Top 10 Small Business Services – 2020

This blog was born out of the ‘My Favorite Things’ post.  As a small business owner, I am learning all the parts and pieces that fit together to create an attractive company. The goal as I am building this company is to create an environment where people are proud to say they work for The Westmoreland Group. Behind the scenes there are many partners whose services help make that happen and allow me to focus on the future of the business. I am going to feature 10 services here, 5 that are paid and 5 that are free.

ONE: QuickBooks (paid)

I am a trained engineer by degree and not an accountant, although I am familiar with spiritual math. QuickBooks is a software that has all the tools my accountant and I could ever need to see and track the financial picture of my business. QuickBooks also integrates nicely with several timekeeping software platforms. Staying organized and managing the finances for a business is paramount to success. QuickBooks is set up and marketed for small and medium sized businesses. Some of the top functionalities of QuickBooks includes invoice customers, generate reports for taxes, track travel expenses, prepare for taxes, manage sales, keep track of bills and expenses, profit and loss reports, balance sheet reports, statements of cash flows, run payroll, accept online payments, scan receipts, generate reports for planning, data migration, track bank transactions, and business projections. Before I started The Westmoreland Group, I was not familiar with most of those terms but I am learning more and more the importance of my knowledge in these areas with the support of a Certified Public Accountant. QuickBooks is a cloud-based software that is user friendly and it makes most task pretty easy for the small business owner.

TWO: Canva (paid)

Canva is a great software that I use to create PowerPoint presentations, Instagram posts, LinkedIn posts, images and text for this blog, and many more. I like the ease of using Canva and also Canva puts all the flashy and fancy creative tools right at your fingertips. They have a plenty of text choices, colors, and graphics to meet all your business and even personal needs.

THREE: Go Daddy (paid)

An active website is a must in the government contracting space and because this business is dynamic my needs for a website hosting service is user-friendly and easy to update. Go Daddy does a little bit of everything from domains, websites, security, web hosting, professional email, and web design services. I currently use Go Daddy for domain hosting and my website. During COVID-19 Go Daddy introduced a range of tools free to small businesses and expert advice for staying open during a pandemic. Go Daddy has millions of customers and even so they are small business friendly, when I have needed contact customer service, they are always friendly and helpful. The thing I like most about Go Daddy is that is fast and simple to set up, you can probably build your website in under 30 minutes and go live.

FOUR: Google (paid)

I use Google for email, calendar, and task management. As a small business owner, I am always juggling many many many things at a time and Google helps me have one place to manage my body schedule and tasks. The feature that I like the most is the ability to have an email address that is directly associated with my company website. That is part of the branding and marketing that promotes your business as professional and well put together. I currently only have 1 full time employee besides myself but I do have 2 consultants – one for business development and one for security and we all have paid email service provided by Google. Of all the services listed here this is the service I use the most – I use it every single day.

FIVE: WordPress (paid)

This blog is hosted on WordPress which is a site that allows you to create a blog, post on that blog, and grow your readership. WordPress does offer a free version which may come with ads and has limited scope in the templates that you are allowed to choose from. WordPress has lots of tutorials to help you get started creating your blog and posting content.

SIX: Maryland Workforce Exchange/Indeed (free)

I recently went through to job recruiting and hiring process and I was grateful to have these free tools available. The Maryland Workforce Exchange is part of the Maryland Department of Labor and is useful for job seekers, employers, and also provides current labor market information. MWE allowed me to post my job announcement and also sift through potential candidates for a set period of time. Indeed, is an internet job board and does have some paid functionalities, but for now I was able to utilize the ability to post a job for free. Indeed, is user friendly and has an employer dashboard that nicely summarizes all the applications that have applied for your open position. 

SEVEN: Twitter (free)

What can I saw about Twitter! Twitter is how I find out what is happening now with government agencies whose services I use like the SBA or who I am trying to market my services too as The Westmoreland Group. I am learning more and more about Twitter as I use it for business and it is very interesting and the information is always up to date – which is something I don’t always see when doing research on government websites. Follow us: @twg_llc

EIGHT: LinkedIn (free)

LinkedIn has started looking more and more like Facebook to me, but I digress. I like that on LinkedIn I can find out what other companies in the government contracting space are up to. I also like that I can create posts that highlight things going on with The Westmoreland Group and also include my partner companies and teammates. LinkedIn is a pretty straight forward professional social media site and it is worth keeping your profile up to date and posting things every now and then. My previous role at Office of Naval Research as a contractor I was contacted initially for that position in a LinkedIn message, so it pays to keep your profile updated.

NINE: Pixabay (free)

Pixabay is a website that allows users to search through over 1.8 million stunning images and royalty free pictures. When you host a blog or you want to create posts for social media the right image is paramount and Pixabay is a place to find really nice images for free and use them on your blog or website. They have a really cool feature where you can pay for the images and also where you can give credit to the artist on your blog when you use their image.

TEN: Zoom (free)

Zoom is what everyone is using these days. I love that Zoom is fee and where I am currently in my small business I only the free version and have since March 2020 when we all had to stay home. The free version only gives you 45 or so minutes of a video conference and has a limit on the number of participants. The service has been amazing for helping me stay connected with my clients and others. I like the fact that Zoom also integrates with Google and I can set up Zoom calls right from my email or calendar app. Note: Canva has a wide variety of backgrounds that can be used in Zoom.

Happy Small Business Growing,

Sophoria Westmoreland

Small Business Administration’s EDWOSB & WOSB Certification Process

SBA has rolled out a new process for free online certification as a WOSB and EDWOSB. Here is an account of how this process went for The Westmoreland Group. (Updated 10/29/2020) 

Timeline: 

May 2020 

The WOSB and EDWOSB Contracting Program regulations were published online. The highlight of these new regulations is a free, online certification process. Sound hassle free right? I am a woman and I am economically disadvantaged according to the requirements hence I am eligible for this business designation. 

July 2020 

EDWOSB Initial Application submitted online at beta.certify.sba.gov – this included attaching the requested documents. Here are some of the documents requested when you walk through the online application: 

1. Tax Returns (past 3 years) 

2. W2 (past 3 years) 

3. Retirement Account Statements 

4. Resume

5. IRS Form 4506T (this is a request for tax transcripts)

6. Passport (owner) 

As a legally operating business in the State of Maryland all of these documents we already had on file which made it pretty straight forward to complete the initial application. 

October 2020

I received a letter from the SBA (WOSB Program Analyst) stating that my initial application had been screened and found to be incomplete for further processing. Therefore, my application would be returned and that I had until 10/12/2020 to address the missing items. A note in this letter states that a full list of documents required for eligibility can be found at 13 CFR 127 Part B (no link included). The following documents were found to missing and incomplete in my application: 

1. Operating Agreement 

2. Articles of Organization 

I uploaded these documents the same day just under an hour after I received the communication and currently the status of my applicant is PENDING. 

Note: I walked through the online application step by step uploading the required documents and filling in the information requested and at that time there was NOT a request for an Operating Agreement and there was NOT a request for Articles of Organization. I understand this is a new process and there will be updates along the way, this is just a record of my experience. 

To be continued…

Resources: 

SBA: https://www.sba.gov/

Certification: https://beta.certify.sba.gov/

Making Government Work for TWG, 

Sophoria Westmoreland 

Recruiting Lessons Learned

I recently went through the recruiting process from A to Z and here are some lessons I learned along the way. Disclaimer: I am not a HR professional and I do not hold any certifications in Human Resources.

1. Posting the position 

There are many places to post a job these days and also full service providers that will take care of the hiring process from A to Z. As a small firm I do not currently have the revenue to outsource my HR requirements so over the summer I started the recruiting process myself. The first step was for me to research and decide where I can post my job. I started shaking the family and friends trees by creating a position description and sending out emails to my network. In those emails I requested that my friends and family share my job opening within their own network so I can maximize the ripple effect. The State of Maryland and the State of Virginia both have free job posting websites that employers can utilize, this was  also a great resource. Indeed also allowed me to post the job and communicate with applicants for free. Finally, I signed up for a 7 day trial on ZipRecruiter.com and posted the job there. I also posted the job on The Westmoreland Group website, LinkedIN Page, and Instagram. 

2. Communication 

I get over 100 emails per day between The Westmoreland Group, my new client National Science Foundation, personal emails, and my families emails! It was imperative to me during this time that I respond to all applicants for my open position. The initial communication between a prospective employee and a company sets the tone for the relationship. I wanted to be a responsive employer even if I knew the applicant was not a fit for the position. Once the resume’s and cover letters started coming in I knew I would find the right applicant but I had to trust the process. I pre-screened about 100 resumes and finally narrowed the list down to 15 candidates that I wanted to interview. 

3. Interviews

Since I had time constraints I set up 30 minute phone interviews and most actually happened over the weekend because of my schedule. I was grateful that the candidates were flexible enough to have a job interview over the weekend. I printed out all the resumes and prepared questions for each candidate. I went through the standard interview – background on the position, questions about the candidate, questions from the candidate, and finally review salary and security requirements. Going through 5 – 6 interviews back to back makes for a long Saturday. 

4. Job Offer

Once I prioritized the candidates after I completed most of the interviews I decided it was time to make a job offer. My first offer made was accepted! The position I was interviewing for required a security clearance so I actually continued to interview while the application was processing. Once the interim clearance was granted to my top candidate then I concluded my interviews. I contacted every candidate that I interviewed to let them know the results of the hiring process and to ask them to keep in touch for future job opportunities. 

5. Benefits 

Every benefit has a cost and the next step was for me to count the cost of the benefits I planned to provide to my new employee. This required coordination and communication with my trusted partners related to Health Insurance, Retirement Planning, Life Insurance, Health Savings Accounts, Dental Insurance, and Accounting and Payroll. I had to make sure I was compliant with all State and Federal employment laws. New hire paperwork had to be filled out and forwarded to my payroll manager. 

Happy Recruiting,

Sophoria Westmoreland

Image by vishnu vijayan from Pixabay

My Favorite Things – 2020 Edition

When I purchase products that I love I don’t generally do product reviews, even when the manufacturer requests a review from me over and over again – I will do better.  Thinking about the upcoming holiday season I thought I would pen a blog about products that I recommend and have purchased and used in 2020. Since this blog can live somewhere on the internet forever and ever this is my way of writing a product review that will live in perpetuity. My goal is to only include items that are currently still available for purchase so that my readers can enjoy them as well.

Musee Relaxation Bath Bomb Trio (www.museebath.com) $30 

2020 has been a HELL of a year, am I right? Trying to relax during uncertain times is not easy but these bath bombs always help me to relax and unwind. Musee also has other products that I haven’t tried yet but I probably will in the future. I highly highly highly recommend. 

iPad Air – 3rd Generation (www.apple.com) $599 

When it became clear that this pandemic was going to last for a while I knew that watching Netflix from my iPhone while I telework wasn’t going to be sustainable. Besides freeing up my phone during the workday this iPad has been great for connecting with family and friends while staying home to stay safe. I highly highly recommend. 

Panjore Lychee Jar Candle (www.voluspa.com) $30 

According to the website this candle has notes of panjore lychee, cassis, & juicy asian pear, out of those 3 notes I have only ever heard of one of them. I first received this candle a few years back as a gift from my good friends from college. First, I love pink! Second, I love the scent because it is EVERYTHING! Third, the jar is so pretty that it is reusable.  I highly highly highly recommend. 

Felt Letter Board (www.amazon.com) $25 

We all knew something was going to appear on this list from consumer giant Amazon so the link above is a generic one. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this board. I use it in my office to write out my financial goals so I can see it everyday as a reminder to press towards that mark and meet my goals. It comes with a huge array of letters and fun symbols so your creativity can soar. I highly recommend. 

Dreamy Long-Sleeve Cotton Pajama Set (www.jcrew.com) $78 

These days pajamas are no longer just a nighttime look and these super soft pajamas are part of the reason – you will want to stay in them all day. I have been a fan of J.Crew since about 2005 but had become uninterested in the brand in the past 3 years until I recently saw these in an advertisement. Note: J.Crew is always always always going to have some sort of sale and they do it big for Black Friday so wait and get 30/40/50/60 percent off and usually free shipping. 

Customizable D.O.G. Tee (www.houseofdogge.com) $25 

This year we adopted a dog and he has become a wonderful 4-legged friend. Since he is older (7) and male and stubborn I don’t get to dress him in tutus or put pink ribbons in his hair – sigh. I was so delighted when I came across this company on Instagram and found this cute t-shirt that he actually sleeps in so I call it his pajama tee. Black Lives Matters. Go Vols. 

Celebration Masks (www.etsy.com) From $5.99 

Celebrations have been different this year and some have been cancelled all together. I have attended some well thought out socially distanced celebrations this year and I am grateful for the care and planning consideration of the hosts. The cute mask in the picture I actually ordered as a favor for a baby shower from a seller on Etsy called mamabijou – it was soft, cute, and kept all the guests safe.  

Shilpey’s Donuts (www.shipleydonuts.com) Local in Houston, Texas 

Almost every morning in high school I ate these donuts on the way to school, it almost became like a tradition. Half dozen glazed – HOT (from the OG location on Ella). I don’t live in Houston anymore but I visit often and Shipley’s Donuts is always on the list of places I stop. I highly highly highly highly recommend. Yum Yum Yum. 

The Home Edit Containers (www.thehomeedit.com) From $8.99 

Over the past 2 years our pantry has become a free for all, buy groceries and just stick them in where you can and close the doors quick! The first pandemic project that I completed this year was organizing the pantry and now everyday (sometimes twice a day) I go into the kitchen and open the pantry and just stand and smile.  I did go overboard and had to return many items to The Container Store but the final product was worth a few trips to Clarendon. 

ONE: Personally She T-Shirts (www.personallyshe.com) From $25 

Anything is possible when you have the right people there to support you, and this is one friend and business that I continually support. Since the owner is my college friend and my line sister in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Alpha Psi Chapter we have many things in common and her line of t-shirts express our bougieness, dope style, and HBCU education. 

Happy Shopping! 

-Sophoria Westmoreland 

Virtual Internship – NOW!

Borne out of this pandemic, is the notion of practicing social distancing. Initially, it didn’t’ seem that cumbersome – I mean how many of us ‘social distance’ on our daily commute or when we see a panhandler. But, several weeks of ‘social distancing’ have opened up a new way of thinking, a new way living and a new way of working.

What some will notice is that almost certainly the number of persons seeking virtual internships will sharply increase. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible as virtual internships have been around for some time but virtual or remote internships will be in demand this year.

So, what’s a young mind to do? 

First, research. The beauty of virtual internships is that you aren’t limited to any specific geographical area. Now, if you live in California and apply for an internship overseas, it could be very difficult due to the time change.

Consider that many universities have virtual career fairs.  Professional organizations, consortiums and a number of government agencies host virtual career fairs as well. Do no limit yourself, searching on upcoming career events on the career websites could provide very beneficial.

www.linkedin.com

www.flexjobs.com

www.glassdoor.com

In addition to the career websites, a number of opportunities in both STEM and otherwise are available. Here are a few sites promoting virtual internships for this summer.

https://summerofcode.withgoogle.com

https://www.freedommortgage.com/career-students

https://tischcollege.tufts.edu/education/tisch-summer-fellows/2020-remote-internships

https://www.ucdc.edu/academic/ucdc-summer-academic-program

Don’t forget ‘social media’ (e.g., facebook, twitter, etc.) and ‘word-of-mouth’ still work. 

What’s next?

Success. The hardest aspect of being a virtual intern is to be impactful. It’s hard to make a ‘real’ connection virtually. It may be a good idea to engage your employer and co-workers more so than if you would in the office. Don’t be afraid to request for a virtual lunch, ask questions – this may be a mentoring opportunity. 

Confirm the communication. As there are a number of methods to communicate, ask both your employer and your team if there’s a preferred method. Who should you contact ‘daily’ or ‘weekly’ – sometimes expectations aren’t conveyed well virtually. This helps both you and your employer in establishing these guidelines sooner than later. You want to leave a lasting impression – that you performed well and you were available. 

Structure your work times. Some employers may suggest working at your leisure but setting up clearly defined times establishes your availability. Perception that you are available is paramount. Be prepared and make sure you are adhering to policies and deadlines. If there’s an issue or concern, it’s always better to ask. Sometimes ideas get lost in translation and confirming assignments as well as deadlines can only assist.

Stay Safe.

~Blog by Dorothy’s Daughter

My SCORE Mentoring Experience

Small Business Mentoring

“SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors, is dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals. Since 1964, we have provided education and mentorship to more than 11 million entrepreneurs.” -from the SCORE website ( www.score.org )

When I started my business in 2016 SCORE was one of the first programs that I was recommended to go to for mentoring, but I got sidetracked with my 9 to 5 and with life and finally got around to meeting with my SCORE Mentor in January 2020. SCORE has a team of qualified mentors that have a wide range of skills in helping you get your business off the ground. 

I have (to date) had several meetings with my SCORE mentor and during these sessions I generally ask 1,000 questions and he provides all the answers. There are many things in the government contracting world that can seem like a great big mystery and it is always a good idea to have someone to answer these questions. My SCORE mentor has also done a good job during this COVID-19 crisis keeping in touch through emails and next week we will be having our very first zoom meeting. 

Confidentiality is important as a government contractor because this is a competitive space – sometimes winning a contract comes down to who has the best price! SCORE mentors are required to keep all meetings and company details confidential which is great because it helps me feel confortable sharing so my SCORE mentor can understand where I am coming from and be able to help me reach my goals. 

I also have another business mentor that I started out with in 2015 and I still work with him on a monthly basis but having another source of advice and information through my SCORE mentor has been a great benefit to me. 

My sister also owns her own business in Texas (www.spaceliftr.com) and has used the SCORE mentoring program down in Houston. I am glad that this program is available and most importantly that it is FREE! 

Additional SCORE Resources: 

-Webinars and Courses On-Demand 

-Online Resources 

-Local Events (Seminars and such) 

Leaning on SCORE, 

-Sophoria Westmoreland 

Image by DavidRockDesign from Pixabay 

Side Hustle Season : Money Matters

Do I have a side hustle? Yes, actually I have 2. (not counting exploring new business opportunities for The Westmoreland Group) 

I remember the first side-hustle I had, selling girl scout cookies. It was simply a means to an end – the end being one of those shiny gifts in the fold out catalog I poured over for hours before each selling season. I can’t recall exactly but I think myself and all 3 of my sisters were in Girl-scout Troops and selling cookies at the same time to the same group of customers. We had my Daddy’s co-workers, church members, family, friends, and the neighborhood – this was when selling door to door was a thing. This was my first side hustle and I did quite well and I distinctly remember the satisfaction I felt when I made a sale. I was determined every year to fill all the lines on that long fold out order form! I wonder what my parents thought about all those darn cookies that then had to be delivered once the orders were filled? I’m sure they loved it – because parents gotta parent right…

When I was in high school I don’t remember many of my friends having side hustles – my parents have always had one or two or three though usually running at the same time in case one revenue stream dried up a bit the other would kick-in. So I know where I get my side hustle spirit from – thanks Henry and Anita. As a college student I remember MANY side hustlers because college students are for the most part broke! There was the girl who waxed and plucked my eye-brows down the hall from me in my dorm. There was another girl who washed hair in Hale Hall (another dorm). There was a person who shall remain nameless that could connect cable channels for you. There was always someone selling mix-tapes that they made using Napster – Christmas Mix/ Greek Mix/ AKA Mix/ Valentines Day Mix/ Slow Jam Mix/ Rap Mix, etc. As a sorority member, I could always find someone who knew how to make Greek things – paddles, picture frames, etc. 

As a graduate student I spent countless hours studying for written exams, practicing for oral exams, preparing my proposal, presenting my dissertation defense and at some point I decided to start baking to help relieve stress. I would start with cupcakes because I was watching TV Shows about cupcakes (during this time cupcakes were all the rage so it was an easy outlet). Although I am a Mechanical Engineer by degree I am also very artistic in nature and as a full-time graduate student I didn’t have much time to explore that side of me. Baking cupcakes gave me the platform I was looking for. I was working as a Graduate Program Assistant in the Center for Minorities in Science and Engineering at The University of Maryland College Park in the College of Engineering at this time. I would bring all my baked treats to work and let my co-workers tell me what was good and what was not. I would find recipes on the internet and try them at home. In time, I received several paid orders for cupcakes and I so I decided to call my baking business Fancy Cupcakes by Sophoria. I really enjoyed baking all those cupcakes and I most enjoyed the reaction of happy customers. After graduate school my work schedule was demanding and I didn’t have as much time to bake as before – I would service a few seasoned customers under a new baking business called Hero Cupcakes over the years but not as many as while in graduate school. 

This year, 2020, I have picked baking up under another new business name called Three Stripes Bake Shop and already have a few cupcake orders. I also am turning a new leaf into baking cakes. I have baked a few cakes over the past years but I am not as skilled in this area – I look forward to learning some new things about baking cakes in 2020. (SIDE HUSTLE NUMBER 1) I already baked a 38th birthday cake for a church member in January and I am taking a local cake decorating class next week at the craft store – I am on my way (again). The nice thing about baking is that I enjoy the process so it is easy for me to keep picking it back up when time in my schedule permits. 

This year, 2020, I will also continue working on the side as a Recorder for some HOA Communities in my local area.  I recently calculated my 2019 earnings from this side hustle were almost $3,000 (pre-tax) which was great for bills I had planned and unplanned.  (SIDE HUSTLE NUMBER 2) This side hustle came through a friend (Cel) with MONEY ears, meaning she can hear opportunites to make money miles away. A friend mentioned the HOA she belonged to was looking for a new recorder and Cel immediately thought, hmmm, I can do that so she wrote up a proposal and that was our first community. Along the way we have build relationships with several Community Management Companies in our local area which in turn have resulted in more opportunities to record on an ad hoc basis. I recorded already this month for one such community just last week. 

A couple of years ago before I was consistently working my 2 side hustles I was listening to a podcast about side hustles and I actually stopped listening to it because I was mad that I couldn’t find myself a lucrative side hustle – at the time I didn’t think I needed one but it sounded like fun to have one. I enjoy my 9to5 supporting my client but is this my DREAM JOB? NOPE! I enjoy the people I work with and I enjoy the difference I make but if I could do this part time and bake cakes and cupcakes the other part of the time that would be my dream job. 

I was thinking I should be able to do what these folks are doing on this podcast but I don’t know where to start. Then after I got over myself I started listening to the podcast again and the host basically said start with what you have and make that into a side hustle. As it turns out I am a decent baker and I am very organized (which helps me immensly in my 9to5). Baking cupcakes/cakes and taking minutes are the perfect side hustles for me. I may not be making millions but I am able to supplement my income enough that I feel both are worth my time and energy. One of my financial goals for 2020 is to pay off my $30,000 student loan balance and these side hustles will help me to advance towards that goal. 

I have heard this sentiment many times and it really is true – start with what you know and figure out how to sell that as a service. Your knowledge and background are all the pre-requisites that you need. You may need to do a little market research, try some things out on your family and friends, use Google to find others who are doing something similar (there is power in community), start small, and grow from there. Your career or life’s work doesn’t have to come from one source and it doesn’t have to only be confined to what you do from 9to5, there are many paths to acheive your vision and walk in your purpose. 

Patience in the process and a willingness to continually learn will take your side hustle dreams far. 

Dream It, Do It! 

Sophoria 

….

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay 

A Legacy of Making A Way

I once heard Pastor TD Jakes preach a sermon about generational blessings and he gave the metaphor that when the parents are blessed it is like a tea cup and when the tea (blessings) spill over into the saucer that is being passed onto the next generation. (Side-note: metaphor, simile, analogy – in all my learning I have to admit sometimes when I am confounded, all roads lead to Google) When I heard this I liked it and I thought oooooooohhhhh nice, one day I will spill some blessings over for my children (as of this writing I am not married nor do I have children, but maybe one day). 

I also had a second thought,  I sure wish my parents or grandparents would have had some of those blessings (education, cash, property, cash, jewelry, cash, stocks, cash, bonds, cash, mutual funds, cash, houses, cash, silver spoons, cash, knowledge, cash, off-shore bank accounts, cash – you get the point!) to spill over onto me – then I would never have had to struggle, right? 

It made me think of Beyonce’ and Jay-Z and how their unborn great-great-grandchildren are already wealthy which makes me smile more than I should because black excellence is personal (and because Houston girls are lit) . 

I have this exercise I do whenever I feel I am lacking in something or missing out (FOMO) on something I think I need to get through life. It’s simple, I write down what I already have (not really material things…I lie! yes, sometimes material things…sometimes) and I am filled with gratitude. The following list has to do with legacy as it relates to working. The road to success is paved with hard work – no shortcuts there and I have a solid legacy of hard working people in my blood line. I don’t even have to go that far back to see the writing on the wall. 

Maternal: 

Mommy (Anita)  –   jobs: 

1. Transcribing  Medical Records  (Summer Job) 

2. Teaching Swimming Lessons at Carver Park (Summer Job) 

3. K-Mart Associate (Women’s Apparel and Lay-A-Way) 

4. Target Associate 

5. Igloo Manufacturing (Putting labels on coolers – think assembly line) 

6. La’ Bon Pain Bakery (Baked and Sold Bread- she was a baker)

7. Sandwich Shop (Work here with my Aunt Jackie and another friend) 

8. Kroger (Baking Bread and Frying Donuts) 

9. Cross-walker (Katy ISD) 

10. Bus-driver (Katy ISD) 

11. Hewlett Packard (Putting together motherboards – think assembly line) 

12. Jeremiah Moonwalks (Owner and Operator) Side Hustle

13. Metro Bus Driver 

14. Molly Maid Housecleaner (This was when there was a uniform that included lots of lace and lots of ruffles and she took us with her on jobs and now I can clean a house like a pro) 

15. In-Home DayCare (At Lakeside Village Apartments – I would sometimes wake up with a small child sleeping at my feet or snuggled next to me in bed, all the children would become KidFirstName Westmoreland) Side Hustle

16. Newpaper Delivery (Katy, Texas) Side Hustle

17. Phonebook Delivery (Katy, Texas) Side Hustle

Grandmother (Barbara Jean) –  jobs: 

1. Cook -Jimmy Walker Restaurant (Kemah, Texas) 

2. Walgreen’s Cook (Texas City, Texas) 

3. Model for Evelyn Johnson Modeling School (Houston, Texas) 

4. Dietician at Mainland Medical Center (this is the hospital where we were all born) 

5. Washing and Ironing Teacher’s Clothes (Wheatley High School Summer Job) 

6. Nurses Aid – John Sealy Hospital (Galveston, Texas) 

Great-Grandmother (Bigmoma) – jobs: 

1. Picked cotton in Madisonville, Texas (Crockett, Texas) 

2. Maid for Dr. Brown (Crockett General Hospital) 

3. Sold Insurance (if you know anything about selling insurance you know the grind is REAL – it doesn’t sell itself) 

4. Breakfast Cook (Cafe’ in Houston) 

5. Housekeeping for Owner of FingerHut Furniture 

6. Shackle Representative (Side Hustle – Selling Health Products Door to Door) 

7. Resale Shop Owner (Hwy 1765) 

8. Childcare Worker 

9. Director/Assistant Director of Galveston County Head Start (I spent many days as a tiny tot hanging out with Bigmoma here, I remember taking naps with my cousin LeLe on those green cots) 

Paternal: 

Daddy (Henry) – jobs: 

1. Cutting grass in neighborhood (Started when he was 13) 

2. Filing Station Attendant-  Pumping Gas/Fixing Flats  and other miscellaneous duties (Texas Ave. @ Anita Street) – This was a black owned business owned and operated by his cousins the Crittendons 

3. Banquet Waiter in Holiday Inn Hotel Restaurant (Galveston, Texas) – started in the 10th grade and worked for 5 years 

4. Co-op Program at Union Carbide (Chemical Plant) Summer Job (11th and 12th grade)  

5. Construction – Vox International (Worked in the eqiupment yard and was laid off when the company moved to Houston) This was the only job he was ever laid off from. 

6. Machine Operator / Extruder / Shift Manager / Lab Technician (VanLeer/ITW- Houston, Texas – 40 years – he worked here longer than I have been alive) Note: ITW actually funded part of my college education through a scholarship – shout out to them! 

7. Jeremiah Moonwalks (Owner and Operator) Side Hustle

8. Newpaper Delivery (Katy, Texas) Side Hustle

9. Phonebook Delivery (Katy, Texas) Side Hustle

10. Cleaned Houses (Katy, Texas) Side Hustle

Grandmother (Grandma Rose) – jobs: 

1. Maid – Holiday Inn Hotel (yes, this was the same place my Daddy worked and they had a cousin working there too – this was her first job going back to work after being a full-time mother to her 6 sons) 

2. Flag Waiver – Brown & Root Contruction Company 

3. Cashier – Crittendons Liquor Store (owned and operated byt the same cousins above) 

4. Beer Cafe Owner (Galveston, Texas) 

Grandfather (Papoo) – jobs: 

1. Grain Elevator Operator (Dingy Operator:  Moved rail cars around the yard) – Bunge (Grain Export Company) – he retired from this company the year I was born! 

2. Grain – spillage from company he was allowed to sell, Side Hustle

3. Collect scrap metal, Side Hustle

4. Carpenter, Side Hustle

5. Gardender 

6. Raised Chickens 

Great-Grandfather (Big Daddy)- jobs: 

1. Jack of all trades – Self-Employed 

2. BBQ Cook 

3. Cut Pulp Wood

4. Lumberjack (I should note here that he was at one point struck by lightening and survived, he was 104 when he passed away if I remember correctly) 

5. Carpenter 

6. Farmer (My grandmother noted that when snakes would get after his chickens he would pop off their heads) 

Great-Grandmother (Charlotte)- jobs: 

1. Being a Mother 

I have excelled at many jobs from being a cashier at Gerland’s to the many retail jobs (Nine West and Banana Republic were my favorite – I can fold clothes for days) I held in college and being a full time PhD student (yep, that’s a FULL-TIME job and I have the paystubs to prove it – it ain’t for errrrbody). I have learned many lessons along the way especially the hard truths about income taxes but what I had going into those jobs came from what my family deposited in me by raising me with ‘spill over’ blessings.  

Also, it is interesting to me to find out that some of the jobs I am doing now are very similar to what my family has done. I am currently and entrepreneur with my own consulting firm – I am the boss.  I am currently working on the side as an on and off cupcake and cake baker and looking to take some classes this year to improve my skills. Resale shops are my favorite go-to place for reasonably priced fashion. I also have a side-hustle as a Recorder for Home Owners Associations that I came into a few years ago and has been a great blessing when unexpected expenses have occured. 

My siblings and cousins on both sides of my families also have careers/jobs that align with the family traits of working hard. One of my cousins has recently started her own photography business, LINK. My sister recently started her own interior decorating and handy-woman business, LINK. My oldest sister and my younger brother are now both working at Van Leer/ITW where my Daddy retired from. I have a cousin that is a nurse and one that is a world traveler. I have a cousin that is a cook/chef/caterer. 

My famiilies unofficial motto should be the same as Clark Atlanta University – “I’ll find a way or make one” because that is exactly what we do. It is with much gratitude and grace that we carry on the family legacy of hard work to build our own families and create our own success stories. We are building up from the firm foundation passed to us by our family (native Texan). 

From Victory, 

-Sophoria Westmoreland 

I once heard Pastor TD Jakes preach a sermon about generational blessings and he gave the metaphor that when the parents are blessed it is like a tea cup and when the tea (blessings) spill over into the saucer that is being passed onto the next generation. (Side-note: metaphor, simile, analogy – in all my learning I have to admit sometimes when I am confounded, all roads lead to Google) When I heard this I liked it and I thought oooooooohhhhh nice, one day I will spill some blessings over for my children (as of this writing I am not married nor do I have children, but maybe one day). 

I also had a second thought,  I sure wish my parents or grandparents would have had some of those blessings (education, cash, property, cash, jewelry, cash, stocks, cash, bonds, cash, mutual funds, cash, houses, cash, silver spoons, cash, knowledge, cash, off-shore bank accounts, cash – you get the point!) to spill over onto me – then I would never have had to struggle, right? 

It made me think of Beyonce’ and Jay-Z and how their unborn great-great-grandchildren are already wealthy which makes me smile more than I should because black excellence is personal (and because Houston girls are lit) . 

I have this exercise I do whenever I feel I am lacking in something or missing out (FOMO) on something I think I need to get through life. It’s simple, I write down what I already have (not really material things…I lie! yes, sometimes material things…sometimes) and I am filled with gratitude. The following list has to do with legacy as it relates to working. The road to success is paved with hard work – no shortcuts there and I have a solid legacy of hard working people in my blood line. I don’t even have to go that far back to see the writing on the wall. 

Maternal: 

Mommy (Anita)  –   jobs: 

1. Transcribing  Medical Records  (Summer Job) 

2. Teaching Swimming Lessons at Carver Park (Summer Job) 

3. K-Mart Associate (Women’s Apparel and Lay-A-Way) 

4. Target Associate 

5. Igloo Manufacturing (Putting labels on coolers – think assembly line) 

6. La’ Bon Pain Bakery (Baked and Sold Bread- she was a baker)

7. Sandwich Shop (Work here with my Aunt Jackie and another friend) 

8. Kroger (Baking Bread and Frying Donuts) 

9. Cross-walker (Katy ISD) 

10. Bus-driver (Katy ISD) 

11. Hewlett Packard (Putting together motherboards – think assembly line) 

12. Jeremiah Moonwalks (Owner and Operator) Side Hustle

13. Metro Bus Driver 

14. Molly Maid Housecleaner (This was when there was a uniform that included lots of lace and lots of ruffles and she took us with her on jobs and now I can clean a house like a pro) 

15. In-Home DayCare (At Lakeside Village Apartments – I would sometimes wake up with a small child sleeping at my feet or snuggled next to me in bed, all the children would become KidFirstName Westmoreland) Side Hustle

16. Newpaper Delivery (Katy, Texas) Side Hustle

17. Phonebook Delivery (Katy, Texas) Side Hustle

Grandmother (Barbara Jean) –  jobs: 

1. Cook -Jimmy Walker Restaurant (Kemah, Texas) 

2. Walgreen’s Cook (Texas City, Texas) 

3. Model for Evelyn Johnson Modeling School (Houston, Texas) 

4. Dietician at Mainland Medical Center (this is the hospital where we were all born) 

5. Washing and Ironing Teacher’s Clothes (Wheatley High School Summer Job) 

6. Nurses Aid – John Sealy Hospital (Galveston, Texas) 

Great-Grandmother (Bigmoma) – jobs: 

1. Picked cotton in Madisonville, Texas (Crockett, Texas) 

2. Maid for Dr. Brown (Crockett General Hospital) 

3. Sold Insurance (if you know anything about selling insurance you know the grind is REAL – it doesn’t sell itself) 

4. Breakfast Cook (Cafe’ in Houston) 

5. Housekeeping for Owner of FingerHut Furniture 

6. Shackle Representative (Side Hustle – Selling Health Products Door to Door) 

7. Resale Shop Owner (Hwy 1765) 

8. Childcare Worker 

9. Director/Assistant Director of Galveston County Head Start (I spent many days as a tiny tot hanging out with Bigmoma here, I remember taking naps with my cousin LeLe on those green cots) 

Paternal: 

Daddy (Henry) – jobs: 

1. Cutting grass in neighborhood (Started when he was 13) 

2. Filing Station Attendant-  Pumping Gas/Fixing Flats  and other miscellaneous duties (Texas Ave. @ Anita Street) – This was a black owned business owned and operated by his cousins the Crittendons 

3. Banquet Waiter in Holiday Inn Hotel Restaurant (Galveston, Texas) – started in the 10th grade and worked for 5 years 

4. Co-op Program at Union Carbide (Chemical Plant) Summer Job (11th and 12th grade)  

5. Construction – Vox International (Worked in the eqiupment yard and was laid off when the company moved to Houston) This was the only job he was ever laid off from. 

6. Machine Operator / Extruder / Shift Manager / Lab Technician (VanLeer/ITW- Houston, Texas – 40 years – he worked here longer than I have been alive) Note: ITW actually funded part of my college education through a scholarship – shout out to them! 

7. Jeremiah Moonwalks (Owner and Operator) Side Hustle

8. Newpaper Delivery (Katy, Texas) Side Hustle

9. Phonebook Delivery (Katy, Texas) Side Hustle

10. Cleaned Houses (Katy, Texas) Side Hustle

Grandmother (Grandma Rose) – jobs: 

1. Maid – Holiday Inn Hotel (yes, this was the same place my Daddy worked and they had a cousin working there too – this was her first job going back to work after being a full-time mother to her 6 sons) 

2. Flag Waiver – Brown & Root Contruction Company 

3. Cashier – Crittendons Liquor Store (owned and operated byt the same cousins above) 

4. Beer Cafe Owner (Galveston, Texas) 

Grandfather (Papoo) – jobs: 

1. Grain Elevator Operator (Dingy Operator:  Moved rail cars around the yard) – Bunge (Grain Export Company) – he retired from this company the year I was born! 

2. Grain – spillage from company he was allowed to sell, Side Hustle

3. Collect scrap metal, Side Hustle

4. Carpenter, Side Hustle

5. Gardender 

6. Raised Chickens 

Great-Grandfather (Big Daddy)- jobs: 

1. Jack of all trades – Self-Employed 

2. BBQ Cook 

3. Cut Pulp Wood

4. Lumberjack (I should note here that he was at one point struck by lightening and survived, he was 104 when he passed away if I remember correctly) 

5. Carpenter 

6. Farmer (My grandmother noted that when snakes would get after his chickens he would pop off their heads) 

Great-Grandmother (Charlotte)- jobs: 

1. Being a Mother 

I have excelled at many jobs from being a cashier at Gerland’s to the many retail jobs (Nine West and Banana Republic were my favorite – I can fold clothes for days) I held in college and being a full time PhD student (yep, that’s a FULL-TIME job and I have the paystubs to prove it – it ain’t for errrrbody). I have learned many lessons along the way especially the hard truths about income taxes but what I had going into those jobs came from what my family deposited in me by raising me with ‘spill over’ blessings.  

Also, it is interesting to me to find out that some of the jobs I am doing now are very similar to what my family has done. I am currently and entrepreneur with my own consulting firm – I am the boss.  I am currently working on the side as an on and off cupcake and cake baker and looking to take some classes this year to improve my skills. Resale shops are my favorite go-to place for reasonably priced fashion. I also have a side-hustle as a Recorder for Home Owners Associations that I came into a few years ago and has been a great blessing when unexpected expenses have occured. 

My siblings and cousins on both sides of my families also have careers/jobs that align with the family traits of working hard. One of my cousins has recently started her own photography business, LINK. My sister recently started her own interior decorating and handy-woman business, LINK. My oldest sister and my younger brother are now both working at Van Leer/ITW where my Daddy retired from. I have a cousin that is a nurse and one that is a world traveler. I have a cousin that is a cook/chef/caterer. 

My famiilies unofficial motto should be the same as Clark Atlanta University – “I’ll find a way or make one” because that is exactly what we do. It is with much gratitude and grace that we carry on the family legacy of hard work to build our own families and create our own success stories. We are building up from the firm foundation passed to us by our family (native Texan). 

From Victory, 

-Sophoria Westmoreland 

Image by Michael L. Hiraeth from Pixabay 

A Picture of Wellness

Health is Personal

The health and wellness industry sometimes seems as if it only exists to make people feel bad about what they lack or that health and wellness is a single standard. We all know that is not true. It is important that each person decide what health and wellness looks like for them. Sometimes that takes soul searching, trying new things, cutting up credit cards, seeking a therapist, trying new vitamins, meditation, prayer, changing your diet, being creative (YESSSSSSS) keeping a food journal, trying new exercises, switching things up, keeping up to date with physical and wellness exams, learning/exploring non-traditional (eastern) practices such as acupunture, and having a routine for certain things that are working.  

For me, total wellness is most successful in community. I prefer a group workout class at the gym or something like Orange Theory that brings a group of people together for a common purpose. I thrive in my church community where we come together to fellowship and worship under a common purpose. I stay on my budget when I am frequently listening to my guru Dave Ramsey listening to callers and heeding the advice.  In relationships the more I/we communicate openly and often the better. The community around me encourages me and works best to help me stay in balance and having total wellness. 

SPIRIT 

Spiritual health is important for the work that I am tasked to do each day, I need a full cup so that I can pour out onto others and share the gifts that I have been given. For me I still need to attend church services semi-regularly (I too attend Bedside Baptist from time to time) and participate in ministry (at least one sometimes more depending on my schedule) to meet my spiritual needs and also meet others spiritual needs. My current ministry is singing in the choir, which I have been doing since I was a child. This is best for me. 

I would give myself an A- in this area. (That’s because sometimes Bedside Baptist seems better than going to church) 

MENTAL

Mental has to do with my thoughtlife and the story that I am telling myself in my head. I wasn’t taught as a young woman that this was an important part of my health, therefore I have been learning this on the fly as an adult. I grew up with an abundance of support from family and friends and I generally would just take those ‘good’ words and accept them as true. I mean I still think that they are true but I didn’t address the negative thoughts and lies that would sometimes creep up in my mind. I am an academic type and also a minority and also a female so I have suffered from ‘imposter syndrome’ but did the work and mostly overcame it. Mental health is something that can not go unchecked even if it is small negative thoughts they will grow over time. When I was in graduate school I started seeing a therapist and that was very helpful and I have seen him a few times over the years since I got out of graduate school. This is what works for me. 

I would give myself an A in this area. (I have a strong foundation but there is room for improvement) 

BODY 

I rejoice when I think about my body right now and I have positive feelings (value) about my physique thanks to my community and LIZZO! (Houston girls change the game…period) I am a work in progress and I know that each day I open my eyes in the morning is a new day to take the best care of this body. Even when I still have body related goals to meet I still keep a positive outlook and use that attitude to approach the goals I have set for myself.   

Every year I have a physical exam and I also have a well woman exam at my traditional doctors office. I have a close friend who regularly goes to an accupunturist and I want to go but I’m not going to lie I have hesitations. One day I will push that fear aside and try it.  When I am feeling sick especially in the winter months I will immediatly go to the doctor and I generally get a flu shot every year.   If I catch a cold or something similar I try to strictly follow the doctors orders especially to rest so that my body can get well soonest. 

I would give myself a A- in this area. (I have a cavity that I need to have filled but it’s a bit more complicated than just making one dental appointment) 

I work out at the gym semi-regularly, this means 2-3 days a week and I would like to build up to a solid 4 days a week, but I have a lingering muscle injury in my right leg that limits the intensity and regularity of my workouts. For me before and after care is important for my muscles so the days I workout I drink more water, make sure I stretch and I also go into the sauna after my workout for 10 minutes and take an epson salt bath. These 4 things ensure that I don’t have continual pulled muscles which is apparently something my body is prone to because I over extert myself or simply my age….. marching onward to 40! 

My gym routine and before/after care are still something I am working to balance out and be more consistent.  I have heard from professionals that the gym/workout routine only contributes to 20% of body health. 

I would give myself a B+ in this area. (I have room for gradual improvement) 

Within a 7 day week I can honestly say that I eat pretty well. I generally have a smoothie for breakfast. I love coffee, I really do but I like it with sugary cream so I try not to drink it as much during the week and save it for my Saturday or Sunday morning treat. For some reason at work I can drink all the water in the world, but not so much at home – I need to improve on my at home water drinking. I will generally eat a salad for lunch or some type of meat and vegetables. Dinner can be a toss up but it is usually not that bad and consist of mostly meat and veggies. I have heard from professionals that eating is 80% of body health.  

On occasion working late in the office or on the weekends after a long week at work I sometimes eat based on my feelings. I LOVE LOVE LOVE cake – I mean I could just eat cake with every meal. I also love chips. So if you see me going for the cake or the BBQ baked Lays on the weekend just know I am stress eating to neautralize my emotions. 

I would give myself a B in this area. (I have room for improvement) 

FINANCIAL 

Often, we overlook the need for managing our finances. But, financial health is an important aspect which largely contributes to ‘a picture of wellness.’  Generally, once a year, I spend some time reviewing my finances – am I managing my debt appropriately? Have I tithed consistently? What do I hope to accomplish – bathroom remodel, new Gucci Bag? (YES!) And am I prepared for an emergency – aging vehicle?

I’d like to think I do ‘pretty good’ with my finances. I don’t typically carry any credit card balances, I pay a little extra towards my mortgage and I pay my bills on-time. While all of those things sound like a good idea – I was challenged when a friend casually asked me about my finances. I had no idea overall how well I was doing but I felt like I was doing well, right? But,  I was unable to answer very simple questions about my portfolio, allocations or even how much I paid my financial planner. And here I thought I was doing well? As, it stands, I’m doing ok but there’s some basic things I should be able to speak intelligently about when it comes to my finances. I have about 3 months of living expenses saved and I can stand to contribute even more to my 401K. But, this idea of a ‘picture of wellness’ has challenged me to do better about my financial health.

In this area, I would give myself a B-. (My goal is to intimately know the bag I have secured) 

Continual learning is a must for us to take care of these bodies and spirits we have. Reading articles on health/wellness/money teaches me about new things to try that work for others, some will stick for me and some won’t. I love listening to podcasts about wellness and meditation (and apparently murder, yes I am a murderino thanks to Dean Koontz and Stephen King) to learn new things and also sometimes it helps me realize things that may be lacking from my wellness routine. 

Stay Personally Healthy 

-Written by: Sophoria Westmoreland & Cecelia Toulson 

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay 

The Prayer

Give all who mourn peace 

Mend the broken-hearted 

Touch them one by one, name by name 

Reveal Your unfailing love 

Show the world Your truth 

Strengthen our common bond 

Bless us with total health 

Guide our descision making 

Consecrate us for the works assigned 

Make us vessesls of light 

Set us on a hilltop 

Give us strength from day to day 

Ignite us towards righteousness 

Plant hope in our hearts 

Optimism for days to come  

Rememberance of Your grace and mercy past 

Fortitude for what remains to be seen 

Eternity in our souls 

A servant’s spirit 

A graceful tongue 

A love for all 

Let us walk in ’This Victorious Life’ 

In Jesus Name, 

…Selah 

…Hallelujah 

…Amen 

-Sophoria Westmoreland 

Image by RÜŞTÜ BOZKUŞ from Pixabay 

Personally Sophoria

Just me. Being me. Doing me.

(This blog post was originally written for a close friend of mine, she hosts a fabulous fashion blog here and also owns and operates a fabulous t-shirt company here

A standard of grace not perfection is a resonating theme throughout my life. Living on Grace and Mercy is the mission statement for my life coming from Hebrews 4:16. Which reads: 

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (KJV) 

What we all need each day, God gives in full measure. His mercies are new every single morning. Life is panful at times, hurtful, disappointing, and if we choose self-reliance over God’s grace and mercy we will easily cave into a life of anxiety filled depression.  Every morning I open my heart to recieve new grace and mercy, joy fills my heart, peace, love and I am content to go, to do, to be. 

Lamentations 3: 22 – 23 reads: 

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (KJV) 

Personally Sophoria – who am I?  A daughter, sister, aunt, niece, grand daughter, great-grand daughter, god mother, and a friend. Relationships are essential to my well being and my history with my native family and with high school and college friends has been the proving ground for my adult relationships. I am also characterized as an intellectual, creative, sassy, complex, well-organized, self-disciplined, reserved, magical, friendly, cooperative, calm, secure, and dedicated – an original, unique, one-a-kind design since 1980. The fingerprint of my personality was fashioned by God in my mother’s womb before I was yet born. God knew that I would  be all these wonderful things according to His intricate design the woman I would be. 

God also knew that I would be stubborn, moody, and judgemental. I am not perfect but I am being transformed by the DAILY renewing of my mind through Christ Jesus. What does that mean? It means that I have to read the Bible daily and pray daily and speak God’s Word to thoughts not like Him, often (sometimes over and over) and more often when I am being stubborn, moody, and judgemental. I have to talk to myself, take time to listen to wise counsel, have a listening ear, and remember that I am not self-reliant.  It means I am not perfect and even when I try really hard I sometimes fall. God gives me grace when I fall and He is always there to remind me of who I am in Him – the perfect picture of Jesus Christ. 

I have come to understand that I am different by design. To be honest I don’t always understand why, but it has always been clear to me even as a young child – I am different. Growing up I was pretty different from my siblings in many ways. Even now as a woman I am different from my peers in many significant ways. I am personally me and in that truth I find contentment. 

Moments when my differences were revealed to me (or others):I have always loved going to and being in church – it is the place where I feel the safest. The African American Baptist  church raised me and framed me into the woman I am today. Whereas most children can’t wait to get out of church. I left my home high school after the 9th grade to attend the High School for Engineering Professions at Booker T. Washington High School, leaving the school where both my older sisters attended and graduated. I started college in 1998 at Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee majoring in Mechanical Engineering, leaving all my family and friends in the Houston, Texas area. In the Fall of 1999 I became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc while most of my family members are in Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority. In 2000 I transferred into the dual degree program at Clark Atlanta University and Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia leaving all my dearest friends and TSU family. In 2003 I became the first in my immediate family to graduate with a college degree and I actually earned 2 degrees. After teaching 8th grade in Texas for 3 years I left the Houston, Texas area again and moved far east to the Washington DC Metro area to attend graduate school at the University of Maryland – College Park. In 2012 I graduated with my PhD and Masters in Mechanical Engineering, again the first for my family. I became a college professor at the United States Naval Academy, a small, prestiguous teaching focused institution while most of my peers went on to teach at Research 1 institutions or high paying private sector jobs. In 2016 I started my own company, The Westmoreland Group, a consulting firm established to support the mission of government operations through science and technology. I am still one of only 2 (my sister lives in the Dominican Republic) in my family who does not call the Houston, Texas area home – I still reside in the Washington DC Metro area. 

The reason the moments aren’t all attributed to me is because sometimes I needed encouragement or to be voluntold that I should try another direction in my life. Sometimes I am not able to see the me I will be. The experiences listed above were put into place by my parents, aunts, uncles, teachers, coaches, siblings, friends, sunday school teachers, bible study teachers, sorority sisters, mentors and my life coaches Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey.  

Robert Frost perfectly summarizes those of us who are different by design. 

“I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

When I come to the end of Sophoria – there is God extending beyond my imagination the destiny of who I am to become. My phsycial limitations humble me. My intellectual limitations bring me to my knees in prayer. My financial limitations bring me test God with my tithe and offering. God is faithful, not me! God is great and can do great things (even greater things) through me for my good but for His glory. 

I was here

I lived, I loved 

I was here 

I did, I’ve done everything that I wanted

And it was more than I thought it would be

I will leave my mark so everyone will know

I was here

-Beyonce’- 

This I know for sure: God is with me through Christ and, by the Holy Spirit, He promises new mercies and His perfect strength so that I can do all things.  

Blessings, 

-Sophoria Westmoreland

….

Ecclesiastes 3

It’s Time

Sometimes when I read the Bible, I write about how it speaks to me….

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven — Verse 1 

I wonder what God’s iCal looks like? I am certain He has notifications turned off… I wonder if He uses color codes for all the events that have been planned and appointed under heaven – that means everything! I am glad to know this verse because it means even though I spend time planning parties, dinners, meetings, conferences, anniversaries – God has already appointed times for these events. 

WORK: There was an appointed time for me to start my business (August 2016) and for everything (my current contract and future business) that will come through my business by doing good works. Side note – while in graduate school I started a cupcake business (Hero Cupcakes) and a jewelry making business (The Cirlce Maker) and I secretly want to get into the college prep tutoring business.  These are all a piece of who I am – and who my Bigmoma was (she always had a business idea). 

Every little brown girl needs a Basic Black Bigmoma (BBB). 

A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. Verse 2 

Giving birth looks hard, I’ve not done it so I won’t speculate here. A time to die is a hard truth but  in surrendering to God’s will for our lives we have to accept what God allows. I have found in death that time does help and that the memories eventually are the things I cherish the most. I read the second half of this verse in a more practical way, in May I plant my flowers for the summer and in October I uproot what was planted. Once in my life though I had to uproot a close friend, it was time and God told me so in a dream so vivid that it gave me chills. 

WORK: This one is similar to Verse 1, an appointed time for everything work/career related. A time to uproot from work/career seems to becoming less complicated these days which I see as a good thing. New career fields are being created each year, especially in the scientific and engineering areas. My peers and subequent generations are not staying at the same job for 40 years. That is not a bad thing, it is just not our thing. I am so grateful that my education and training experiences allows me to expand my career and pursue new and challenging job opportunities with excitement. Change is inevitable and sometimes requires uprooting. 

A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up. Verse 3 

I beleive there is a time to kill, not murder with malice intent but to kill in self/family/country defense. If I didn’t I don’t think I would be very suitable for my current work within the Department of Defense. The older I get I need more ‘time to heal’ from moving boxes in my garage and after an intense workout session at the gym I have to sit in the sauna, take a vitamin I, and take an epson salt bath when I get home. A time to tear down and a time to build up makes me think of renovating homes and the famous show on HGTV with Chip and Joana Gaines. It is definately more pleasant in all thing that if I am tearing down I already have a plan to build up and that what I am building is going to be better than what was before. 

WORK: A career is built up one job, experience, paper, conference, brief, e-mail at a time. To say I have made a (short) career here at my current client’s office is to sum up everything that I have done for the past 5 years. I have spent many hours building up my career and my professional persona here. I am grateful that I have had work experiences that has been documentable such as making promotional videos, giving briefs on and off site, writing articles about the programs that I support, planning high profile events, attending high profile events, and many more. I do not have a Facebook profile but my picture has been featured on my client’s Facebook page for supporting a variety of science and technology programs. 

A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance. Verse 4 

I have learned as an adult that it is okay to cry, I was raised in a home where we only cried when we were given a valid reason. Discernment is a gift I have, if you have this gift you can always find something to laugh at or someone to laugh with. I don’t fancy myself a comedian at all, but I can be quippy and make others laugh if needed or I just feel the urge. There is always definately a time to mourn and a time to dance. I learned to love LeeAnn Womack because of her breakout hit “I Hope You Dance”. 

WORK: I don’t have much about work/career on this verse other than to say that I am addicted to podcast and will burst out in loud and inappropriate laughter at work at least 15 times a day.  

Here are the rest of the relevant verses for context: 

A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing. Verse 5 

A time to search and a time to give up what is lost; A time to keep and a time to throw away. Verse 6 

A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak. Verse 7 

A time to love and a time to hate; A time for war and a time for peace. Verse 8 

He has made everything appropriate in its time…He has also set eternity in their (man) heart. Verse 11 

Let us all REJOICE and DO GOOD in this lifetime. 

From dust we came and dust we shall return. 

It’s time to be HAPPY! 🙂 

Blessings, 

-Sophoria Westmoreland 

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay 

The Polished Professional Pt 1

This Oil Will Make You Sleepy

I would like to tell some short stories about my work experiences. 

The people. 

The money. 

The bosses. 

The co-workers. 

The work. 

I will start with this one … (this is a true story as remembered by the author) 

As a senior at Booker T. Washington/High School for Engineering Professions, (Yes, my high school has 2 names. Yes, I went to both of them and yes, I’ve secured papers to prove it) I applied for a program called INROADS. This is a career development program that still exists today and technically I am officially an alumni. I was elated to be accepted; receiving mentoring, career guidance workshops, and most importantly – assistance in securing a summer internship. Maybe one day I will write about my experiences in high school, if I can remember that far back. 

Born and raised in Houston, Texas but planning to escape (read … go away to college – far, far, far, far away) from what I called ‘Texas Tea’ a term of sometimes endearment but most times not of the antiquated ways and means of some Texans. As a reminder this was 1997 and in my 17 year old mind, I had a vision for my life that would  take me beyond the lone star state borders and into the hypothetical cultured world. Going away to college in Nashville, TN at Tennessee State University was a big achievement for me and one that made my family proud. A summer internship in Houston though, would ensure that I could come home for the summer and spend quality time with family and friends while learning how to be a professional and earning a paycheck. 

The summer after I graduated from high school in 1998, I secured a position with Texaco, Inc. working in a typical office building, with regular business hours, and learning about the Oil and Gas Industry (the other Texas Tea). I don’t remember much about the beginning of this internship besides that the pay was great – I was earning about $18/hr. I was given tasks working in a lab testing samples of oil that Texaco extracted from the earth or from the ocean. When the oil is extracted or sucked out of the earth or the ocean it brings rocks and other sediments. Texaco then uses some chemical reactions to separate the oil out so that it can be useful (read … that’s the part they sell). 

Well, I was testing new chemicals in the lab and recording the separation times and reporting which chemicals worked the fastest. At that time my declared major was Petroleum Engineering, it is important to also note here that Tennessee State University does not have a Petroleum Engineering major or academic department. I had shenanigans for sure but I also had my reasons. 

Nonetheless, as my internship chugged along that summer in 1998, I grew increasingly bored. I mean bored like I started taking 2 hour lunches and closing my lab door so I could take ‘power naps’. The lab I was working in was very small and I had a similarly small office a few doors down from the lab. I would go in the lab and test the samples and go back down to my office to wait while they processed. The truth was I didn’t like the work very much. My reaction was the most unprofessional – napping and taking company time to eat long gourmet lunches. Well as you can probably guess, Texaco FIRED me. Bye Bye Sophoria. This was not my first job, but it was my first time I was ever fired. I was crushed but not defeated, I mean I had to get ready to move to Tennessee to start my freshman year of college. I was grateful that they were gracious enough to allow me to complete the summer as they fired me on my last day of the internship. I listed this job on my resume for many years until at least 2007 when I started graduate school and my resume transitioned into a CV. It was there more as a reminder of what not to do and how not to behave at work. 

Now, I pride myself on being a polished professional. 

This was not always the case. 

In the summer of 1998, I was a very much, an unpolished professional. 

-Sophoria Westmoreland 

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay 

The Mountains and The Trees

There are many self-help and business related books on the topic of focus. When you have an exam to study for, how do you know what topics or problems to focus on? When you have 100 items on your to-do list on a Saturday, what items do you do first? When you have a busy week at work, what tasks do you do first second third etc.? How does one decide what to focus on? I have learned some lessons since starting my business in 2016 about focus and actually this blog was birthed out of an important lesson about focus that I am still learning. 

When I started The Westmoreland Group in 2016 I set out with a vision to start a company that would provide the government with first-rate service and also build a company with a family friendly and giving environment. I had BIG ideas and BIG dreams. That is an excellent place to start but where do you go from there? What are the next steps? I started with what I will call ‘The Trees’: 

1. Business Cards (I have cycled through 3 different designs of business cards since starting in 2016) 

2. Website (I have a basic website that uses a drag and drop type template that I spent hours changing and re-arranging over and over and over again) 

3. Polo Shirts (yes I have polo shirts and I wear them on casual Fridays at my client’s office to help put my name out there) 

4. Marketing Folder (I have a home-made but professional-looking version that includes my business card and a one page data sheet about my company – there are websites that will pop these out as well) 

5. Employee Handbook (I spent countless hours creating an Employee Handbook while I don’t have any employees yet – there are websites that will pop one out for me in like 7 minutes) 

6. Workshops (Every single day and even some weekends there are workshops in the DMV relating to government contracting and how to capture business with the government…..think 20 extra e-mails per day) 

7. Webinars (Every single day there are multiple webinars online which are helpful but how much time can or should I spend listening to webinars????……think death by webinar) 

8. Networking (Hey – you need to meet this person? Hey – I am going to connect you with this person? Hey – do you know such and such? Hey – do you need me to build you a website? Hey – do you need me to build you an app? Hey – do you need me to sell you all these services now that you won’t really need until you get employees?) 

Here are things I will call ‘The Mountains’: 

1. Contract Capture Process (Today – August 16, 2019 I am still learning about this process) 

2. Accounting (This is all about money, taxes (respect the IRS and follow all their rules), benefits, payroll, and keeping all those things compliant for the government agencies I am trying to do business with) 

3. Facility Clearance (This is what I need to prime a business contract in my current arena and I am in the process of being sponsored for it) 

4. Mentoring (This is where this blog was birthed so that I can share the wisdom and mistakes I am gaining/making along the way)

5. Legal (I have an attorney on hand and have had several conversations about services I may need in the future with a reputable law firm that specializes in Government Contracting) 

6. Banker (I have a trusted Bank and keep regular tabs on my Business Checking Accounts)  

There are even some smaller trees that I did not include in this list such as selecting a logo, writing a mission statement, selecting a company name, company colors, etc. The point is that The Tress DO NOT NEED my attention daily, weekly or even monthly. Some of them are one and done, but I’m human so sometimes I get caught-up. I can spend hours online looking at polo shirts; trying to decide which ones will flatter my body the best (YES! I am an all-american girl). Who cares? Nobody does and I know that, but sometimes I still get caught up. When I started in 2016 I wanted to go to every workshop I got an e-mail invitation too and listen to every webinar that was sent to me by e-mail, I even dragged my former roommate (who is also a former CEO of her own government contracting company – Better Solutions) to a few of these workshops. 

The key I am learning is how much time to spend focusing on ‘The Trees’ versus ‘The Mountains’. 

The Mountains will move the needle into the future and also ensure that I have a sustainable growth plan for my company. The Mountain that I am focused most on these days is the Contract Capture Process which will make or break a winning proposal for a government contract. Items 2-6 on The Mountains list are important but I don’t need to have them on my to-do list daily. Although I have learned many lessons since 2016; writing this blog helps me to be self-reflective which is a key to success in my opinion – so I try to touch it a few times a week (some seasons I do better than others). I recently heard a podcast that said no matter how many to-do lists we write, or how many books we read, or apps we use or tricks we come up with to help with time management, we essentially will do what is most important – period. I have an excellent pair of mentors within ADS Federal and between the 2 of them I am navigating how to balance between ‘The Mountains’ and ‘The Trees’. Sifting is a daily exercise of mine – sifting through e-mails and my schedule to decide what is important for me to focus on, determining what I can put in a sub-folder and focus on at another time and figuring out how to keep the main thing the main thing. 

Stay focused. 

-Sophoria Westmoreland

Image by Pexels from Pixabay  

How Did I Get Here?

I was just asked by a recent college grad: How did I get where I am in my career? This is a typical question for persons early in their career who are trying to determine what paths they may want to choose. I think one of the best things about telling your story is that everyone will glean something different from it and remember different parts of it as it relates to their own journey. My yoga instructor always says that we are all connected and this blog is one way that I honor that connection. 

‘He will open doors’   

My last 3 jobs were opportunities that opened doors for me: 

1. Working as an Assistant Research Professor at the United States Naval Academy (Annapolis, MD) 

2. Working as a Business Specialist (contractor) at the Office of Naval Research (Arlington, VA) 

3. Starting my own company, The Westmoreland Group and continuing my work as a Business Specialist at ONR under a subcontract with ADS Corporation (now ADS Federal) 

As I entered my final year as a graduate student (ABD – all but dissertation) at the University of Maryland – College Park (my 5th of 5 years – Wooosa..) my advisor heeded that it was time to start searching for a job. I researched schools with top Mechanical Engineering programs with a design emphasis, as the Capstone Design Process was my (and my advisors) specialty. I purchased a shiny new teal notebook where I would collect ‘job’ information and keep need-to-know details, because buying something new and shiny is my love language to myself! I was now ready to find a job. I did the traditional online job searching and also attended a few job fairs. I spent plenty of time searching for the best school for me to become a faculty member, reading school profiles, reading job descriptions, reading research agendas, and learning about course curriculum. In the end I was offered 3 opportunities: 

1. Texas A&M University (College Station, TX) [read…home] 

2. Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, NJ) [read…I’m no city gal] 

3. United States Naval Academy (Annapolis, MD) [read…yep yep yep] 

In the end I chose (and they me) USNA because of (1) my prospective mentor who also happened to be the chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department and (2) the student centered focus of USNA. The pro was that I could focus on students first but the con meant that research would have to be fit in after my teaching responsibilities. The learning curve was steep and challenging but I was more than prepared. I signed a 2 year contract as an Assistant Research Professor. 

As I entered the second half of my second year at USNA, it became clear to me that I may want to choose a different path. I pulled out my shiny (old) teal notebook and started my job searching again. Enter the age of LinkedIN, I had a profile but hadn’t updated it in a while so I dusted it off and updated it with my latest accomplishments since being at USNA. What happened next was surprising – the job found me. A recruiter for ADS Corporation contacted me via message on LinkedIN and I responded and set up a phone interview. The interview was pleasant and informative. I followed up with an in person interview at the ADS Corporation office in Arlington, VA. The contract for my position had not yet been awarded but I was offered a contingent position. I was thrilled but understood that no contract meant no position for me so I continued to search. In December 2014 the contract was awarded and I started my new position at the Office of Naval Research as a Business Specialist. 

The government contracting world was brand new to me, there was so much for me to learn. I thrived in my new office environment and learned my clients’ needs and exceeded them with efficiency that even surprised me. As a Business Specialist I work on finance, project management, program management, technical reviews, technical reports, briefs, speeches and presentations, program outreach, program planning, and ‘other duties as assigned’.  This means I can do many important things for the programs I support (within the confines of my contractor position). During my second year in this new position I started talking with the CEO of my company about pursing a PMP Certificate. In talking with the CEO regularly I gained a lifelong mentor and I was able to successfully obtain my PMP Certification through training at Georgetown University in November 2016. 

In August 2016 I formed The Westmoreland Group LLC as a company of 1, woman-owned small business firm specializing in Project Management, Financial Management, and STEM Programs. Through the guidance of my mentor I was able to go through the steps of forming my own company; acquiring government permission to sub-contract to ADS Corporation and continue to support my same client.  In December 2019 I will have spent 5 years at the Office of Naval Research and the future for me and The Westmoreland Group is bright and abounding with opportunities. 

www.thewestmorelandgroup.com  

In the right season in my life God has opened doors for me. 

I am grateful for the opportunities and also for Him preparing me to walk in them. 

He will open doors for you. 

DREAM BIG! 

-Sophoria Westmoreland

….

Image by seth0s from Pixabay