By SAFIYA CHARLES, Montgomery Advertiser
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Ashley Jackson thrives on your inability to get things done.
For the 33-year-old entrepreneur, an inbox choked with emails or a calendar packed with events is an opportunity, not a nuisance.
Jackson is the owner of JAMM Resources, a virtual assistant company she launched in 2017 after she recognized that she could monetize her penchant for productivity and turn it into a lucrative and flexible career.
She offers a range of services to businesses and individuals who can’t keep track of it all on their own, much like a traditional administrative assistant would; bookkeeping, customer service, communication and social media management — the list goes on — except she does it all from her home office.
Her clients range from attorneys and graphic designers to small firms that send calls directly to her phone or connect through an answering service.
“I see a problem, find a solution and fix it,” Jackson said. “That’s what I do.”
Four years ago, she knew nothing about the virtual assistant industry. Now, each time she drives north on Interstate 85 she looks out for a large brick building complex that she dreams she will one day fill with employees.
It’s a vision some couldn’t have imagined 15 years ago. Jackson dropped out of Jefferson Davis High School in 2006 after a string of suspensions. She said that as a teen she struggled with unresolved emotions about her father that caused her to act out in school.
“It’s not about how you start; it’s about how you finish. I got my GED, and that was literally the best thing that ever happened to me. I went to the military, and I learned all these skills that transferred directly to my business life,” she said.
In the Army, Jackson worked in human resources, handling sensitive personnel records and helping members apply for insurance and marriage licenses among other necessities.
JAMM allows Jackson to work remotely, which came in handy when COVID-19 hit, as well as set her own hours and pay. Another advantage was that there was little to no start-up capital necessary.
As a married mother of two children, she said the freedom has been invaluable, which is why the entrepreneur began mentoring people, particularly single mothers, looking to join the industry about a year ago. Jackson has been there and knows the struggle. That large office complex she dreams of would have an entire floor dedicated to child care.
Some have questioned why Jackson would offer to train would-be competitors.
“If I know something, why not teach it to somebody else? This is who I am. I don’t mind sharing the knowledge I have so that people can create a better life for themselves,” she said.
Jackson sees JAMM as a resource hub and plans to offer a structured course in the future that outlines the ins and outs of the industry for those who need help to get their business off the ground.
One piece of advice she frequently offers is to create a business plan. If she’d had one when she started, it would have kept her efforts laser-focused instead of broad. Jackson said that in the beginning everyone looked like a client to her.
Another invaluable lesson was financial management.
“Don’t mix your personal money with your business money. I wasn’t paying myself and I was using my business bank account for personal purchases. Once I stopped, I was able to see my business account grow.”
Although most of Jackson’s interactions with her clients are by phone or email, she said they have become like family to her. Many of the new requests for business she receives come from personal referrals.
“It all boils down to customer service for me. I try to treat every business like my own,” she said.
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