Suite Spotte’s greatest strength is our Go-To-Grow community with members who are ambitious, amicable and passionate about collaboration. As part of an ongoing series, we will publish a member story each month. These stories will highlight the talents and unique perspectives of our members, and share their business and career success. All with the intent of inspiring you to achieve your own personal success.
Dr. Shital Vora, Co-Founder and CEO of Global Brigades
Dr. Shital Vora, Ph.D. is the Co-Founder & CEO of Global Brigades, a U.S. based nonprofit that mobilizes undergraduate volunteers for development work in underserved communities around the world. Her colleagues describe her as a highly approachable and humble leader in her field. After speaking with Shital, we could not agree more.
How a Medical Student Sought to Empower Underserved Communities
Shital has been a force from the start. Her education began on a rigorous medical undergrad track, specializing in physical therapy. As many medical students know, med school allows for few breaks or time off, including summers. Shital‘s strong desire to travel abroad to experience the variety of cultures the world has to offer, made her question whether she had chosen the right career.
A chance meeting with a physician known for his selfless work to improve conditions in Honduras offered Shital and a group of fellow students an opportunity to join one of his trips to support a local Honduras medical clinic. This trip proved to be an eye-opening and life-changing experience.
For Shital, the experience changed her perspective on service to communities in need. She immediately understood that direct and actionable solutions could be implemented that offered self-sustaining and long-term positive change for the residents of underserved communities.
Returning from the Honduras trip inspired by the impact they had, Shital and her classmates explored the work of organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and the Peace Corps. However, the license requirements and time commitments were prohibitive. For someone as determined as Shital, the next logical step was to start her own organization to overcome these barriers. Soon after, Global Brigades was born.
Fast-forward ten years to today, over 600 universities have partnered with Global Brigades under Shital’s leadership. Students throughout the U.S. travel to six countries desperate for their knowledge and support to vastly improve the conditions in their struggling communities.
Global Brigades’ mission is to reduce inequalities within the communities they serve by empowering them to rise out of poverty. Their teams of 85,000+ volunteers work to create systems that provide clean water and in-home sanitation, save lives by increasing access to health care, and provide the necessary know-how to develop businesses and community-owned banks that bring greater prosperity to the community. Global Brigades doesn’t just offer a one-time quick fix, they prioritize the long-term nature of their work by positioning dedicated leadership teams local to these communities to ensure sustainable success.
A Global Leader, Mother of Three, Lover of Good Cooking & Indie Rock
What does it take during a pandemic to lead an international organization that depends on student teams to travel to underserved communities offering much-needed solutions? Resilience and a strong belief in your purpose.
The pandemic caused a host of health and personal challenges, yet Shital and her team continued to fulfill Global Brigades’ mission. By pivoting from on-site support of their communities to virtual advisory and consulting solutions, Global Brigades was able to ensure the progress these communities made would continue.
Despite the safety and personal challenges of the pandemic, like many of us, Shital found opportunities during early quarantine to slow down and live in the moment. Shital is the mother of three young children in addition to the ongoing work she performs for Global Brigades with her husband, Pallav, the organization’s General Counsel and Chief Administrative Officer. Even prior to 2020, she has always valued the importance of unplugging from her work and being present with family. The effects of the pandemic furthered her conviction that family must be prioritized above all else.
A healthy work-life balance (a theme in her life) means Shital enjoys activities that go beyond the scope of Global Brigades. Cooking has always been a big part of her life. The time during lockdown allowed for a deeper exploration of new recipes, both through food and mixology. The latter would inevitably lead to impromptu family dance parties and virtual concerts. Neighbors knew that if the house was bumping Radiohead or My Morning Jacket, don’t come knocking!
Being a Part of Suite Spotte’s Go-To-Grow Community
For the past few years, Suite Spotte has always been the home away from home for Shital and Pallav. However, over the last year, it has been a special oasis for the two as they alternated in-office shifts amid the quarantine. The workplace amenities and welcoming community have been instrumental in Global Brigades’ continued growth and operations…and in maintaining Shital and Pallav’s sanity.
An example of the value of community, Shital cites her experience with Suite Spotte’s HOT Seat, a monthly time for members to connect and share ideas, knowledge, and perspectives. Shital posed Global Brigades’ challenge of decreased revenue caused by the pandemic at a HOT Seat brainstorming session. Among the suggestions offered by the members was that she explore public relations to increase exposure to the organization.
After the HOT Seat session, Shital gave the ideas offered further consideration and decided to hire a PR agency for Global Brigades. Months later and after a few prominent interviews and features, she confidently stands by the investment.
Access to members who are not part of Global Brigades, yet can relate to the challenges she faces and offer her objective feedback and viable solutions is priceless. She now stresses the value of being part of an engaged coworking community.
The embodiment of perseverance, smarts, compassion, and philanthropy, it’s easy to see why Shital fits in so naturally with Suite Spotte’s Go-To-Grow Community. Members with a need to connect, and a willingness to selflessly share ideas and resources, combined with a desire to belong and be accepted for who they are, create the magic of Suite Spotte’s coworking community. It’s this magic that results in a superior quality work life.
When starting out, working from home sounds ideal. After all, you have plenty of space in your home office, there’s zero commute, and you can work in your yoga pants. Plus, it’s free.
But is it really? With all of the distractions that come from working from home, your choice may actually be costing you business.
See if any of these “big distractions” ring true for you:
1) Children and family
Just as you sit down to write that big proposal, the phone rings. It’s your husband at the office. He’s forgotten his lunch and was wondering if you could drop it off.
After swinging by his office and returning home, you barely have enough time to return emails before you have to take the kids to soccer practice. At 5pm, you just wonder how the day got away from you.
Working from home sometimes doesn’t feel like working (or even if it does, other people assume you’re not), so you get pulled into managing your family instead of your business.
Working in a coworking space, on the other hand, makes you feel like getting down to business. And family members who were once quick to ask for favors will now have to think twice when they know you would have to leave your “office”. All of these leads to more networking and a better business.
2) The Kitchen and all its goodies
More than 36% of Americans report that they have gained weight since working from home. And it’s no wonder when you can wander into the kitchen at any moment to grab a snack.
Trying to think of how to word an email? Grab a bagel. Just finished that big project? Make a sandwich. Avoiding making that phone call? Nibble on a cookie.
Not only does the snacking hurt your waistline, it also adds up quickly in the “wasted time” category.
While grabbing a snack at your local coworking space is nothing surprising, most spend the time talking business ideas or networking instead of just eating. A coworking space can help your snack time decrease, and change that wasted time into networking time.
3) Desire to finish household chores
Those increased breaks (read “wasted time”) don’t always include food. Some can be much sneakier but just as nefarious. And its name is “chores”.
Have you ever avoided work by doing the dishes? Have you done a little laundry between projects? How many times have you gotten distracted by a spot on the floor, only to find, an hour later, that your floor is spotless and your work isn’t any closer to being completed? If we’re in the house, it’s hard to strictly concentrate on work when there are so many home projects calling to us.
The solution is to completely separate your home and work life. When you’re working out of a coworking space, you’re completely focused on your work. When you go home, those lingering chores then get done. With this compartmentalization, you’ll see both your work and your house-hold work improve.
4) No Access to Office Equipment
Not having access to a fax, copier or scanner might get to be a sticky situation as your business grows. And not all of us are willing to shell out the big bucks to purchase that equipment on our own. Plus, do you really want a copier taking up space in your home office?
A coworking space, however, is set up with business in mind. They have all the technological amenities that will sustain your business ready for you to use at the drop of a hat.
5) Using the television as “company”
It can get lonely working from home, and the temptation is there to turn on the television for background noise. After all, you can still concentrate on work as long as you don’t actively pay attention to the television, right?
Wrong. Research shows that people cannot multitask as well as they think they can. You may not even notice the television pulling your attention away until you send off a document with a misspelling or an email to the wrong recipient.
It’s important to work in a distraction-free area where your work doesn’t have to compete with
background noise. Your professional reputation depends on it!
Coworking spaces supply enough “company” by the other entrepreneurs and small business owners who are also members. But when it’s time to work, you can fully focus in the quiet of the space, sure that your work is getting your full attention.
When you’re working from home, the numerous distractions make it near impossible to get anything done without superhuman focus and discipline. Working out of a coworking space eliminates the top distractions and provides you with a productive place to call your own. If you haven’t tried a coworking space yet, it’s never too late to start getting productive.
Book a tour at the Suite Spotte and see what we are talking about.
No one really enjoys the ping-pong match of emails that transpire when trying to schedule a meeting. All of a sudden, dozens of unwanted responses from people who have “Replied All” appear in your inbox. Now you must spend the time to go through and delete them all. No one’s got time for that!
Efficiency means money in your pocket for your business. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a tool that could eliminate the cumbersome emails and give you more time for income-generating activities? Well, there’s more than one low-cost tool that will get the job done!
Some free tools have very imposing ads – Meeting Wizard simply has some small text in the corner, which makes its user interface much more pleasing to use. It’s also unquestionably simple for both you and the person you’re trying to schedule a meeting with. All you have to do is select a few available spots for the meeting, and the recipient then selects the time that is best for them.
Doodle claims to help you find a meeting date 2x faster – it’s true!
Doodle is for those users that don’t like mandatory sign-ups before using the service. It requires no email address or personal information to get started, which also saves time not having to create an account. The meeting you create generates a link you can share with the meeting attendees and another link that provides an admin view.
The free service is enough for most users, but Doodle has added paid functions that set it apart from similar applications. The $2.99 iOS app allows you to check your schedule and propose meeting through mobile. The Private Doodle service, which starts at $39/year, allows you to send meeting reminders to your busier clients and colleagues. For $69/year, you can have a custom design to fit your brand. This would be beneficial for bigger businesses with a large volume of meetings with clients.
If you do a lot of one-on-one scheduling. ScheduleOnce is the tool for you. However, this clever and comprehensive application also has a group scheduler included in the free version.
Meeting Wizard and Doodle both use the survey approach. ScheduleOnce does the work for you by looking at the availability of all participants. Simply pre-select a few possible times for the meeting and send the link to the other participants. They will highlight their availability and ScheduleOnce will pick the meeting time based on the shared availability.
TimeBridge has quickly grown as a start-up to include over 200,000 users. The product stands out in its ease of use. The meeting scheduler sends out five possible times, and participants mark “yes”, “no” and “best” for each time. If all meeting attendees select “best” for one of the five times, TimeBridge will automatically schedule the meeting for that time. Automation leaves more time to accomplish other things on your priority list.
Time Bridge can also integrate with iCal, Google and Outlook to sync your calendars.
If you’re looking for a meeting scheduling tool to eliminate the tedious email chains, one of these user-friendly tools much just do the trick.
If you haven’t heard of Periscope, it’s the next big thing in social media. And now, Suite Spotte is on it!
Every Wednesday, a few of our members get together during lunch to have an “Entrepreneur Mastermind”. One person is randomly chosen to be in the “hot seat”. There they can discuss something new and exciting in their business, ask the group for advice, or tell everyone about a new tool or service they use and love.
Since this group organically formed in May, members have helped each other overcome the hurdles and celebrate the successes that come with being a business owner.
The last Mastermind in June was broadcasted on Periscope by Amber Schultz, and had over 75 viewers from around the globe.
Here is the recording of that Mastermind, minus the comments of people watching the broadcast…
What advice would you have given Terry had you been at the Mastermind?
Are you considering blogging for your business, but don’t really see the point? Or have you written a few posts, then not seen any return?
You’ve heard that successful businesses should be blogging, but why? And how?
The biggest “why” is connecting with customers and clients. Businesses can blog about the problems their customers face, success stories, how to best use their latest product, or a “peek behind the curtain” with an employee interview. In every one of these cases, the business is conveying their message while giving the customers some real value.
And while blogging like a boss might not come naturally at first, with a little knowledge and a few posts under your belt, you will be connecting and sharing like the best of ‘em. And seeing the loyalty and sales boosts that come with it!
Five Simple Steps To Start Blogging Like a Boss
“Engagement” is certainly the buzz word of the online world these days. But, every is talking about it because it is incredibly important.
Being engaging doesn’t necessarily mean conversational. It simply means having the ability to capture the reader’s attention. Try a question at the beginning of the article (like the one at the beginning of this article!) to make readers think, relate, and, most importantly, read on!
Questions don’t just have to be at the beginning of the article either. Add a question at the end and encourage people to comment with their opinions on the subject.
If you’re not sure if you’re engaging enough, think of your blog post as a form of social media (which it is). Would your post make someone want to dive in and connect?
Have you ever come across a blog post that appeared to be a never-ending wall of text? Did you make it to the end of that article? Didn’t think so. Break up your words with some eye-catching images. Add a photo, a text-based graphic, a video, or an infographic that relates to the topic while staying in your brand’s image.
People will be more willing to stay with you through your entire thought when you accompany your words with something interesting to look at.
How long should your blog post be? Well, that’s really up to you. But, whether 300 or 1200 words, you want to keep it straight to the point. Get your whole idea across without losing your audience by being incredibly focused.
If you have hit 1500 words and feel that you could go on for another 2000, consider breaking up your thought into two or three easily-digestible and hyper-focused posts.
Remember when your mom told you to “just be yourself”? Nothing could be more true as you blog. Remember that people are reading your blog because they love your writing style, your ideas, and your message. They want to hear from YOU, not who you think you should pretend to be. Be sassy, or silly, or intricate, or grand…just as long as it’s absolutely you and your brand.
In the age of digital marketing, authenticity is the name of the game.
Can you imagine if I started off this post with one point, then drifted to the next, then went back, then threw in a brand new idea in the last sentence? You would rightfully be reading it thinking, “Huh?”
Your thoughts need flow cohesively in an organized way. If they don’t, your audience won’t be able to understand the message you’re trying to convey…and your message is everything.
Now, you don’t have to dig up the notes from your college composition course and start diagraming your blog post.
There are simple tricks to keep everything organized.
• Use clear, simple headings to help your blog posts flow together.
• Leave plenty of white space in your articles, with paragraphs being 3 sentences, max.
• Bold main sentences so that the reader can skim through and pull out highlights before committing to reading.
• Use lists or bullet points (like these) to break up each thought.
Each of these organizational tips encourages comprehension and helps the readers come away with a greater understanding of who you are as a business and, perhaps more importantly, a person.
It’s time to lose the blogging procrastination and frustration, and start putting your message out for all to see. Start blogging like a boss, then tell us all about it in the comments below!