Karen Wessels is the co-founder and CEO of VA Connect, Africa’s largest virtual assistant platform that provides outsourced administrative support; and is also the co-founder and CEO of SnappSales, a company that generates quality sales leads for its clients. Prior to establishing both her companies, Karen spent over 10 years in different sales, marketing & admin support roles.
This experience has equipped her with the invaluable skills required to run her multiple international business ventures successfully. To date one of her biggest achievements has been the founding of SnappSales, a highly sought-after marketing agency that focuses on finding quality sales leads for its clients.
Please tell us a little more about yourself and your journey thus far.
My entrepreneurial journey started full-time in 2013. One day out of the blue I quit my day job and since that day I haven’t looked back. My journey has been peppered with wins and fails, of which I am able to draw valuable lessons from in order to pave my path to greater business success. I have met amazing people on this journey and I truly look forward to where I’m headed as I positively impact the lives of those around me.
Please tell us a little more about how your companies came about.
My business partner and I saw a gap in the market when it came to the lack of quality sales leads for startups & SMEs. Coming from a sales background there is a noticeable chasm in many entrepreneur’s business armour and that is the skill of being able to sell. SnappSales was born out of a love for sales and being able to prospect in a successful manner and close the deal.
I had the privilege of starting one of my first businesses by helping a German company with their marketing. At the time I didn’t know of the term ‘virtual assistant’ yet that is what I was offering. As the offering evolved and more & more business owners & entrepreneurs come knocking on my door, VA Connect was born.
You are busy with some very interesting initiatives. Please tell us a little more about that.
I love the world of virtual assistance and really wanted to make a difference in the VA industry in South Africa. Daily I have ladies asking me advice of how to start their own VA business. I was able to partner up with 2 well established VA’s in Cape Town and my business partner of course, and together we founded Virtual Assistants Association of South Africa. We’ve had a phenomenal first year with creating VA awareness in South Africa. The goal is to up our game as VA’s and to offer all-round professional services to businesses and business owners alike. 2018 will be a year of increased awareness, but more importantly, more work creation for all VA’s.
What is it that you are passionate about?
I am truly & infinitely passionate about helping others. My businesses are based on this premise. I coach startups and facilitate sales workshops and I’m very grateful that I am able to do this, as I love sharing my knowledge and at the same time I enjoy the opportunity of learning.
What is your personal motto?
My personal motto is to continuously learn and to have fun whilst doing so. I do enjoy a challenge and quite honestly throughout my working career I’ve been thrown in the deep end, nothing wrong with that! So, get comfortable being uncomfortable!
What advice would you give a woman wanting to follow her dreams?
Listen to your gut, stop over-analyzing everything and don’t wait for the perfect moment. Jump right in and make it happen. The more you think things over, the longer you’ll take to get started.
Who or what has been the biggest influence in your life and why?
One of the greatest influences in my life would be my business partner. He is my mentor and constantly challenges me. We believe in getting comfortable being uncomfortable and so he pushes me out of my comfort zone all the time. Growth only happens at the edge of your comfort zone.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Oh, the wisdom of hindsight! 🙂 I would encourage my younger self to be a bigger risk-taker. You cannot grow in business without being prepared to take some form of risk. If you’re an entrepreneur you’re automatically a risk-taker, yet sometimes you need to take a bigger risk, a calculated risk, go full steam and just do it! If you are prepared to face the consequences, then take the action!
Who or what is your inspiration and why?
I’m inspired by other successful businesswomen, especially those who come from a sales background, those who experienced struggle in the beginning, pushed through and made a success of their path. These would be businesswomen who we read about in the media and the un-sung heroines who haven’t been featured yet. Keep doing what you’re doing, because you don’t only inspire me, you inspire every single aspiring female entrepreneur out there!
Your favourite daily affirmation:
If you can think it, you can do it. Everything and anything is possible.
Your favourite quote:
“Embrace what you don’t know, especially in the beginning, because what you don’t know can become your greatest asset. It ensures that you will absolutely be doing things different from everybody else.” – Sara Blakely.
Which book are you reading now?
I’m currently reading Jill Konrath’s Agile Selling. I’m inspired by successful business women who come from a sales background, especially office automation and interestingly both Jill Konrath & Sara Blakely sold office automation, which is where I started in sales. Agile Selling is a great tool for those who are starting out in sales and are keen for a more process approach to sales. She really shares some great tips!
Which book can you read over and over again?
One of my all time favourite reads is Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. Sheryl has a very engaging way of writing, she’s funny and she tells it like it is! If you are looking for inspiration, an easy read or some great business advice, then this is the book you’re looking for.
What are your top 3 business tips?
- 1. You can never learn too much. Knowledge is power, so keep empowering yourself with knowledge. Brain-feed every day!
- Be a risk-taker and be prepared to face the consequences of your choices.
- Don’t overthink things. It’s amazing how things have a way of working out. Trust the process.
What would you say is the secret to your success?
My sales background taught me to handle rejection, to see every no that is said my way as one step closer to that yes I’m looking for (and sometimes all you need is one yes!). Sales teaches you people skills, listening skills, negotiation skills, communication skills and how to deal with life’s hard-knocks in order to move on.
One general piece of advice you would like to share:
Share your business idea! Share your thoughts on what you are building. I don’t know why there is a culture of secrecy in South Africa when launching a business. We’re so focused on someone else not stealing our idea that we forget that by sharing we could be saved a possible mistake in our business or the person we are sharing with could introduce you to a key person to enable the success of your business. Get sharing!! There’s more than enough business for everyone to go around.
Is there anything that Xtraordinary Women can do to assist you on your journey?
Please share the importance and power of having sales skills, especially women in business. Sales skills are a powerful skill to have! And all it really is, is having great communication skills.