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Exploring Life & Business with Michelle Nusum-Smith of The Word Woman

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michelle Nusum-Smith.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I got started in nonprofit work and became a “do-gooder” well before I knew what any of that meant. My mom taught my sisters and me early on about the importance of giving back and helping out. We were active volunteers at a young age and developed a passion for doing good and supporting charities. Because of the experiences in my youth, I spent most of my professional career in the nonprofit sector. Over nearly twenty years working for and volunteering at various nonprofits led me to start my consultancy, The Word Woman LLC in 2010 to help nonprofits and individuals achieve their missions to do good by helping them to understand and follow nonprofit best practices. The Word Woman LLC was launched as a grant writing service. Today, it is a full-service consultancy providing consulting, coaching and training services serving start-ups and well-established nonprofits and government agencies.

Both when I worked for nonprofits and since starting The Word Woman LLC, I have found that nonprofit founders, board members and staff are usually in no short supply of passion for their cause but all too often lack an understanding of the “business” of nonprofits. They lack the knowledge and skills necessary to grow, manage and/or sustain their organization. Everyday, I help passionate people leverage their passion with skills and knowledge in nonprofit best-practices.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
As I am sure your readers know, the path of entrepreneurship isn’t a smooth journey. It’s a rocky, bumpy and winding road we entrepreneurs travel, but it is also very exciting! I bring to Th Word Woman LLC the same entrepreneurial spirit I brought to past employers. I am constantly hustling and thinking about how to improve and how to expand while navigating the unexpected– which isn’t always negative but requires being flexible and openminded.

After more than a decade in business, I have dealt with the struggles all business owners face — ebbs and flows in income, poor hiring decisions, and unrealistic customer expectations. I have also dealt with struggles unique to a woman, particularly an African American woman, business owner. There is no doubt that I have been overlooked and undervalued because people have assumed I am younger, less experienced and/or less capable than I actually am. But I do not allow any of that to throw me off course from following my dreams. Years ago I adopted a mindset about this: “I work with those who want to work with me”. I have also learned to be more discerning when it comes to “opportunities”. For example, client prospects expect me to charge less than my counterparts. I do not.

As you know, we’re big fans of The Word Woman LLC. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
Based in Frederick, MD but serving clients across the country and in other parts of the world, The Word Woman LLC is a full-service consulting firm helping new, emerging and established nonprofits as well as government agencies and individuals to achieve their goals. Because I worked such a long time in the nonprofit sector and held pretty much every role in a nonprofit, I bring my practical experience, coupled with ongoing professional development, to each consulting project, coaching session, and training course. Over the years, I have been told by both clients and training participants that I have a knack for uncomplicating the complicated. I credit having “been there, done that” to my ability to meet people where they are and to understanding the challenges/barriers they want to overcome. The Word Woman LLC offers one-on-one and group coaching to nonprofit professionals and public and private training and retreats.

We consult our clients on a variety of topics including but not limited to:

  • Organizational development and capacity building
  • Organizational assessment and evaluation
  • Board development and training
  • Strategic planning and retreat facilitation
  • Resource development – fundraising, grant writing, grants management
  • Program development, marketing, and evaluation

In 2019, I created the Nonprofit Coffee Chat, a free weekly gathering (online due to Covid19) where nonprofit staff, board members and volunteers come together every Tuesday morning to learn from one another as they share their challenges and successes during facilitated discussions led by me.

The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
My key take-aways from the Covid-19 crisis are: 1) stay ready to pivot; 2) keep an open mind; 3) don’t allow other’s negativity to affect your thinking; and 4) put all of your energy into finding another way and none of your energy into lamenting when you can’t do what you’ve always done or what you planned to do. Being nimble and flexible are keys to success in an everchanging world.

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The Word Woman LLC

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