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ConciergeNote: Also sometimes called being a virtual assistant, this is a great business opportunity for those who are organized. This can be started part-time from home, though does require full-time attention once you build a client list.

Business: The Millionaires’s Assistant     Owner: Nikki Johnson

Location: Currently Houston, TX.       Website: www.assistantnikki.com

Type of Business: The Millionaire’s Assistant is a concierge service business that provides personalized, confidential and highly detailed attention to those in need of many different types of services. She books hotels, restaurants, books air travel, event planning, personal shopping, car services, personalized recreation scheduling like spa’s, golf times, personal gym trainers and much, much more.  Many different packages are offered that are customized to an individuals needs.

Estimated Start-Up Capital: Little money is needed to initially set this type of business up. You don’t need a website day one as you can use many different social platforms to advertise your services offered.  Consider even taking a look at starting an About .me page which is free and a great way to list your services and tell a little about yourself.  Nikki has a professional website that has evolved overtime, though day one this isn’t essential.

Business Background: Nikki has been active in the “assistant” space since 2007.  While attending college Nikki started working as a personal assistant to a multi-millionaire.  Nikki had no experience and all her employer cared about was making sure that whatever he needed just got done.  On the job training of herself was essential.  During this job, she attended college and jumped around considering many different majors. English, the music business, tourism and she even considered sign language as a major because of her passion as a child watching Signing with Cindy.  Nikki ended up majoring in International Business, though not needed for her business.

In 2009 a blessing happened when she was laid-off by her employer (yes blessing).  She received 3 months notice and 3 months severance.  Unsure what she was going to do, her best friend suggested she consider becoming a virtual assistant since she was doing so well for her previous employer.  Nikki took her friends advice and for the next year was a virtual assistant.

Being a virtual assistant though was not what was in Nikki’s future. She enjoys getting out and meeting her clients and realized she also only wanted to work with a few clients at a time. As a virtual assistant you typically work with several clients and it wasn’t as personal as she’d like.  Her business was born.

Originally her business was called Bold New Adventures, because this was a “bold new adventure” for her.  She had hired a business coach that suggested she change her name and they came up with The Millionaires Assistant. The best take-away though is that she just started and didn’t wait to get everything all perfect.  In business the one change thats constant is “change” and its important to just get started.

Business Set-up Cost and Structure: Set up costs aren’t very much when starting a concierge business.  Nikki structured the business as an LLC.  She looked at having this done with LegalZoom though decided to do this herself. Legalzoom has different packages starting at $99 that will handle everything you need done, though Nikki decided to do this herself.

Initially Nikki used Vistaprint for everything, as the cost is virtually free.  She had business cards made by them, a simple website made from them and even a logo done.  Everything was done on a shoestring budget to just get started and keep the cost low.  As her business grew so did the evolution of the look and feel of her brand.  She was active in some online communities and built some great connections, one eventually redid her site for her.  The biggest take-away though is not to let cost keep you from starting today, you can start with little money and change as you grow.

How to be a Concierge: As a concierge your job is to make the life easier for your clients. Clients don’t want to do any hand-holding, they just want someone who gets (#@!!%) done. One of her mentors once said , “I don’t care how you kill the cow, I just want my steak”.  Thats the mentality of your customers and you need to be someone who will just make it happen.

Nikki does occasionally assist others in teaching them how to be a concierge, though it really comes down to being resourceful.  Finding restaurants, booking travel arrangements and doing whatever it takes to make your clients life easier.  Most entrepreneurs don’t have the time to go back and forth with people scheduling stuff and thats a task a concierge would do to make life easier. She also sets a lot of itineraries for clients to keep them organized. How do you get clients?

Best Marketing Tips for Being A Concierge and getting Customers:

  1. Networking is a large part of what drives business.  Millionaires don’t normally check their own mail or let alone check their own email, thus email marketing or direct mail marketing isn’t necessarily the best.  She attends some Meetup events though her best events are going where the affluent are. When arriving in LA when she had moved there for a bit she went right to a top tier restaurant The Palm and signed up to receive their emails. The Palm had a special $150 Patron dinner event that worked out great.  Go where the fish are is great advice. As a Millionaires Assistant, attending philanthropic events, museum events, wine tastings and other influential events drives business. The best part of attending these events is that many people don’t even know this service exists and immediately upon hearing her elevator pitch, they’re ready to talk.  
  2. Social Media is another great way to make your concierge business a success.  It gets your name out in the market and builds your brand. Her very first client came from Twitter and she constantly received inquiries by being active on Linkedin, Twitter and other social networks. She’s active on Twitter and during the hit TV show Shark Tank  you can find her live tweeting.  Linkedin has many different groups you can join to network with other personal assistants and can be a great resource. Be aware that some aren’t as helpful as they view you as competition, though thats a terrible mentality to have. You may have clients traveling in another area that you can use each others resources to make the customer experience better.

Cost of Personal Concierge: Structuring how to charge for being a personal concierge varies. Some people charge a flat rate per hour that can range from $20-$75 plus per hour.  Millionaire’s Assistant though has packages that are customized towards the individual customers needs and they’re charged on a monthly basis.  When charging per hour people have to worry about logging time and also justify time spent on projects. For instance, you may be on hold an hour when doing someones travel schedule and thats something the customer might not want to be billed for.  Individual packages are easy to customize based on someones estimated work load. All customers start on a 30 day trial for both parties to test one another out to make sure they’re a good fit together.  Nikki doesn’t want a client who doesn’t match who she’s comfortable working with, as she doesn’t want someone  to work with her who doesn’t like her “Get It Done” style.

Challenges of being a Personal Concierge: You spend a lot of time on the phone and computer in this line of work. Thats why its important to step away from the computer and network as often as possible.  This builds your business, but also keeps you sane.  She does provide personal errands to help get away from the desk, though this isn’t a task she does often.  She also gives the 30 day trial to make sure that the customers she works with are enjoyable, so as to not get a customer who makes the business unenjoyable.  Occasionally you’ll get that call in the middle of the night for an emergency, though thats ok as it’s part of the business. She once had a client who needed a jet in the middle of night to pick a client up in Las Vegas.  This at times can be stressful, though adds to the excitement of always doing something different.

Parting Advice for Starting a Business: Though everyone says “Don’t give up“, Nikki strongly encourages entrepreneurs to keep their head down and power forward.  Be laser focused and don’t believe you need to buy every new program out there to make your business better.  In the beginning you’re vulnerable as business doesn’t happen immediately and you start to believe every program out there can help you.  Stay focused and positive.  If you’re approached by a coach that says they can make your business grow faster, ask what kind of guarantees they offer. Do they offer a money back guarantee on their service if you’re willing to follow it 100%?  It takes time to build a business and you need to be determined.   Nikki is a big believer in speaker Erika Napoletano’s mentality of setting yourself apart from the crowd. Be original, be yourself and enjoy the entrepreneurial ride.