Award-winning business consultant Yvonne Witter shares her success story
How do you get yourself heard when you’re the only woman in the room? Yvonne Witter does this through advocacy and empowerment, asking pertinent questions as well as initiating and engaging in thought-provoking discussions. The award-winning international business consultant has been training others to tap into their full potential for over two decades. And today, she shares her success story: one built on courage, talent, strength, taking initiative, and resilience.
“When I started out, what I loved most was speaking to someone who had an idea for a business but didn’t know how to make it a reality. I would be the solutionist. Now, my work has evolved to writing entrepreneurship programmes that provide learning support, coaching, mentoring, and grant money or loans,” she told The Sunday Gleaner. The structure of her programme includes hiring professionals to deliver relevant elements.
Witter explained that growing up, the last thing on her mind was running a business. But everything changed when she saw a need to help others on their professional journey.
After her parents left the island’s shores and migrated to England, they returned to live in Jamaica when Witter was 10 years old. She attended Morant Bay High School and later Priory School in Kingston before returning to England for college. “I ended up studying four years of business, marketing, and finance. Then I did a bachelor’s degree in communications and media and a master’s in drama production,” she added.
Witter tutored part time at a community college on how to start your own business. That became the stepping stone for developing and delivering a programme offering learning support for the small-business community.
This work inspired the professional to register a company geared at creating a greater impact on black businesses in London.
I listened to people’s frustrations and gave them the necessary tools to work on their original ideas to make them into credible businesses. After doing research with government agencies, trade bodies, and chambers of commerce, I amassed enough background information and mustered up enough courage to write a competitive tender. And I won,” she said enthused.
She offers training, coaching, mentoring, and advice from a team of professionals to “… enable clients to set up their business operations, their marketing, strategic planning, financial management, set budgets, and cash flow forecasting. Guidance on industry registration, insurance, and illegal considerations are also involved”. Additionally, she takes the time to write business plans and speak to loan advisors on behalf of her clients, getting them the seed capital needed for the start-up.
There was a time when she ran into the obstacle of ridicule from other associates who lamented the need for potential business owners to know how to write a business plan or understand the process. While Witter believes in educating the public, she is happy to extend her expertise, provide support, and make a difference in elevating the quality of life for her clients.
“The general public would not necessarily understand business processes. Just because you’re a good hairdresser, plumber, joiner, dressmaker, or you’re good at baking cakes doesn’t mean that you understand business processes, and why should you? “ she shared, crediting Jamaican upbringing for her strong backbone and perseverance.
Guiding others for over two decades has been the most rewarding experience for the entrepreneur. Her clients stand proudly as a testimony to and legacy of her work.
“There are businesses that I have supported that are still going many years later, and that makes me feel very honoured. When I see a business I’ve supported featured in a newspaper, for example, or I see that they’ve grown and expanded their operations, it fills my heart with joy, it really does. I am motivated by building wealth in the black community,” Witter declared.
Her writing work includes a collection of non-fiction published in anthologies, newspapers, and magazine articles. But she released her self-published book, Developing Customer Service in the Black Owned Business, last year.
Another passion project of hers was the creation of the Enterprise4Women. The initiative supports and encourages the promotion of women in the workplace and in business. “Women need to have workspaces that feel safe and where they are recognised. An environment where they can freely express ideas and be acknowledged. Women need mentors and men who are supportive of women within the workplace as men are often in positions of leadership,” she added.
Witter listed the Southwark Woman of the Year Award in 2009 as her most memorable accolade. She cried as it spoke volumes about the incredible work she had been doing in the United Kingdom as well as overseas.
Speaking of work, another highlight of her career was working in Africa, specifically Cameroon, Ghana, Gambia, and Malawi. As Witter tells it, “There was no greater joy than being in the motherland, embracing the culture, and helping university students.” As for her biggest learning experience, it came from her work in the Far East in Myanmar, Yangon where as a black woman, she was seen as a novelty.
Just this month, her journey came full circle when she visited Jamaica to share her insights at the recently staged Young Entrepreneurs Expo and Success Summit.
Currently, Witter is working on investing in new start-ups and creating a programme that rescues senior leaders from the risk of burnout.
Her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to get creative, invent a product or brand that taps into innovation or improve on what already exists. But let it be a business that solves a problem.
“My approach to entrepreneurship is from the point of view of self -determination and independence. There is a level of grind, commitment, and dedication required to start and run a business that many can only dream about. Those who just want to become wealthy have no real ambition to provide solutions in society. They simply want to amass wealth. I believe that if a person provides a solution to a problem, the money will come,” she stated.