of the biggest highlights of our second year has to be the impact our support has had on the amazing small businesses we work with. Over the last year we have received feedback like “It’s been a dream come true working with Planner Bee VA Services” and “Their calm, organised way of dealing with my random, sporadic projects has been like having an angel beside me.” In addition to the lovely feedback we have received, we have also helped to create amazing tangible results for our clients, for example, one of our clients saw a 3.5x return on their investment after working with us as their Social Media Manager for just 3 months!

2. To enable us to support as many sustainable and ethical businesses as possible, this year our hive has grown and we are now a small team of 3. The Planner Bee VA Services team now includes me, Maya, the business Founder, Alex our Copywriter and Sally our Social Media Specialist. Plus, this year we have also been supported by 2 placement students from Robert Gordon University.

3. The growth of our team this year has also enabled me to do something that I wasn’t sure would ever be possible – go on a working holiday. In April, I packed my bags and moved to Lisbon for a month of balancing working with sightseeing, sun and surfing. Get the full Lisbon Lowdown here, including how I made the month-long trip possible and everything I learnt along the way.

Maya with her Scottish Women's Awards certificate

4. Another highlight was being nominated as a finalist at the Scottish Women’s Awards and receiving the Highly Commended certificate in the Young Entrepreneur category at the Glasgow award ceremony in October 2022. This was the first time I have attended an awards event and it was incredible to be in a room with so many inspiring Scottish women – a truly memorable evening.

5. During our second year in business, I decided to challenge myself to put myself out there and try public speaking, to build both my personal brand and awareness of our work at Planner Bee VA Services. As part of this I delivered a fireside chat at the Aberdeen Transform Business Festival, talking about my journey founding an ethical VA business as a young entrepreneur. I have also been a podcast guest for both the Yes She Can and Mindset and Action podcasts

6. In addition to speaking at my first business event, I partnered with DYW North East and returned to my old high school, to deliver a very different session sharing my business journey. Returning to my old school felt like a full-circle moment and being able to become the role model that I didn’t have growing up, to inspire the next generation of young entrepreneurs, was a huge highlight of the year.

7. One of the most challenging but also most rewarding experiences of our second year in business was joining 24 strangers to attend the Elevator Challenge Weekend. Before I went I was feeling apprehensive (to say the least). But, I pushed myself and I learned so much from the experience; about myself and what I am capable of and about working as a team. During the weekend we built a boat, I used a saw for the first time and we climbed a really tall tree (to name a few of the activities) – it was an experience I will never forget.

8. Our second year in business was also the year that I appeared on BBC Radio 4, talking about my business and my dreams and plans for the future – this was definitely a pinch-me moment!

9. As well as a radio appearance, we have been featured in some incredible press articles this year too, including as part of Business Live’s 23 rising stars in 2023 for International Women’s Day and Digit News March 2023 Movers and Shakers list. The Planner Bee VA Services journey has also been supported locally through articles in Aberdeen Business News, Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce and Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce.

10. There are so many highlights from the last year that I could go on and on (but I won’t because this list is already quite long). So, the final highlight I will include is being featured in the Aberdeen 30 under 30 list by Aberdeen Young Professionals! It feels incredible to be listed alongside a group of such inspiring individuals and I’m looking forward to seeing what the future brings for our city.

Key Learnings from Running an Ethical VA Business for 2 Years

  • The power of momentum in growing a successful business. Now, 24 months into our business journey, the consistency is paying off and we are starting to build momentum. For days/ weeks/ months it can feel like you are taking consistent action without experiencing any tangible results. But if you keep going, the momentum builds and you start experiencing the results that the consistent action has created. It is incredibly rewarding.
  • Having effective systems and processes in place is key to growth. Systems and processes might not be the most glamorous aspect of running a business, but when it comes to growing a team and building an efficient and effective business, having the right systems in place is crucial. 
  • The importance of perspective. During our first year in business, I was so invested in making the business a success and doing everything ‘right’, that the smallest bump in the road could become a major cause of stress. As the business has grown (and I have grown) in year 2, I have learnt the value of taking a step back when problems arise, for a sense of perspective. On most occasions, the saying “if it won’t matter in 5 years, don’t spend more than 5 minutes worrying about it” is probably true.
  • There is no magic ingredient to building a successful business. No matter what anybody says on social media, there really isn’t. Growing a thriving business comes down to hard work, consistency, leveraging what works, building a strong team and a little bit of luck – it doesn’t happen overnight.
  • The value of doing less better. Particularly when it comes to marketing, as an SME with limited time and resources, there is value in going all in on fewer marketing activities. Instead of trying to be everywhere all of the time, focus on quality over quantity. For us, we have focused on LinkedIn and networking, and this strategy has played a huge role in our growth over the last year.
Maya sitting at a desk working as a Virtual Assistant

Reflecting on 2 Years Running a Virtual Assistant Service

For Planner Bee VA Services, our second year in business has been an absolute rollercoaster, with the highest highs and also some very low lows. Overall, this has been another amazing year, we have kept moving forward and our ethical VA business has doubled in size from year 1!

I am so grateful for the support of my fabulous team, clients and supporters – thank you.

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