Laura Thornberry has worked as an executive assistant for more than 20 years, and after suffering a couple of layoffs, last year she launched Collaborative VA Partners, a virtual assistant company based in Sacramento, California.
Thornberry’s company offers administrative services to small businesses and individuals, which she says has opened doors for her as an administrative professional because she now works for multiple clients at once. This has allowed her to leave behind the 8-to-5 routine, the commute and the office bureaucracy while doing a job she loves, she says.
Before starting her virtual assistant business, Thornberry was an executive assistant in industries including nonprofit, government, newspapers, insurance and telecommunications.
As an admin, Thornberry says she has never had a typical day. “There’s a reason we have nicknames for ourselves within the industry,” she says. “Office ninjas, gatekeepers, mommies at work, wives at work, and I personally am referred to as Grace Under Fire.”
With her virtual assistant business, she says, she has found a natural niche for herself assisting public speakers. “Making my executive look good and ensuring their presentation comes off flawlessly is what I do,” she says. “They are well-prepared for each event, and I help to make each appearance seem effortless.”
She helps clients schedule book speaking engagements, prepare materials, plan event logistics and promote themselves. She works with five to six clients at a time, and her goal is to expand her team and take on more. She also mentors other virtual assistants and has built a network of successful VAs.
Thornberry says she’s glad the administrative assistant position is no longer viewed as an entry-level position but as a fulfilling career path. “We are an amazing breed of both men and women, and we’re gaining respect in the companies we help operate,” she says. “We are educated, technically savvy, progressive professionals who plan for our retirement with our title.”