Welcome to the latest edition of Suite Spotte’s Member Stories Series where we feature the lives and achievements of the talented people who make up our Go-To-Grow Community. Whether your story is similar, or wildly different, we know that you will be inspired by how our members work independently, yet collectively, to achieve success.
Ebvomien (Ebe) Osaigbovo, CPA and Founder of SWM Planning
Ebe Osaigbovo considers himself an outlier; from his Nigerian roots to his natural aptitude for math and finance. Raised in a Chicago suburb (Oak Park) by parents who emigrated from NIgeria, he thanks them for his enduring entrepreneurial drive and the values of hardwork and accountability; which have served him well in building his own thriving business.
With a CPA and 10 years of financial services experience under his belt, Ebe established his company, SWM Planning (Smart With Money) in 2017. SWM helps individuals and businesses achieve their financial goals in three ways: financial coaching, small business CPA services, and income tax planning & filing.
Ebe found that the COVID-19 relief programs for impacted small businesses were a critical resource for many business owners, but also caused much confusion and anxiety for most. HIs client base grew because he was able to reduce the complexity of the programs with clear, concise communication; and advise his clients on how to leverage the safety net to keep their businesses going through the pandemic.
Entrepreneurial Spirit and Self-Determination to Achieve the American Dream
Ebe witnessed his father’s humble beginnings to build a new life for his family in America. From driving cabs to working in fast food restaurants, his father eventually launched a successful medical device repair business. His mother’s drive to contribute to the financial success of the family led her to work at a Garrett Popcorn Shop, and then on to a career in healthcare. Through the professional journey of his parents, Ebe witnessed the feasibility of the American Dream.
Embracing his parent’s drive and self-determination, Ebe and his siblings set high expectations for themselves. He fed his burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit at a young age by offering seasonal landscaping services for his neighbors. As he moved on to college he applied what he had learned from his parents and his small landscaping business to other money-making ventures — a dropship operation for home decor, the sale of affiliate products online, and insurance sales, all while keeping his studies a priority.
The Great Recession was in full swing as Ebe approached his final year of college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. To stave off any challenges he may encounter finding a job after graduation, he wisely added accounting to his arsenal, with a double major in Accountancy & Finance. Ebe’s sales experience proved to be a valuable differentiator among the CPA community. He had developed strong relationship-building skills and had what many others didn’t…he knew how to sell. To this day, his reputation for building strong client relationships serves him well.
Ebe defines success not just about making money. From visits to Nigeria and seeing the devastating poverty, along with his own parent’s journey taught him not to take life’s opportunities for granted. He saw a need and an opportunity to leverage his knowledge and business skills; and in 2017 took a leap of faith when he started SWM Planning right here in Suite Spotte.
Embracing Life Through Family and a Little Levity
Ebe relishes spending time with his young son and wife Jeannette. His greatest priority is ensuring that his son grows up with as many opportunities as possible. He loves teaching him new things and watching him grow. Asked how he’d feel if his son follows in his dad’s entrepreneurial footsteps, Ebe eagerly replied, “Maybe I’ll invest in him!”
Common stereotypical descriptors for an accountant such as an introvert or number-cruncher, don’t come close to describing Ebe. He’s a bright, witty, fun-loving guy who uses levity when taking stock of a situation. Not one to mind a good party with fellow CPAs, Ebe is also fond of travel having recently enjoyed a trip to Niagara Falls.
Adapting and Growing in Suite Spotte’s Coworking Community
Living only two blocks from Suite Spotte’s Forest Park workplace, it was only a matter of time before Ebe walked by and his interest was piqued. He joined Suite Spotte the same day that he toured and met Sue Reardon, Co-Founder & Community Connector. It didn’t take long for Ebe to take advantage of the Go-To-Grow coworking community to support him as he faced the fiscal challenges of all new businesses: balancing client growth and expenses, and managing for scalability. He stayed focused on growing the business, while Suite Spotte ensured that his workplace needs adjusted in line with his business needs.
Many CPAs fall into a trap of growth tied to seasonal tax work. Ebe knew he needed to expand beyond that if his growth goals were to be achieved. He took a risk and invested in an online advertising resource that targeted year-round clients who trusted SWM Planning for their monthly accounting services, as well as ongoing financial advice. This growth area coupled with his COVID-19 relief financial services quadrupled his revenue in a year.
Ebe is many things — a father and family man, a CPA and finance wiz, and a highly driven entrepreneur. He is also a living example of ambition, grit, humility, and graciousness. Working with like-minded members at Suite Spotte keeps him motivated and focused. Whether offering ideas or embracing ideas from others, Ebe recognizes the value of belonging to a flexible, welcoming community that has your back.
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.
Growth in flexible workspace use (coworking) isn’t driven by remote workers’ need to get out of the house. It’s driven by the need to get out of their head.
Nine out of ten Suite Spotte shared workplace tours start off with some version of their need to get out of the house to find a place to focus on their work. The real story emerges by the time we finish the 20-minute tour. When at home on their own, they’re stuck in their head.
Their thoughts spin like laundry in a washing machine. The same old thoughts, often negative, circling around in their head with no diversion to break the vicious cycle.
The Case for Coworking
Take the case of Rodney. He recently toured Suite Spotte, our Chicago suburban coworking workplace, because he’s too distracted at home and needs to be more productive. Yet he described a beautiful new home office he carved out for himself that sounded like an office featured in WIRED.
His home workspace has gig-speed internet, three top-of-the-line monitors, two on a convertible standing desk and one on the wall. His desk chair alone is comparable to the investment he made in his Peloton; and the recently installed studio quality lighting and sound system rivals the cable networks. Yet Rodney can’t seem to get anything done.
I was honest with him by explaining that the most amazing, outfitted office in the world will not on its own make him highly productive. Rather, what Suite Spotte offers that his home office does not is exactly what Rodney needs. A community of people working independently, yet collectively.
Ask Forbes contributor and clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst, Todd Essig, Ph.D., about the value of human connection. He’ll tell you that,
When you open yourself to others, growth happens.
Even one day a week working at Suite Spotte has won over many of our initially skeptical coworkers. It works for Rodney. Now see the value of coworking for yourself.
Buy a Suite Spotte flex desk day pass during April, and if you don’t see an improvement in your productivity and mood, we’ll refund your money.
For the price of a day pass, you’ll reap the benefits of an energized productive workspace with smart friendly people. I’ve heard it many times before, “I get more work done at Suite Spotte than I could ever get done at home, and in much less time.” Get out of your head, experience the value of coworking and come visit us today.
Suite Spotte’s Go-To-Grow Community membership features many coworking resources, one of the most popular being The HOT Seat. It’s here that members go for a weekly dose of camaraderie, motivation, answers, wisdom, laughter, and friendship. Work from home isolation quickly diminishes and true community connection happens because you are with people who get it and get you.
What is The HOT Seat?
Each week Suite Spotte members put aside whatever they are working on to jump on the one-hour virtual HOT Seat. Pre-pandemic we gathered in the conference room. Post-pandemic, The HOT Seat will be a hybrid of virtual and small group in-person gatherings. Either way, magic happens.
New ideas bubble to the top and take shape as budding opportunities. Tough challenges find viable solutions. Wins are celebrated and the pain from a recent failure soothed. Trending topics are explored from every angle, perspectives shared and debated.
This time for connection and sharing has been happening weekly at Suite Spotte since 2015 when members John Ryan and Mike Lambert launched the first HOT Seat. Although John has since moved on to new adventures in sunny Florida, Mike continues as a driving force behind The HOT Seat.
On any Friday at noon, you may find the courage to face a challenge, the answer to a problem, a vote of confidence, a new direction, or simply the reassurance that you aren’t alone. As a Suite Spotter, you not only have access to our coworking resources; you have the good fortune to belong to a community of smart, diverse, and supportive people who care as much about your success as their own.
After an hour you return to your work rewarded with a valuable “nugget” (as coined by Suite SpotterMark Akerley), and a welcome sense of belonging. All it took was for you to show up and be you.
One of my favorite proverbs, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”, sums up everything I believe about community.
Today, more than ever, being part of a community is invaluable. The pandemic has isolated us causing greater stress handling a chaotic world. Working from home, we may find ourselves disengaging from others who kept us motivated.
While most of us are members of various organizations, clubs, and networking groups, not all build community. There is a significant difference.
I get asked a lot what I mean by “community”. I’ve found the best way to understand the community difference is to ask yourself these four questions.
#1. Can you let your true self show when you are with your group, or do you find yourself acting how you think others expect you to act?
Community happens when members give each other permission to be themselves. Being vulnerable and authentic comes naturally and are rewarded with trusting and supportive relationships. You’ve heard of imposter syndrome, haven’t you? Well, that doesn’t exist within a community.
#2. Do you feel a genuine connection with the members of your group?
A connection means that you’ve gone beyond the surface to get to know other members and to understand their strengths and their particular needs. In community there’s a willingness to help one another face challenges and celebrate achievements without judgment. There’s no scorecard to track how many people I’ve helped and how many have helped me. Because within community, we genuinely wish our fellow members to succeed along with us.
#3. When you’re with your group, is it ok for you to voice a different idea or perspective?
Within a community, exploring diverse perspectives are encouraged because it opens our eyes to new ideas and points of view that we may never have otherwise considered. It’s how we learn and grow as individuals and as community. We may not always agree, but we do respect each other’s right to disagree.
That leads to my last question.
#4. Does your group support your growth?
Sharing of good and not so good experiences is a great way to learn. Openness and curiosity enrich our understanding making us more aware, more productive and leads to continuous personal and professional growth. We all want to keep growing, right?
Community is not just about you or about me, it’s about the collective us.
Whether you seek a business community such as Suite Spotte’s Go-To-Grow community, or a community of fitness or wine enthusiasts, find a group that empowers you to be the best you can be. Such a community will fill you with energy, joy, and give you the confidence to grow far beyond what you ever imagined.
Make the wise choice. Choose community and go far together.
On December 2, 2014, Suite Spotte opened its doors as the first coworking workplace in the near west Chicago suburbs. For the past six years, Suite Spotte has offered safe, dynamic coworking workspaces. Our members tell us time and again that the real value to Suite Spotte has always been our member community of savvy small business owners, freelancers, independent consultants and remote workers.
As we enter our 7th year, we’re taking Suite Spotte beyond coworking welcoming to our member community work from home business people who understand the value of connections based on trust and respect. With Suite Spotte’s new Go-To-Grow Community Membership, the benefits of our community are yours even if you don’t need a workspace.
You deserve an energetic community that helps you optimize your effectiveness, achieve your personal and professional goals, and connects you with equally driven businesspeople, all while putting your health, safety, and privacy first.
We’re grateful for the selfless support of our member community and look forward to many years of continued connection, growth, and inspiration.