How Mary Marsh Launched A Remarkably Successful Virtual Executive Assistant Company At The Age Of 56

Aim2Assist Founder Mary Marsh
Mary Marsh
CEO / Founder at Aim2Assist
in Interviews

So, who are you and what’s your business?

Hey there! Mary Marsh here, Founder and CEO of Aim2Assist. We’re a virtual assistant services company, launched in 2014 and 100% bootstrapped. My lifelong dream was to create a company at which folks could work from home – or from anywhere – providing them with the flexibility they need or simply desire. Equally important, I wanted to offer clients superb service, one which stands out from all the rest.

We offer premium services, primarily to C-level executives. Our virtual executive assistants are the best of the best; USA-based and college-educated with varied, highly specialized skill sets. Aim2Assist strives to do Virtual Assistance differently than other Virtual Assistant companies out there. Our Virtual Assistants are the most important part of this company and we make sure they know it. We compensate our Virtual Assistants fairly because we know that people who truly feel like part of a team do great work.

What is your backstory and what inspired you to come up with / pursue this idea?

Aim2Assist is my second company; IDDS (Industrial Design and Drafting Services) was my first, established in 1996, as a sole proprietorship. My background is in c-level executive support and as well, structural and mechanical design engineering. As a single mom of 2 children, one of which was a bit challenging, it became necessary to be at home as much as possible. I started IDDS and contracted design work from an engineering firm near my home for 20 years through 2016.

During the economic crisis of 2009, my engineering work was cut in half. Times were very hard and to pay the bills, I needed a second job. I applied to a virtual assistant services company (now one of my competitors) and worked with them part-time for nearly 2 years. I loved their business model, initially, and it provided the extra income I 1 needed until the company went in a different direction – one which no longer worked for me or my situation. That’s when the “aha” moment came – I can do this myself!

I began the planning stages of Aim2Assist six months before launch. I was 56 years old and seriously wondered if I was “biting off more than I could chew”. At that time, I had no idea what I was getting myself into but something deep inside me (God) told me I could do this and I would succeed. I committed and never gave up.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product – what was that like?

I had a good base to start with – the basics of the business model from the “competitor” I once worked with – with some tweaks to make it mine and make it better. I spent several weeks researching my competition, i.e., what services were they offering and what were they charging for those services; what did their service plans look like?

A great deal of thought was involved and many decisions had to be made before our service offerings could be defined, such as:

  • Employees vs contractors
  • Pay rates
  • Benefits
  • Experience/education requirements

Once these decisions were made, then the focus shifted to service offerings:

  • Hourly vs monthly plans & rates
  • Specialty services
  • Discounts
  • Contracts

After a few months of planning & due diligence, we began with:

  • Independent subcontractors
  • Pay rate of 50% – 75% of client rate per month
  • Reciprocal paid time off
  • C-level Executive Assistant experience with college degree
  • Hourly and monthly subscriptions
  • Specialty services
  • 20% discounts for the first 30 days of service
  • Client and subcontractor agreements

Describe launching the company… Where did you start?

Aim2Assist launched on December 19, 2014, after a 2-week delay; the website wasn’t ready. A friend and past co-worker offered their partner to create the website at no charge as long as they could include it in their portfolio. Sadly, the site didn’t fit with my vision. We launched, regardless, and I spent the next 3-4 weeks, 18-20 hours per day, designing and building the site myself.

Being limited on funds and bootstrapping the business, advertising was done on social media using Hootsuite. I used as many free services as I could, supported my seven clients as their executive assistant, continued working as a design engineer for the next two years, and operated, while slowly building, Aim2Assist single-handedly for the first four years.

Initially, costs were very low. I worked out of my home office, and as previously mentioned, utilized free services such as Hootsuite, Google Voice, Hip Chat (now Slack), Skype, Zoom and others. My only costs were GSuite, 3 domain names & web hosting. Advertising on social media (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn) was also free although all new business came from referrals.

Lessons learned – six months wasn’t near long enough to plan a new company. If I could do it over, I’d give myself at least one year. As well and in hindsight, it would have made more sense for me to build our website myself. Many times it’s much more difficult for others to see your vision through your eyes unless they’re experienced in this regard or share your vision.

What has worked to attract & retain customers so far?

The majority of our business is based on referrals from current and past clients which, as we’ve discovered, are typically the best. When clients are happy with their service, recommendations to new potential clients are golden. They’re the easiest to sign up because they already know what to expect – a premium service. When 95% of your business comes from referrals, you know you’re doing a good job!

We have an advertising budget of $3600+ per month currently although we started with less than $500 per month after one year in business. Interestingly, our digital creative director was my very first client before Aim2Assist’s inception. Ads are posted on three social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn) daily. We see the most engagements from video ads with pets or beach scenes!

A newsletter, utilizing Mailchimp, goes out to our mailing list (requested on our site) twice per week. These newsletters have produced a few new clients recently and our mailing list grows on average of 25% per month.

We offer an ongoing discount to new clients of 20% on their first 30 days of service. Throughout the year, and especially during the holiday season, we typically offer a 30% discount to boost sales. While virtual assistant services remain difficult to sell, these discounts help but don’t always produce the sales we’d like to see. We’ve learned that concentrating our efforts on current client happiness produces the best sales in referrals as well as repeat clients. When a client cancels their services (generally due to a change in their business structure), we periodically check in with them and offer a returning client discount where appropriate.

What books, podcasts, or people have been the most influential on your journey?

I recently finished a book, The Seven Evolutionary Levels to Profound Selling, by Glenn Roller. It takes you through a type of deep dive into all seven levels beginning with the self-absorbed salesperson and ending with the enlightened salesperson. But this isn’t just about basic selling; it allows you to understand yourself and others on a much higher level, looking way beyond sales and understanding the human dynamics at work. It’s profoundly life-altering!

I’ve had the good fortune to meet and get to know several female entrepreneurs through the years. They have had a huge impact on my business, as well as personal, life in that they’ve demonstrated that no matter who you are or where you come from, you can and will succeed in any endeavor you choose. It takes a lot of effort and commitment – anything is possible!

How are things going today and what does the future look like?

We’re doing well! The business supports one part-time and two full-time executive team members. I’ve not had to personally support clients since March 31, 2020, and I’m able to focus 100% of my working hours on Aim2Assist. I’m still wearing a few “hats”; responsible for client acquisitions, client happiness and retention, innovation, HR (with the help of my CoS), and contracts. As we continue to grow, I hope that I’ll eventually focus primarily on innovation.

2022 started out with a bang! We signed many new clients and acquired 2 clients with the need for EA teams. We were, to say the least, thrilled. Then inflation hit and we lost quite a few clients due to financial difficulties and the need to cut costs.

Business is beginning to pick up again in Q4. We’re also expanding into recruiting Senior Level Executive Assistants to officially launch in January 2023. Stay tuned!

Any advice for others who are just starting out?

I think the most important thing I did when starting Aim2Assist was refusing to give up, regardless of the obstacles, mistakes, difficult months financially – I ALWAYS believed the company would survive. I was 56 years old – if I can do this, anyone can do this. 4 You’re never too old to try new things. If it’s your dream, do it! Don’t give up. And trust God.

We treat our subcontractors like they’re the most important parts of our business – because they are. We pay them at a higher percentage than most virtual assistant companies and we give them perks that aren’t typical for contractors such as reciprocal paid time off, Christmas bonuses, gift cards on Administrative Assistants Day, recognition for birthdays and work anniversaries plus EA of the month with a gift card for the winner. We believe – we KNOW – that the way to keep clients happy is to have happy assistants.

We live by our core values, in business and our personal lives, with a particular focus on “do the right thing”. Our word means something because any relationship worth having should be built on a foundation of trust. We don’t make excuses, we take responsibility.

What’s the best way for people to connect and follow you? Website, Social Profiles, Etc…

We publish 2 blogs per month on Aim2Assist website which are a great resource for anything virtual assistant or client related.

We can be followed on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn where folks can be kept up to date on what’s going on with Aim2Assist.

My mother in law loves to sew.

A few years ago she asked me how to set up an online store.

She wanted to sell fancy throw pillows she was making.

I gave her very basic steps. Enough to get started (I don't know much about ecom).

A few weeks later she showed me her site. It

Everyone wants “yes.”

But they don’t wanna pay the price.

100 Nos is the price of one yes.

You can get as many as yeses as you damn well please as long as you’re willing to pay the price.

I was sad to learn that Charlie Munger died today at age 99.

What a life.

He would likely roll his eyes and argue that none of us should be too surprised, based on the actuarial tables, but we’ve lost one of the 20th century’s greatest investors and businessmen.

Chris and I

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