Wendy Oliveras is not new to entrepreneurship. When her first business, a legal staffing agency, closed due to the 2008 financial crisis she knew she wasn’t done yet. She poured her love and passion for chess, as well as her business knowledge into a book that melds chess theory with business advice. Shortly thereafter the book concept became the inspiration for her business, SHESS Global Alliance, her consulting firm which provides professional business advisory and training services for companies in the corporate, education, non-profit and government sectors. Today, the New Jersey-based consultant is continuing to grow her business, battling sexism in the world of chess and continuing to find inspiration in role models, like her grandmother.

Oliveras’ story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:

What was your reason for starting your business?

SHESS Global Alliance, LLC is actually my second business. My first business was a legal staffing agency. The economic downturn in 2008 affected my growth potential and I had no other choice but to close the office. However, my love and passion for playing chess for fun influenced my interest in helping women in business learn to play chess and become better problem solvers and decision makers in life and business. I am an indie author and in 2012, I wrote my first book, Let’s Play SHESS: Succeed in your game of life and business by playing chess – from Pawn to Queen. This book inspired me to form SHESS Global Alliance in 2014. Since then, I have been an outsourced Small Business Consultant for the New Jersey Small Business Development Center at Rutgers-Newark.

The reason for starting SGA is my personal love for chess and how it has helped me become a better and smarter entrepreneur and business owner, as well as counsel other women to achieve their dreams of business ownership and financial independence. In April 2021, I release my second book, Checkmate Moves for Business Startups: Tactical Advantages from Gameboard to Life. This is an empowerment guide for women in business to start their own businesses and learn to play chess for fun.

How do you define success?

Success means something different to everyone. For me, success simply means that I have accomplished helping others to become successful in their lives and business development. Knowing I can help someone truly become happy with what they do for a living is what makes me happy as a consultant. This is success for me. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Tell us about your biggest success to date

Aside from helping others scale their businesses for success, my biggest success to date is believing and loving myself enough to dare to take chances and publish what I am most passionate about in my consulting practice. Chess is a huge influential part of my being and success, and I want to share it with every woman I can.

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What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?

I’d have to say that my top challenge with regard to my consulting practice, which empowers women in business through chess strategies and tactics is that men dominate the professional chess world. The unfortunate societal perception is that if you are not a chess grandmaster, then you are not considered a viable resource to teach chess or even write about it.

I can assure you that this is a myth, and I do not buy into this negative perception. I am an avid chess player and publish books about chess, life, and business. I teach chess basics to others because I have the confidence and know-how to do so. Sometimes it is difficult to ignore the doors that are slammed in my face, but I believe in my mission to empower women through chess and will never stop trying. Thanks to the recent “Queens Gambit” Netflix series, I see there is light at the end of this tunnel.

Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?

The economic downturn in 2008 changed my life. I never experienced financial difficulties until this unexpected debacle occurred, and I had to close my legal staffing firm as a result.

What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?

As a small business consultant, one of my biggest tips for other start up entrepreneurs is to believe in yourself and your dream.

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How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?

We all face moments of self-doubt and insecurities, but when I find myself thinking negative, I immediately try my best to change the dark thoughts into positive ones. For example, I tell myself you can do this; it’s okay to be afraid; you will get through this; be patient; and don’t you dare give up!

Who is your most important role model?

My most important role model is my Grandma. She died at 97 years old. She lived in Puerto Rico and was very poor. She lived directly across the street from an elementary school where no grocery stores were nearby. Everyone in that area had to walk a long way to get to a store to buy basic necessities.

As a result, my Grandma creatively found a solution to a community problem that would also simultaneously benefit her livelihood for many years to come. She added a front store to her home and sold basic stationery products, such as pencils, pens, erasers, and note pads. But selling all kinds of goodies and candies was a huge hit with the students who would run to her store during breaks and after school.

As a role model, my Grandma taught me that confidence, creativity, and tenacity go hand in hand. She taught me that sometimes an entrepreneurial spirit can be born out of desperate situations and that is okay too. She taught me not to be scared to take chances and to believe in myself regardless of the outcomes of my decisions. I am proud of my Grandma and will never forget her invaluable and subtle lessons she taught me for my success.

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Editor’s Note: The Story Exchange is celebrating its 10th anniversary by launching the annual Women In Science Incentive Prize. Apply now for a chance to receive $5,000 in funding for your climate-related research or startup. Deadline: July 31. 

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