Walker’s Legacy Profiles recognize unique women of color in business who embody the legacy of Madam C.J. Walker, the first female self-made millionaire. In this installment, meet Sonja Caison.
As we celebrate National Entrepreneurship Month, I can think of no woman better to profile than Sonja Caison. A franchisee of The Cleaning Authority, which has over $1M in sales and covers parts of Northern Virginia, Sonja left her corporate job years ago to start her own business. She has groomed future female entrepreneurs at the Women’s Business Center of Northern Virginia, is active in the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, and is the past president of the entrepreneurship ministry at her church. I sat down with her to learn more about her story.
KRYSTA JONES: Why did you decide to start this franchise?
SONJA CAISON: I wanted more control over my schedule and my financial freedom. I chose a franchise because I wanted the support of a strong franchisor to help me with the backend of the business (e.g., marketing, strategic vendor relationships) so I can focus on the people side of the business (staff and customers). Plus, I wanted to ramp up quickly. Working with a franchisor provided me with best practices for success in a shorter period of time and with fewer financial mistakes.
KRYSTA JONES: Please give us a snapshot of what an average day is like as owner of your franchise.
SONJA CAISON: My days vary from day to day. Some days I attend board meetings with organizations that I support. Other days I am managing the bookkeeping and administrative side of the business. I meet with my management staff about employees or customer concerns. Finally, on a monthly basis, I meet with a peer business group to create strategies for my company’s growth.
Don’t try to handle growing your business alone. You have issues that another successful business owner can help you overcome
KRYSTA JONES: What are some of your biggest challenges as an owner?
SONJA CAISON: Keeping up with changing work environments. Finding resources to help with the changing environment. When I worked in corporate America, they sent me to training to keep me current. Now it is on me to find resources to keep my company current and ahead of the competition. I want to keep growing as a business owner and finding resources to help me with that growth goal is a constant challenge.
KRYSTA JONES: How do you feel this experience has helped you grow as a person?
SONJA CAISON: I have learned patience, negotiation, listening skills, and how not to sweat the small stuff.
KRYSTA JONES: What professional development tools do you recommend for women of color who want to succeed as an entrepreneur?
SONJA CAISON: I love podcasts. Listening to EO Fire, The Art of Charm, and Andy Stanley Leadership. Podcasts allow me to listen to great leaders throughout my day as background noise in my office. Even the staff hears the discussion. I also enjoy many business books. I found the book Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend helpful for me and all of the leadership staff of my company.
KRYSTA JONES: What advice in general do you have for women of color who want to be more successful as entrepreneurs?
SONJA CAISON: Don’t try to handle growing your business alone. You have issues that another successful business owner can help you overcome. Network with businesses that are larger and more successful than you. They can help you shorten the problem times with great advice.