Nancy Azeez is a business consultant and certified coach and has over 10 years of entrepreneurial, leadership, and managerial experience working for brands such as Starbucks, Omni Hotels and Resorts, Intuit Turbo tax, and Snap Finance. Nancy started Red Onyx Consulting to continue her passion for working with aspiring entrepreneurs, startups, and existing small businesses locally and globally. In 2019, Nancy was recognized as the Houston Women in Business Champion of the year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Nancy is also a sought-after, dynamic speaker who uses her incredibly powerful personal stories of survival, hope, overcoming, and faith to engage, inspire and educate broad audiences everywhere.
At the age of 25, Nancy co-founded a tax business that grew to 25 locations nationally and began franchising. Driven by passion and a strong desire to make a positive impact in the world, Nancy founded the Triumphant Woman nonprofit organization which helps sexually abused girls and women in Ghana and the United States.
Nancy grew up in Ghana, West Africa, and having survived horrendous sexual abuse, poverty, devastating divorce, and much more, Nancy lives by the belief that God created her with a great purpose. She lives by this belief: “Every day I wake up, I tell myself there is someone out there whose life will not get better until they meet me. That keeps me going.”
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Table of Contents
Let’s learn a little about you and really get to experience what makes us tick – starting at our beginnings. Where did your story begin?
Nancy Azeez: My story began in a small village in Ghana, West Africa. Growing up in poverty, I realized soon that I loved selling. I helped family members sell anything from kerosene, rice, shoes, and fruits. I saved my money even as a kid and used it to purchase items to sell. Rice and chicken were considered food for the wealthy or only eaten during Christmas so any time my mother, a single parent would gather some money to make me rice and chicken to take to school, I’d sell my lunch spoon by spoon to other students and
I always had customers! That spirit of entrepreneurship, though unknown to me at that age of about 7 grew within me and that’s why at the age of 25 I went into business for myself, and today I coach and consult with aspiring entrepreneurs, small businesses, and startups to accomplish their business dreams. From my humble beginnings, I understand the value of hard work, dedication, tenacity, the need to leave a great legacy for my family, make a difference in the life of others and achieve financial wealth.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up?
Nancy Azeez: Making the decision to quit my job and go into entrepreneurship wasn’t an easy one and I experienced many pitfalls including not having money for office rent, having an eviction notice at home, and having family members and friends unwilling or unable to assist. I remember a time I deposited money into my account to pay my rent and within less than an hour, the bank took the entire amount because I owed the bank.
I cried that night. I considered giving up many times but my Christian faith played a huge role in my pursuit of greatness to keep me going. I also kept my WHY in perspective. The success of my business is tied to the success of other ventures in my life especially my nonprofit for abused women and girls. I also knew I wanted to tell a different story for my future children and give them a better life. The cycle of poverty must end and I was responsible for that. I had to keep going no matter how hard life got. Always remember what drives you and keep the end goal in mind.
What are the most common mistakes you see entrepreneurs make and what would you suggest they do?
Nancy Azeez: One of the most common mistakes I see entrepreneurs make is not doing enough research about the area of business they want to go into. They get the idea, get excited, and just jump with no parachute. One example is companies that feel that they must have a physical location to succeed.
Research would have told them that they are much better at operating online only and save a lot of money on overhead costs. Many small businesses make enough money just to pay rent and utilities and never even pay themselves. That’s similar to swimming against the current. It’s deadly. Do the research. Do not be afraid to break the mold. Just because everyone does it one way doesn’t mean it’s the only way. Think outside the box!
Is there a particular podcast you listened to, or business thought leader that you find helpful while maneuvering this pandemic?
Nancy Azeez: I enjoy listening to motivational messages by Dr. Myles Munroe. In these difficult times, I’ve enjoyed reading Failing Forward by John Maxwell. Many businesses were destroyed in the pandemic and it breaks my heart to see hard-working owners lose everything. It doesn’t mean they can’t get back in the ring. Entrepreneurs have a fighting spirit and this book was a great reminder of embracing failure and changing our perspective on the concept of failure and mistakes.
In your opinion, what makes your company stand out from the competition?
Nancy Azeez: As a business consultant, I feel what makes me stand out from other consultants and consulting firms is my unwavering commitment to see my clients succeed beyond how much money they can pay me. I take their success seriously. I strongly believe in the art of customer service and any client of mine will say that my level of customer care is exceptional from beginning to end. I also think being extremely knowledgeable in your craft is important because clients pay for your expertise. It is an insult and abuse to a client if a consultant just “wings it” or has a cookie-cutter solution for everyone.
What do you consider are your strengths when dealing with staff workers, colleagues, senior management, and customers?
Nancy Azeez: We are in the business of people. When dealing with staff, colleagues, management, or customers, my greatest strengths are my ability to truly listen, be empathetic, and be a solution-oriented leader. People want to feel heard, know that you care about them and that you either have solutions or are willing to work with them to develop a solution to a problem.
How important do you think it is for a leader to be mindful of his own brand?
Nancy Azeez: I believe as CEOs, we are an individual brand personally outside of our company brand. Leaders must be mindful of this especially as the driving force behind a company. Leaders should never make the mistake that who they are and their actions outside of the company walls are different. We have seen many times a great CEO make a personal decision that was counter-culture or socially unacceptable, and the company stocks drop. Most consumers associate a CEO with the company they represent and this is something I never forget. From what I post on social media, what I send in a text message to even how I dress, I am constantly aware that anyone out there may be a potential client or threat to my business.
How would you define “leadership”?
Nancy Azeez: I define leadership as having a clear vision and influencing the right people who are in the right positions behind you to accomplish that vision. I believe it was John Maxwell that said that if you think you are leading, and there’s no one following, you’re just taking a walk. Leadership is all about who is following you and where are you taking them.
Do you think entrepreneurship is something that you’re born with or something that you can learn along the way?
Nancy Azeez: Entrepreneurship is not something you’re born with, it’s something you develop a passion for. Even if you are born into a family of entrepreneurs, you may not care one way or the other about it. It is tedious and gruesome but a rewarding path in life and one must choose to walk that path.
What’s your favorite “life lesson” quote and how has it affected your life?
Nancy Azeez: There are many great quotes that I live by but I think the one that sums it up for me is by Les Brown, “The graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step, keep with the problem, or determined to carry out their dream.” This quote guides decisions I make in my business, my personal life, my nonprofit, and my speaking career. I’m always discovering what else am I capable of? In what ways can I make a difference? I can never say that I’ve arrived and have nothing more to give. I want to die empty.
What I tell myself every day and is, “The life of someone out there will not improve until they meet me. Someone out there is depending on me to not give up
Mike Weiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Nancy Azeez for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Nancy Azeez or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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