Welcome to Movers & Shakers; a series where we look deep into PNW life for people who are making moves, doing big things, and who are just - in general - being rad. Seattle is full of multi-talented and multi-faceted people, many at the intersection of technology and the arts. How do they find the time? What's their secret? Well friends, we're here to find out. Meet Movers & Shakers; aka Seattle Refined attempting to capture the not-so-secret lives of impressive locals. Have a recommendation for us? Email email@example.com.
In August of 2016, a traumatic event forever shifted the life of Everett-born Emilie Given, now mom to two and the successful CEO of locally-based company She's a Given. Both Given and her son almost died during childbirth; for six minutes, he didn't breathe, as she nearly bled out on the table.
The two were separated immediately, as he was whisked off in an ambulance to Children's Hospital and she was sent to Providence Everett. Given wasn't able to meet her son until he was seven days old. Miraculously, everyone is now healthy.
Thankfully, now that some time has passed, Given can reflect on all the good that came from this harrowing life experience, one she says changed her perspective on everything.
"It completely opened my eyes," she said. "I see the world so differently now. I really hear birds chirping; I see the color of people's eyes."
It also made her reassess her work priorities. For four and a half years, she had worked at Amazon, a company she praises for treating her well and allowing her and her husband to buy their house and giving her six months of paid maternity leave. Yet she quickly realized that that work schedule no longer aligned with her family life; her career kept her away from the house from 6:30 a.m. till 6:30 p.m., bringing her home just an hour before her son's bedtime.
"I had to figure it out," she said. Some of the shift came out of necessity, too, since there were suddenly colossal medical bills to pay and her husband had gone through an unexpected job transition just six months after they bought their house. He started driving for Amazon on the side; she began freelancing.
Building upon her executive assistant background, Given began dipping her toe into the virtual assistant (VA) world. By spring of 2019, her VA work had expanded to a 40-hour-per-week gig. She still had her 40-hour job at Amazon, too.
In July 2019, she left Amazon and quickly realized she wanted to create this flexibility not only for herself, but for other moms too. So, she decided to scale her virtual assistant business to an agency model.
Today she runs her thriving virtual assistant agency, alongside her husband Bill. They work with countrywide executive small businesses and startups, on everything from project management and calendar maintenance to helping out with marketing and social media needs.
Since Seattle is so startup-centric, that tends to be their focus, but they work with individuals, too. Here in Seattle clients range from a bike shop they help with appointment setting to an insurance company wanting executive support and a seven-person healthcare startup. Other clients need help with Instagram coaching and podcast editing, and one individual seeks personal help with twice-weekly accountability calls to make sure he's hitting his goals at work.
She's A Given currently features 27 virtual assistants (who all happen to be women), spread out across the country. All of them are college-educated and boast corporate backgrounds; many have specific skillsets. The company offers month-to-month contracts that can range from 10 hours/month to full-time.
"That makes us stand out as well," Given explains. "We like to be flexible."
When getting to know clients, Given wants to learn logistical details and practical needs, but she also likes to ask questions like: Would you rather work with an extrovert or introvert? Do you prefer someone who is more direct?
"The skillset is really important," Given says about making VA matches, "but personality can be even more important."
They pay their VAs weekly; some are full-time, while others are merely dipping in a toe to see if this might be a fit. They will often pair a VA on the East Coast with a West Coast company, for example, so that the client can wake up with a clean inbox due to the time difference.
"The pandemic skyrocketed our business," Given says, who admits they expected their growth to take much longer. It's proven wonderful, since she's been able to employ women laid off this past year. The biggest challenges have stemmed from Given's lack of experience in running her own business, yet she has great confidence in learning new skills. "Your resourcefulness is so important," she says, something she tells those she coaches through She's a Given Academy, too.
In order to expand her knowledge, she read a ton, followed other business experts online and compared her websites to others'.
"I may not know how to do something," she says, "but I can figure it out."
Her advice to others starting something new? "Have confidence in your abilities." She encourages people to step back and assess: "What are you an expert in? Sell yourself in that."
Given knows there are a lot of VA agencies out there, yet she takes pride in being "small, boutique, family-owned." They aim to eventually expand up to 50 assistants max, so they can stay personally connected to each client and each assistant.
Down the road, Given will also offer group courses. When she's not working, she loves spending time with her little family, most recently during local travel excursions. They just returned from Seabrook and will head to Lake Chelan next. She loves how this life pivot has benefited not only her own life-work balance — but that of her employees too.
"It's been a real joy to spend more time with my family," she says, " but it's also full-circle, since it gives business executives more time to spend with their families, too."