Name: Mary “Bumblebee” Pokluda
Business: Bumblebee Personal Assistants , online personal assistant hiring service
Industry: Other — Lifestyle Services
Location: Twin Cities, Minnesota, U.S.
Reason for starting: Bumblebee Personal Assistants, LLC, was founded in 2007 and now operates as Bumblebee, Inc. with an expanded suite of services. Bumblebee has removed barriers to success and allowed business owners, corporate executives, and household CEOs the ability to off-load tasks that stand between them and revenue, growth, and time better spent with friends and family. As founder, I envision a world where every business and household has the ability to balance work, play, and family without sacrificing business success, personal growth, and meaningful relationships.
I cut my teeth in the retail and hospitality industries. Known to my peers as a “fixer,” I transformed failing stores into revenue generators. Because of my focus on relationship-based management, my retail employees quickly stepped up to help me when 70-hour work weeks left little time for personal errands: they delivered my dry cleaning, made bank deposits, and picked up my groceries. This assistance allowed me to focus successfully on my career, and I wondered, “How do other busy women get things done?” I answered this question with Bumblebee Personal Assistants with the inspiration to provide the same services to other busy professionals. My desire to help them find time in their days to connect with the things and people that matter most drove me to start Bumblebee Personal Assistants.
How do you define success? My definition of success involves taking stress away from the lives of others. There are little tasks that need to be done every day that go unnoticed yet take considerable time and energy. When someone like me or a Worker Bee in my Hive steps in to complete these tasks, it means so much to people. When I can be there to give my clients piece of mind, a moment of rest, a bit of the week back that they can savor – that is my version of success.
Biggest success: In 2013 my business won the Small Business Blue Ribbon Award from the US Chamber of Commerce for minority business owners. I was honored to represent MN, my community, and colleagues in the Hive. Not only were my contributions recognized throughout the process, from the peer nomination to the final award, I felt proud to represent a business that lifts up the often thankless details of life in a way that made an impact in my industry. I strive to be an example for other minority women business owners.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? Because of industry need and my decisions to shift focus when the economy demanded it, Bumblebee has grown quickly. We are on the cusp of another growth spurt, yet I have limited time and resources to invest in the infrastructure and employee team to allow me to transfer my expertise so the Hive can grow beyond its Queen Bee. My vision is to grow my concept to extend support to a greater range of clients, and I need the resources in both time, money, and talent to do it.
I have recently invested in time with a management strategist/consultant to help bring more organization to the transfer of knowledge throughout the Hive, coach me on structuring proposals and pitches, all with the plan to bring in the right resources at the right time. I am always watchful to support my current team through changes that could be difficult for them. The “tipping point” is here and I’m ready.
My mission, to provide the gift of time to busy professionals, households and employees of our Twin Cities premier corporations, has never changed. However, my industry is dependent on discretionary funds, and the investment of these funds shifted during the cycles of the economy. My continued success depended on my ability to respond to economically driven changes. When the market declined, I had to shift my resources where people needed me most. I transferred focus to business owners who worked furiously at their professional tasks to survive. They hired my personal assistant services to get their personal and home tasks done. Once the economy began to recover, so did investment in parties and events, and that side of my business grew. I was once again able to support my clients as they celebrated their success in surviving the dips in the economy.
Related: Crowd Funding for Small Businesses
Who is your most important role model? I value the lessons I learned from Sonya Sotomayor. Her life story, as a Latina woman and influencer, resonated with me significantly. I followed her struggles and successes. No matter how many times the world tried to tell her, “You can’t do that,” she fought for her right to show up in the world of law and politics. Her persistence answered the naysayers, “Watch me.” She reaffirmed the struggles I faced as a Latina business woman, and I echo, “Watch me succeed.”
Edited by The Story Exchange