Working in Your Business While You Work on Your Business: A Conversation with Tamika Hinton
Anthonia Carter, 2020-2021 IIE Centennial Fellow, Founder of EGK Starters, and PhD student at Cornell University
Tamika Hinton is the founder of Out of Office, a virtual assistant services company, and a member of the EGK Starters inaugural cohort. I had the pleasure of working with Tamika hands-on during Phase I of the EGK Starters program, a series of high-energy design-led innovation readiness workshops, to help her explore new opportunities to grow her business sustainably. As we wrapped up Phase I, I invited Tamika for an interview to learn more about her background, passion for starting her business, and her goals for the future.
Anthonia Carter: Can you tell me about yourself and your company?
Tamika Hinton: My name is Tamika Hinton, and I am the founder and owner of Out of Office. Out of Office is a virtual assistant firm providing creative services. I came up with the concept because I saw things were changing. People were starting businesses, not necessarily going into an office, a physical office, but using co-working spaces and working from home. I thought a virtual assistant would help individuals who are working in that type of environment. It also provides a platform for freelancers to showcase their craft and skills [as a virtual assistant].
AC: What led you to become a startup business owner?
TH: It has always been a part of me [since] I started out going to college. I started out wanting to be an attorney, and then I wanted to be an engineer. I ended up in business management with a concentration in marketing. I saw that concentration in marketing as being something where I can integrate graphic design and my art. I’ve always been one to find something to sell as a product. When I was in college, I had my own little side gig, using my art to sell shirts and designing clothing for the fraternities and sororities on campus. It’s always been a part of me.
AC: Describe the passion that keeps you going as an entrepreneur. You and I both know that entrepreneurship is difficult. It takes endurance and determination. What keeps you going?
TH: I have to say I’m competitive, in a good way. I never want anything to defeat me. Graphic design is my passion. Helping other people is my passion. That’s why I like my business because it’s also a [service] business. I serve other businesses, even though I’m a business owner. All of those things together are what keeps me going. Yes, it is an up-and-down roller coaster. I always tell people– They think I’m not afraid, but I am afraid.
Every step I make, I am afraid. I just do it afraid. Each time I hit a valley, I try to incorporate [the valley] into my business.
AC: Can you tell me a bit about the Out of Office brand? Are there some principles or driving factors that motivate you through every decision that you make?
TH: Time is precious. It’s one of the things you definitely can’t get back. I came up with my tagline while working with [the EGK Starters team], and it is “Working in your business while you work on your business.”
AC: How do you juggle all the demands of running your business?
TH: My team, which is another reason I have the freelancers because I can’t tell somebody else you need to delegate, and I’m not delegating. I’m a model for my client.
I’m also a model for my freelancers because I’m on both sides of the equation. I may handle my client’s services, but I don’t do my own.
AC: What recent shift have you made that has been helpful to you and your business?
TH: I would have to say the EGK Starters program. I knew it was time to get some outside assistance and to share my vision because when it’s just you, it’s really hard to have the vision, carry the vision, and test the vision. I started looking for accelerator programs, and I am so happy that it began with you guys this year.
AC: We’ve just wrapped up Phase I of EGK Starters. Can you tell me about how your experience in participating in EGK Starters has been so far?
TH: Exhilarating. It was like iron sharpening iron. It opened me up to so many different possibilities for my business in [ways], which I just knew it would.
It advanced me in planning the business out and having goals. It was so exhilarating. It gave me another avenue if something was going to happen; I don’t have to go down this road. I can turn down another road and put a house on this street. It just did so much for me.
AC: We’re wrapping up Phase I soon, and there’s still more to come in the program. What do you hope to gain moving forward for the remainder of the program?
TH: The biggest thing I haven’t done yet is the pitch, learning how to pitch and what to say and what not to say. Recording myself […] I haven’t done any of that. I did that on purpose. There have been opportunities. I wanted to wait until it was time because so many people put themselves out there really fast and really hard, and people get tired of them before they even get started. When I come out, everybody’s going to say, “Who is this?” That’s what EGK Starters is doing for me.
AC: What’s the long-term, five-year vision for Out of Office?
TH: Five years from now, I want Out of Office to be the go-to thing for small business owners when they start their business. I had a checklist of everything I needed to do when I started my business, and I want Out of Office to be on their checklist.
I want small business owners to say, “Let me contact Out of Office or let me get on Out of Office and see what my next steps are.”