Alyssa Gasca, owner of Spark Executive Solutions, was planning to take a break in 2020, then came COVID-19 and social unrest. Read how she navigates through it.
In 2019, after 13 years of running her business, Alyssa Gasca was burnt out. She got everything in place so she would spend less time working and more time with her daughter. Things were going along well in 2020, then the pandemic hit in March.
Leaving a corporate job to start a solo business
A little background on Alyssa’s business: Spark Executive Solutions helps local, mid-sized businesses develop leadership teams. That involves half- or full-day workshops. “People are really present whe
n working in-person. Now, we do this in 90-minute Zoom meetings over a few days.”
Alyssa started her business after working at Intel for 12 years. “Around this time she met Jackie, who specializes in working with solopreneurs. I wanted a change.” She adds she wanted to start a business that she would “intentionally keep small, and bring on subcontractors as needed, depending on the project.”
Smart planning for time off to spend with family in 2020
Then she realized that she needed a break (no client-facing work, but still running it as a CEO) at the end of 2019, and wanted to spend more time with her daughter and thinking about what was next with her business. With a financial plan already set up for 2020, Alyssa planned to take time off through September 2020. She had enough in savings to pay through that time, and her team was able to drum up more work with existing clients. But many businesses canceled their workshops due to COVID-19. Still, others signed up for consulting. Work was lagging, and she had to reduce her part-time assistant’s hours and eventually laid that person off. Alyssa did get a Payment Protection Program loan, but it only lasted so long.
Preparing for time off helps during the pandemic, but challenges still exist
What has worked so far? What’s helped Spark Executive Solutions get through the pandemic and social unrest? Her coaching and workshop business has been helping management and their staff prepare to navigate crises all along, but now there is a whole new level of that in 2020.
Spark was asked to help companies come up with plans in the new environment. “Everyone is trying to lead in a remote environment. How to plan for productivity, a change in strategy, or keep employees engaged. How to be the calm leader through the chaos.”
Volunteering services is another thing that has kept her going. Alyssa belongs to a mastermind group of CEOs that meets monthly, to discuss their challenges. She was asked to lead a few workshops on how to get through crises, which she did. “I wanted to be of service, and I wasn’t working as much.”
What’s happening now? She has hired someone to help with marketing. “I do not have full-time work yet, but I have some and I am working on business development now to build it back up.”