She now runs an achievement consulting practice, dedicated to helping students receive scholarships. You can follow her on Instagram @nnennaya_darling. Check out her website and LinkedIn account to find out more. You can also buy her books!
What is your educational consulting business? What services do you provide?
As a Higher Education Consultant, I help people go to college, grad school or trade school with scholarships. I earned over $100,000 in scholarships to go to college and grad school. Now I use my personal experiences to teach other people how to do the same thing. I believe everyone, regardless of age or socioeconomic status, deserves access to a quality higher education. A quality higher education has the power to transform people’s lives. I’ve seen it for myself in the life of my parents, my own life and the life of my clients. Long-term, I want to redefine access to a quality higher education through higher education reform on a federal level.
In addition to scholarships, I help students find the right match when it comes to college, grad school or trade school. I do not believe everyone should go to college. There are many ways to attain a quality higher education. College is just one avenue. I also help with resumes and internship strategies.
How did you create your business? What was your inspiration?
Honestly, I am a huge nerd and I’m proud of that. I love school and I love learning. I’m also a fierce believer in the power of a quality higher education. I have seen it transform people’s lives. While in college, the difference a quality higher education made was highlighted even further when I went out into the community. Education can transform entire communities and break generations of poverty. This isn’t only true for a college education either. Even a trade school education can be transforming.
As far as my inspiration is concerned, that would have to be my daddy. I am a huge daddy’s girl. I love him so much. He raised my sister and I. My dad has been hustling as an entrepreneur ever since I was born. Watching him work hard every day inspired me. I didn’t think I’d end up going into business for myself so soon though. I started my business as a junior in college, but everything happens for a reason. My father has been supportive every step of the way.
When it comes to how I created my business, it all comes down to faith, trial and error. I was blessed to have an awesome mentor really early on in my business. His insight made a huge difference in my ability to get started. The irony is that I was a junior in the Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston during that time so I knew about business, but it was in a different context. What was lost in my education was the practical steps I needed to start a super small, microscopic business like the one I had in October 2016. I built a basic website on WordPress, bought 100 business cards with a discount on Vistaprint, and walked into my first networking event that month. The rest is history.
What is it like to run your own business?
Insanity. I’m serious. Absolute insanity. People who choose to run their own business are insane. Actually insane. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. I love what I do so much. I am extremely passionate about higher education and I am blessed to have found my passion very early on. However, there are setbacks. Running your own business, successfully, is ridiculously stressful and hard. My business is a reflection of my experiences. The reason it exists is because of the life I have lived. It’s so integral to who I am, so I am always living with it. I find validation in my work, so when I go a month or two OR three OR four without a new client/ when business is slow, it hurts. Not just financially but emotionally as well. I can’t get let it go at 5 pm and clock out.
Running a business is also a huge science experiment. I’m always tweaking stuff to see what works and what doesn’t. I have to, in order to make sure that my business stays viable. Don’t get me wrong, I still love what I do, but it’s not always roses and sunshine. Sometimes I lay awake at night questioning my sanity in this entire enterprise. I spend a lot of time at home on my computer just working my butt off until the late hours of the morning. Entrepreneurship can be isolating and scary.
Again, just so we’re clear, I LOVE what I do. Honest to goodness, I do. This is a dream come true for me, but it takes blood sweat and tears to make dreams come true. Sometimes those dreams turn into nightmares and you cry yourself to sleep. Sometimes the “light at the end of the tunnel” was just the reflection of a piece of glass and you have to change direction.
For me, it’s still worth it. I’m still very happy. It’s crazy. Actually insane, to be completely honest, but it’s my baby and I love it.
Did study abroad influence your decision to start your own business? If so, how?
Yes and no. I was inspired by my father. I always knew I was going to start my own business. I just didn’t think it would be so soon. Study abroad did validate my experiences though. Going to South Korea, I actually discovered another market I plan to explore later in my career. I am an excellent public speaker and there are many Koreans who want to speak English in a professional, public speaking context. There are English speaking tutors but they don’t know how to train people on how to do public speaking….I do.
I got excited seeing that trend. I also know that there are many international students who would love to come to the US with scholarships to go to school. I want to expand my business to serve that market as well. There’s always so much more to learn and that excites me.
I am fortunate because my business is built on what I know. The more I learn, the more I can teach other people. That incentivizes me to continue my education and explore. I am the life of my business, that is a powerful thing.
What did you learn while studying abroad that you now implement into your day to day interactions?
It taught me to be open to meeting new people in new places out of my comfort zone.
Any advice to current or potential students?
Make it a point to explore on your own and make your own adventures. Be prepared but also trust yourself to figure things out.
Interview conducted by Jessica Terrell, an ISA Alumni Relations Coordinator.