Entrepreneurship Stories, Special Edition: Black-Owned Business Month, featuring Shalakay Gibbs
Entrepreneurship is a community sport.
Entrepreneurs from every race, creed, industry, and background need the help and support of our entire
community. Our team at the Cherokee Office of Economic Development (COED) works day and night to
support businesses from kids to CEOs and industries to startups.
August is “Black-Owned BusinessMonth” in America. In light of COVID-19 and the issues facing our
nation and, as a way of showing our support, we will be featuring four black entrepreneurs who are
closely connected to our local Cherokee entrepreneurship community — Fresh Start Cherokee, the
entrepreneurship initiative of COED. These entrepreneurs have unique stories to tell, are working hard
to pivot and thrive, and are staying positive despite the challenging environment.
These inspiring stories will shed a well-deserved light on their incredible leadership, business, and
resilience. Follow all the stories on the cherokeega.org news page each Monday and via social media to
like, follow, and share these stories.
Shalakay grew up in Jamaica with parents who were small business owners. After moving to New York as
a student at 22, she overcame challenges, taught herself NetSuite services, and worked hard for years.
Now, living in Woodstock, Georgia in SW Cherokee County, she is the Founder of a growing online
company, Suite Sciens.
Tell us about your background, career journey, and how you became an entrepreneur? What is Suite Sciens?
I grew up in Jamaica with parents who were small business owners observing firsthand the level of freedom that owning a business provides. Early in my career I worked as a NetSuite Administrator, configuring and maintaining a company’s software applications to maximize their workflow to achieve organizational objectives and business goals. Using NetSuite, I specialize in helping an organization automate their financial software and accounting procedures while also helping them connect their financial activities to their general business activities.
I later became a NetSuite Consultant and then leveraged my experience into forming a small consulting firm, providing NetSuite Implementation and Development Services.
Have you personally experienced any unique challenges or obstacles? If so, how have you overcome those?
One of the biggest challenges that I have had to overcome was moving to New York as a student at 22. As a foreign student, there are many restrictions in terms of being able to work. It is a very expensive process and not being able to work makes it very challenging. Luckily, I had an entrepreneurial spirit and was very frugal. I purchased in–demand items that would sell easily on my return trips to Jamaica and lived sparingly on the funds.
Has COVID-19 caused you or your business, Suite Sciens, to adapt?
2020 is as an opportunity to rethink our business structure and the way we service our clients. Although our business operates 100 percent in the cloud, our business model included a heavy travel schedule to client sites. The pandemic has forced us to re–evaluate our travel and discover new ways to demonstrate value to our clients without being physically present.
You have been part of Fresh Start Cherokee’s North Atlanta Venture Mentoring Service (NAV), and The Circuit (our coworking space) for a year. How has staying engaged within the community and a team helped you in ways that being alone could not?
Being a part of The Circuit has been such a great opportunity for our company. Many of the services that we use for our business come from The Circuit community. It is great to have a network of people who face many of the same challenges and can provide suggestions on how to address them. One of the most valuable connections was being introduced to the NAV program. Having regular mentorship meetings forces me to take time to think about my business and not solely focus on day–to–day activities. The mentors bring valuable experience and guidance.
How did you come to have such a positive perspective in the midst of challenges? Why is that important?
Sometimes it helps to take a micro view of life when the macro view becomes overwhelming. At times when I feel overly challenged, I focus on a single problem that I can solve. There is a certain satisfaction that comes with completing a task that makes it easier to have a positive outlook.
How are you working to stay visible and keep a competitive advantage?
We have extended our partnership network to include more vendors within the NetSuite ecosystem and have enhanced our services to include integration with various platforms via our new partner, Celigo. Our consultants are also engaging in additional training and developing more skills to better service our clients.
What lessons have you learned recently about yourself or your business?
We are getting to know our customers better; surveying them to better understand what delights them and where we can improve.
How can we as a community best support you now and in the future?
The big ask would be to send us a client. If there is a company that would be a good fit for NetSuite or Celigo, please provide an introduction. We help NetSuite and Celigo customers with enhancement services as well. Join our referral program where you can earn commission for providing qualified referrals. Also, follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn. Like and share our posts.
Tell us how we can learn more about you and your business.
Stay tuned for the next three Mondays in August as we continue to shed a light on black entrepreneurs in Cherokee — from Waleska to Woodstock and in between to Ball Ground, Holly Springs, and Canton. We hope you are inspired by these stories and motivated to patronize and support these local entrepreneurs.
Have ideas, questions, or stories? Reach out to us at cherokeega.org or emailing us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.