Chamber Insider Blog

Spotlight on the 2023 SBA Finalists: ESSAYCURE

Join us in congratulating the finalists for the 29th Annual Loudoun Small Business Awards! ESSAY CURE is a finalist in the Home Based Business of the Year category. Get your tickets for the big event before they’re sold out, Friday, November 10, 2023. Event Details Here

Tell us the story of your business/nonprofit and how it’s evolved.

My ah-ha moment happened as I was working with a dozen or so high school students on their college application essays.

At the time, I was teaching undergraduate COMM and English courses and suddenly my kids, who were going through the application process, and my kids’ friends, and then my friends’ kids all realized they had an essay writing instructor in their midst. Suddenly, I was knee-deep in college application essays and I noticed that they were all making the same mistakes. That was 2017.

In 2019, I launched my online courses and began working with students across the country.

Then 2020 happened and students, understandably, grew weary of online courses. So I pivoted and created a coaching business. This season’s students were freshmen when schools shut down. For the last four years, the stories I have heard from my students about how they were affected by a global shutdown are heartbreaking and astonishing.

In 2023, my book, “RIGHT My College Application Essay” was published!  I became certified as a Maxwell DISC Certified Behavioral Analysis Consultant and Trainer in order to continue providing assessments as part of my package, and I enrolled at the University of California-Berkeley’s certification program in College Admissions & Career Planning.

The first thing I learned in my Berkeley courses was that assessments only have one purpose and thus we should be very careful using them, and one of the first books I needed to buy and read for class was how to write an effective application essay — written by a different author. 😜C’est la vie.  

Everything in my business has evolved exponentially this year because of my investment in my education. The skills required of a college and career counselor dovetail perfectly as I am a lifelong learner, and I’m really excited to finish my certification in 2024 and take my business next-level.

What are you most proud of when it comes to your team?

Our diversity. We are male & female, retired military and civilian, we speak English, Spanish, and rudimentary Vietnamese and Mandarin. We live on the East Coast, West Coast, in the South, and in the Midwest and many of us have lived all over the world. We are graduates of state schools, elite private schools, and military academies. We are avid travelers so we understand and appreciate the vast and global area that is our world.

I draw my strengths from my numerous personal connections, and my students are routinely paired with my LinkedIn connections for shadowing, career advice, and internship opportunities.

In what ways do you give back to the Loudoun community?

Loudoun’s Best LEADers LeadShare: vice president, perfect attendance so far in 2023 (18 meetings and counting).

River Creek Owners Association: vice president board of directors, board liaison to covenants and safety committees, created Welcome Booklet, flyers, newsletter template, and orchestrated two bi-annual community surveys.

HealthWorks for Northern Virginia: board of directors, Community Engagement committee, photographed 31 headshots for providers and leadership to update website, lobbied on Capitol Hill in March 2023 for 340B to help 400,000+ Virginians who depend on FQHCs like HealthWorks for care.

Loudoun Literacy Council: Guest instructor and presentation to staff, “You Thank,” May 2023,  “Not Your Kid’s Spelling Bee” sponsor, teach an 8-week citizenship course, and privately tutor one adult student looking to improve her English.

Leesburg Lifestyle: wrote an editorial story in October when the editor asked for help, because I have the background and skills to pinch hit and I have a lot of respect for her and what she does.

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep (NILMDTS): Affiliated photographer (since 2011) providing black-and-white remembrance photographs to families suffering early infant loss. During COVID, I was the only local photographer on-call serving Inova Loudoun.

Memberships: St. John the Apostle Roman Catholic Church, Professional Photographers of America (20 years), Certified Professional Photographer since 2012, Broadlands Dulles South Rotary, Society of Professional Journalists Virginia Pro Chapter, Kappa Kappa Gamma Alumnae Association (29 years) serving four years as president and 22 years in governing board positions including Northern Virginia Chapter and founder, monthly Leesburg Kappas “Koffee & Kamaraderie,” Oregon State University, University of Arizona, and Arizona Daily Wildcat Alumni Associations, Officers Spouses Club, 7 years board service as Newsletter editor.

What would it mean to you and your business to win a Small Business Award?

I would eat my wine glass in exchange for this award. 😜(Just kidding. Sort of.)

A Loudoun Chamber validation of my efforts would mean so very much. I’ve worked so long and so hard to bring this business to where it is today, and I have so many plans to take it even further, but sometimes I get tired. The fact that somebody even noticed me and thought highly enough of me to nominate me for my efforts feels like gold! I’ll never be able to thank them for giving me that tremendous boost of confidence and support.

The nomination was thrilling. For me, winning would just be over-the-top.

But for the parents I serve, I think ESSAY CURE winning would bring a different kind of meaning: Parents trust me with their most precious asset — their child. I think about this a lot.

There is no one-size-fits-all college sweatshirt. The college application process is emotional and confusing. Every student is unique, every family situation is different, and my efforts to help these students while supporting parents and protecting the integrity of family relationships is a message that winning would help support.

I already know how much the parents and students I help appreciate me. I hear from them! It’s what keeps me going, especially in October as this process starts to get frantic and very stressful. 😆And I already know that my Chamber peers appreciate what I do. I’m grateful to even be nominated.

Winning this award would show parents who haven’t met me yet my level of commitment and expertise in helping their student through this process. It’s a stamp of credibility for a family who is still a bit unsure, a vote of confidence from a known and credible community of business leaders, and most of all, confirmation that my formula WORKS.

Who is the one person that has influenced you the most in your career?

The mother who stayed with a five-year-old me.

My father left us when I was 5. I remember coming home from kindergarten to an empty house and finding these gaping holes in the bathroom where all his stuff used to be but now it was gone. The fact that I walked myself home from school that day, as a 5-year-old latchkey kid, says a lot about how desperate our situation had gotten. It got worse before it got better.

I watched my Mom struggle to make ends meet while putting braces on my teeth and my (8 and 9 years older) siblings through college. Mom and I weathered a lot of storms around money while it was just the two of us and it was during that time that I was identified as “talented & gifted.” I started getting pulled out of class in the third grade. In fourth grade, Mr. Griffin would show up at my house on Friday afternoons, bringing me a computer on loan from the school district that was larger than today’s microwaves and would take up the whole table, and I was allowed to play on it all weekend until he picked it up Monday morning. It was one of the happiest perks of childhood I can remember, those days of having my own computer.

I saw education as my salvation.

Looking back as an adult, I am so grateful for my Mom’s strength and her ability to bite her tongue; she stood unapologetic and composed in an era where divorcées were publicly mistreated and socially shunned. It’s hard for me to forget the people in our small town who went out of their way to treat us differently because of her divorce as if we didn’t bleed the same way they do. Mom just shook it off and lived her life. I love and admire that example — perhaps because I’m not as good at it as she was.

I am a first-generation college student whose life was changed by education. Only it wasn’t that simple. Getting access to education was just the first hurdle; being successful as a college student required skills that I didn’t have and took me a lot of time and effort to learn on my own. Today’s first-generation college students have more opportunities, support, and resources to draw from now that this need has been identified, but they still have the same struggles that I did, and when I work with those students, I’m paying back all of the hours and efforts that teachers from my youth poured into me.

What did you want to be when you grew up as a child?

A magazine editor walking around New York City in an asymmetrical business suit with very high heels — basically, Carrie Bradshaw, only long before Carrie Bradshaw was A Thing. And with a twist, because I wanted to be the boss; I was gunning for editor-in-chief, not just staff writer or columnist.

If you’re not in the office, where can we find you/what is another passion you have?

Either on an airplane or hanging around an airport waiting for my next flight. I’ll be in Mexico this weekend and next weekend, I’ll be in Baton Rouge to surprise one of my students from last year as she gets initiated into the same sorority (different chapter) that I pledged when I was her age.

When I graduated high school, I had three things on my list of things I wanted to do with my life: 1. Learn, really learn, how to use my camera in manual mode; 2. Learn, really learn, Spanish; and 3. Travel.

Sometimes I’m just outside, walking my dog. 🐾

Sometimes, since I’ve long since mastered my camera on manual, I’m learning to paint with watercolors. It’s been a long slog, mostly because I don’t practice enough. I started in 2009 at The Art League in Alexandria. I’ve found that studying in a completely different medium makes me a better student and a better instructor. I learn from my instructors things like, “It’s the ultimate problem, yellow in shadow” and I frantically take notes, trying to make sense of such wisdom.

Of all the works I have filed with the U.S. Copyright Office, perhaps the one I’m most proud of is my experience of learning to paint with watercolor. Do you want to see it? (Really? I thought you’d never ask!)

Watercolor is the perfect medium for a love story. It’s playful. It builds on itself, layer upon layer, one unfolding into or on top of the other. Its color can’t be erased or deleted — but, it can be lifted, revealing characteristics forever changed by the close contact of another. The lines of then and now are blurred, combined, overlapping, mixed, harmonious. Rolling brushes, sometimes wet on wet, sometimes dry on wet, sometimes wet on dry or smooth or rough, hot and cold … the meaning of one takes on something new after being touched by the other. Watercolor runs the full emotional gamut, from light wash to vivid color, from monochromatic to full-scale value. 

It’s all there.

How do you see your business evolving in the next 5 years?

My business is already on track for some major changes in 2024, starting with my anticipated certification as a College Admissions & Career Planning Consultant.

Of all the changes I have planned, the one thing that I know I want to keep constant is the demographic of parents and students that I serve — especially the first-generation college students who were like me.

Check out the ESSAY CURE website here!