December 3, 2021

Nailing Down Your Service Offerings with Ieshea Hollins

We had the pleasure of speaking with Ieshea Hollins, CEO and Founder of Direnzic Technology.
In this episode of EntreNetwork we cover several key topics including:

· How I got into technology
· Being allowed to think outside of the box
· My experience with digital forensics
· How I got into cybersecurity
· Making the jump during the financial crisis
· Realizing I was getting away from my true passion
· Hitting a low point
· Becoming a chief information security officer
· 3 resources that aided in the success of my business
· Advice for my 15 year old self
· Critique me, give me feedback, but don’t be ugly to me

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Team RMG 00:00
Welcome to entre network brought to you by revisione Marketing Group. This podcast is meant to serve as an entrepreneurial knowledge base of wisdom and practical tips in marketing, branding and technology to help grow your business effectively.

Sidney Jackson 00:20
Aisha, thank you so much for coming on to network podcasts. So I’ll be the guest or the host is the guest. So kind of tell us about yourself, what made you get into the industry that you’re currently in?

Ieshea Hollins 00:35
Well, Sydney, thank you so much for having me. It is such a pleasure to be here. I’m so very excited. I’m very encouraged by everything that I see that you guys are doing, especially in this space. What are who I am I used to Hollins and how I got in this space? Well, I guess as a child, I’ve always been fascinated with how things work, right? And so I grew up doing a town where the computers were they cost so much, right? So to see how they work and see how they tick. You didn’t necessarily want to get caught taking them apart, figure that out, right? There was a little backlash, I was gonna come with that. So um, one of the things that I still did, though, was just still figuring out how to get in and out of things. Right. So my dad used to tell me as a child, he said, You need to be a legalized hacker. And this is before this was even a thing, right? And so one thing he knew was I had to give getting in and out of things. And number two, he wanted me to do it legally. He was like, Yeah, I’m like, getting you out of jail for it. Right? So, um, but just technology has always just been a passion of mine, just one of many passions, I won’t say that it’s my only passion, but it’s one of many. And just if this allowed me, you know, just kind of, you know, kind of go in this direction. Awesome.

Sidney Jackson 01:59
Okay, so us telling me about yourself, and how you came into the industry have been a passion of yours. So what did you do before starting a business? Great question. So, um, I guess if I go back to I’m a graduate of the University of Louisiana Monroe. So I got my undergrad in computer information systems with a minor in computer science, I actually started in computer science as a programmer. So I was I always loved everything about programming, it was the starting from nothing. And growing it into something, just seeing when I started, there was emptiness. And then something was doing something I had made something come to life. So I always loved that, that aspect of it. Right. Then there was I was actually good at coding. It was like a problem solving. You know, you always plug in this to this and I wasn’t a biggest fan of finding my own errors, right? Yeah, I get stuck for hours just looking for a combo or a missing period. But, um, but I loved it. But I also recognize that I was too chatty of a person to you know, just be stuck, you know, in a corner in the dark just coding all the time. So I enjoyed it, but not that much. I went on after graduation though. I did start at CenturyLink which was century till I think at the time, graduating to CenturyLink, which is now lumen interlink is now Loehmann. CenturyLink. is now looming. Oh, yes to me.

Ieshea Hollins 03:43
Yeah, this is this is a recent transition. But it’s it’s been almost I don’t know, almost a year now, I think.

Sidney Jackson 03:52
Because I remember them gobbling up businesses like it was nothing. Because when I moved to Monroe, from New Orleans in 2005. So just growing up in Monroe, and then seeing CenturyLink as his big mega company, so to speak, and then moving off to Nagesh to pursue a CS degree and then still seeing CenturyLink and I forgot the CEOs title but acquisition and merger after acquisition. It was like wow, in Monroe. That’s right. That’s right. So Glenn post, he did a phenomenal job and you are correct. And one of the things that I actually worked on was we were on several of the the acquisition part or teams because as we went from you know, because it was and you do you think small town, how in the world are they buying up? You know,

Ieshea Hollins 04:49
would embark Well, we there were some prior or whatever, but then there was embark to quest to buy our three and then again There were still things that were sprinkled in there, right? And so but it was changing how we did business how they did business, right. And so it was one of the things that kind of spearheaded where I am today. We would hire technology students are actually the thing was that there are no IT jobs in Louisiana. So we would have students that would go to school, and then they always believe they had to go to way to get good jobs or a job in tech. Right. And so type of time our Chief Technology Officer, which was Bill Bradley, he reached out and he said, How about we start an initiative where we actively recruit for it. And so we began to leverage relationships with the universities going out actively participating in the job fairs, letting them know who CenturyLink was, essentially tell was, the IT jobs that were available and how to you know how to come on. So then we began to hire but then they would work for about a year or two MMA still leave, you know. So in our investigation as to where the disconnect was between what they were looking for, versus what they had found, because, again, tech goes in so many different directions. But we we put everything in one bucket, we call everything technology, and we walk off, right? Yeah, it’s, it’s in the bucket. And so for me, I was in route down to Baton Rouge, one of my universities was Southern University. And so I was on my way down to Baton Rouge, and had been down there a couple of times. And there was a case that was in the news at the time. They had infiltrated a ring of pedophiles. I don’t know if you guys want that on the show or not. But this is my truth. Yeah. And so, but there was this one individual in the case, who was adamant that he was innocent. And so this is like the second or third time coming through, you know, the Baton Rouge area and I’m hearing about this one particular guy. And I really think to myself, well, you know, we love the innocent until proven guilty. But really, sometimes we really they’re already guilty, right? And when you started talking about technology, and in that particular arena, and this was back in 2008. Right? So how do you who was he supposed to talk to? Who does he tell his attorney? Hey, hire, right? There was no arrange to get the time hired them to help us prep my case, because I’m telling you, it wasn’t me. You know, so I began to do my research to say okay, so who is that liaison between the police, the attorneys who preps the attorneys, who helps to have that technology, look, again, like that, that second, look at the information that we follow the chain of custody where these things followed. And so when I saw that I didn’t exist, I created me.

Sidney Jackson 08:18
So that’s what that’s how the Trinsic technology came to be. We got started assisting with digital forensic cases to help with just educating on on where things are with cases. Wow. No, that’s, um, that’s huge. As far as like being with Centrelink, how has that experience shaped you into owning the business and being able to be successful within the business? Great question. At CenturyLink. I was a, like I said, I started out as a programmer, and then I promoted into project management. And then from there, you know, program management. I did a lot of promotion. But what I became known as was the issues resolution person, you know, she was the RED project clean, right? If a project was on fire, if it was behind if there was for any reason, it was red, right? Call ation. And, and I’ve always been that person, I see the bigger picture.

Ieshea Hollins 09:28
I’m a I’m a huge visionary. And once I can see it, and I can also see problems from a mile away, right? Unless they’re my own problems, then I don’t those blindside me.

Sidney Jackson 09:42
For us.

Ieshea Hollins 09:44
That’s usually how it works do right. And so, um, with that, you know, knowing how you know working in corporate knowing how to talk to the right teams, where to go to go for funding, how to make sure that you’re teams are happy. So there was a lot of experience that I got, you know, there, because they gave me the freedom. Right. So I wasn’t very micromanage. That’s one thing I definitely have to give them they did not. And that was really good for me, you know, because different people thrive in different arenas, you, you can stifle some people, and especially in tech, you gotta allow us to be creative, because not all answers are cookie cutter answers that can’t be right. How do you stop a criminal if you’re not allowed to think a little outside the box as if you think that criminal is gonna stay in that box? Yeah, you got another thing coming. So and that was the thing with us, it was you know, it was project management, we were growing like crazy. They put me on several initiatives, which between the it recruiting and then there was changing our IT PMO office, right, because we were doing project management a different kind of way. EMBARQ was doing it their way Kuis was doing it their way. They were, you know, see him MC level threes, and we’re going to see him and what we don’t know that language. And it was I was placed on these different initiatives, because they knew I could get it done, you know. So, um, and I appreciated that too, you know, but the more we did it, the more you know how sometimes you just get uncomfortable. It was great, but it was telecom. And not to be offensive, but telecom is boring. So it was like, though, I loved all the interaction and different things that I was doing. Even when I began to do the recruit, the recruiting was kind of a breath of fresh air, because I’m again, I’m a personable person, like I like to, I like the interaction, right. So, um, as I began to start my business, and I stayed, I stayed at CenturyLink for a bit while I kicked off my business or whatever, there was no conflict of interest there. You know, at the time, they weren’t doing cybersecurity at the time, it allowed me to learn it allowed me to go into my arena while still being able to be effective and successful in corporate. So when you came out, it wasn’t just oh, it was just somebody that rolled over decided they want to start a business. However, there are people who can roll over and just start a business. I think we we give too many restrictions on how a person can find their path. I just found mine a little bit different. I’ve had several people who have we’ve gone into arguments, world conversations, the degree versus just a certification route, the work experience versus I have a passion or my fam, this is a family owned business. And so therefore, I knew how, you know, to kind of structure and kind of go out. My father is an entrepreneur, he’s owned his own business, basically my whole life. But that, and I knew that I would be to when I started working at CenturyLink, I said, I would be there for two years as an apprenticeship. 10 years later, I was still there. I miss time bit by just a little but but um, you would think you know, I’m still first generation, you know? So he had an accounting firm, and I’m over here and technology. So there was still ways that I had to figure out, you know, how do I get clients? Who do I talk to? How do I structure things like, am I a sole proprietor? Or am I an LLC? Why do I LLC you didn’t LLC, you know? So there was so many questions that I still had to champion on my own. But I knew that entrepreneurship was my way. I knew that.

Sidney Jackson 14:04
Yeah. Wow. Wow. So when you first made the jump, or to transition into Ben, you’re gone into different sick full time, what made you decide to niche down on just one specific or a couple service offerings? And what were those service offerings? Because you say forensic, digital, forensic, yeah, digital forensics, because you’ve seen a need for it. So was that the primary primary search service?

Ieshea Hollins 14:38
Yes. So when I got started Digital Forensics was my initial our initial service offerings and literally that’s what we were out to do. We were we we’re here to help. We’ve always that’s been my model. I’m here to help. Right. And, but it was to help prepare attorneys and their cases and their clients, I’m sorry, to either go to court or to fight whatever, you know, legal battle they had to fight from a technology arena, right? We looked at, we looked at the data, we either helped pull data from PCs, right. So it was very important to me that if you saw me working on a computer that you weren’t confused that I was break fix, right? So what’s break fix that we fix computers? That you can bring it to me and tell me, Hey, my computer won’t boot up, you know, and it didn’t mean that we didn’t get those. Right. We got those, right. Because again, and that’s one of the things that I’m trying to champion right now. It’s still when you think it or technology, can you fix it? My internet’s running slow. Can you speed it up? You know, my printers not talking to my computer? Can you? These are traditional norms for what we think it is. And so when I got started, it was very important that we communicated. Okay, that’s, that’s not what we do. You know, don’t mind helping, but it’s not what we do. Yeah. Then we went on tour, right with my organization, because we were doing pitch competitions throughout Louisiana, you know, just to try to because I knew I wanted to make this accompany and I wanted to step out on my own, I was ready or so I thought. And I did pitch competitions, one right here in Shreveport, the my very first one was right here. That’s right. And sorry for it. And when I did the pitch competition, towards the end, because we actually made it into one of the finalists, and we made it again to another one of the final rounds. And after I did my presentation, I had a couple of the doctors that were there to hurt me present. And this was at the time that high tech hippo was just getting going. So you had so many organizations or medical facilities is what I’m trying to say that we’re being hit by the fines, right? Because they couldn’t roll it out because they didn’t understand it. Right. So he, this particular doctor, he pulled me to the side, and some colleagues with him. He said, you’re handling it or the digital forensics from the reactive standpoint. So something has already happened, something bad has already happened. And you’re coming in to assist there, your system would clean up. If you got into the cybersecurity space and got in front of it. He said you make a killing you clean up, because so many of us don’t know. And if we had a roadmap to follow, and I was like, Well, okay. So cybersecurity was born, right. So we were in our digital forensic cybersecurity, but I also did my math, I did my homework. So I began to look around. And I thought I mean, he made a very good point. And I am also not one that’s real big on always just coming behind something. I don’t just want to clean things up. I would like to be in front of right. Except I was figuring out I was trailblazing right there. What where were the cybersecurity digital forensic shops. They weren’t there. So, again, I said, let me add that as a service offering so I began to work with the universities. Dr. Dr. Barnett, is they’ll be excited to hear his name. Well, he’s gonna be awful mad to hear one way. But no, he was one of the Yeah, he’s been one of my mentors. He was my professor while I was in in college, the University of Louisiana at Monroe, Dr. Berry, good relationship with my university. So I went back we started having those conversations and start developing and designing what services that we wanted to offer to the community. So it was important to me that I niche digital forensic cybersecurity. What I found in my niche, though, was nobody knew what digital forensics was. And they certainly didn’t know what cyber security was because we’re still talking around 2009 2010 So it’s not mainstream yet, but it’s coming Yeah. And as I said, I’ve always been wanting to do what see a problem coming a mile away. So I felt like the the crier from those fables is gonna rain. It’s gonna rain.

Sidney Jackson 20:00
No, it’s not. No, it’s not. Wait, wait, wait that, um, as far as like the numbers, so um, so what the numbers, the dates and everything 2008 The financial crisis? How? Because that’s kind of like the time that you went full time with the business. How did you make that jump? And how did that comment impact your decision?

Ieshea Hollins 20:22
It was scary. A lot of prayer. A lot of conversations. What I had though, was I had been working with the LSB, DC. I had been having those conversations, I had some savings that I had saved up. And I was looking at, okay, one thing that was I’m always, integrity is big for me. So regardless of what was going on around me, CenturyLink has started to look towards cybersecurity. And so for me, I never wanted there to be said that, you know, I was going from one to the other. So really, it, you’re right, the crisis was there. And I tell people, I said, I may have been going through just a smidge of postpartum depression. Because I opted to start full time in my business. I mean, my daughter was maybe six months old, not maybe my daughter was six months old. Yeah. And I decided, okay, but I knew, I knew it was the right time, it was the right time, for me a lot of prayer, a lot of looking a lot of just seeing where things were going. And so I took my savings. And what I knew, and I just jumped out there and I started.

Sidney Jackson 21:45
So going back to the niching down and the importance of it. So us speaking about just the relationships that she was able to gather from years of experience, and then education and stuff like that. As far as niching, down into forensics and then or digital forensics. And then don’t tell me that ditto for GE was digital forensics and cybersecurity. After that, people didn’t know what it was. So how did you educate people on it or broaden, broaden awareness to your company that you offered to services?

Ieshea Hollins 22:28
Another really good question. So we went on an education tour, basically, I began, I had already joined, I knew the importance of networking, I joined the chambers. We were do lunch and learns where I would just give training to the to the communities, the LSB, DC, they began to offer cybersecurity trainings, and I would provide cybersecurity training for the LSVT sees. And each one of these, they were all free. So it was great for the people. Um, but but that was my thing. It became just I knew I needed to get the awareness out, you needed to know what was coming regardless, I still I saw I foresaw a lot of really, the biggest thing was small businesses. And that’s when I started my, my, my business. My target was small businesses, right? Because they were the target, you were small enough that you didn’t necessarily look feel like a threat. So therefore, you became the ideal threat. And then as long as I can infiltrate you, I can infiltrate bigger, which as we know, we tell the story over and over again about target. That’s how target got breached. They didn’t, they didn’t attack, big old target. They went to the H back or the air conditioning company that was that target was using. They infiltrated that way. So my goal was work with small businesses, because they need me the most. They needed me the most, but they hadn’t put me in their budget, not even remotely, right. And it was during that time, as you just said, Why would I put that there when, you know, I have all these other things that I need to pay for that I need to do. So again, my gift back or my volunteerism became that was my thing, education. But those that would come to my class, I would terrify them, right. Because when you don’t know what you don’t know, and then somebody’s telling you all the things that can happen. He said, Oh, fear overload. I love your style. I love the way you teach. Matter of fact, Can you teach me anything else besides this? There you go. So then I was asked, I was literally asked, like, can you teach anything else in technology? And initially, I said, No, I was because again, my niche was so important to me. And I was being asked about a lot of things. Can you build my websites? While I can? But no, right? Until, yeah, until, until you’re in business for a while, and you’re trying to keep your lights on, right? And nobody knows what you do. And they’re coming to you. For all the wrong thing, right? And you’re sending them away. And at one point, do you you stop and say, Okay, I have to save myself. I’m drowning. Here, I’m giving away a lot of really good information. And I say, I say today, if I could go backwards, and I can’t, none of us can, I probably would have stayed with CenturyLink, just a little bit longer. And took on the volunteerism, because obviously, I was passionate about I didn’t mind. But I didn’t have a base anymore. I didn’t know where I was gonna get paid again, you know, and that’s the thing about entrepreneur entrepreneurial ism. I can say the word, but that’s the thing about being an entrepreneur, you really you leave the known for the very unknown. And it’s unknown for any length of time, it can change tomorrow, and it could change five years from now. And it’s understanding how long do I tread water? How long do I tell people? No, before I finally say, You know what, I do that, right? And so my training because like I said, I’m, I teach people the way I like to learn. I’m very tactile, I love to touch it. Um, please don’t read to me. And please don’t tell me to read a whole bunch of stuff and come back. I can do that. But it doesn’t. I needed to. I needed to make sense. That that’s my thing. Making it makes sense. That was a plug, you’ll get it later. But that is my thing, you know. And so when they asked, I was like, Okay, fine, what do you need? Right? And so then we got into the Microsoft products. Well, we were already Microsoft partners. So it was a bit, you know, we could teach Microsoft Excel, and Word and PowerPoint, all of those things, cybersecurity awareness seminars, we start hosting those and, and doing conferences every year, we were blessed or fortunate to see that, you know, October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. So that’s what we did. We made those our initiatives to get out and get the word out during those conferences. And then, so will you do this website? Well, one website turned into another website, right? And then will you do my social media as well? Because I don’t know. And you gotta keep in mind, this is 2010. What 1314 So again, you know, where as Instagram wasn’t what Instagram is, today, Facebook was a little different. The ad doing ads was different. So yes, we can help we can help with that. You know, we actually even got into for a little while some break fix, though. Could you just couldn’t keep saying no. You got to keep the lights on. Yeah, gotta keep those lights on. And so then I started finding that more and more. I was getting away from the true passion, but I was still doing things that I was good at. Still good at identifying the problem. My project management background, you know, planning, budgeting, edge, executions, you know, managing it all worked, you know, so and then the other thing was, we start looking at government contracts. And even with those, you know, we had those set asides. Well, they, they didn’t always just set aside for or the language did not say, digital forensics, cybersecurity, because they know, that wasn’t the language. They knew they had a problem. And so therefore, can you help me with my problem? So we morphed and we changed the Renzi technology, from digital forensic cybersecurity, to issues management solutions. That’s what we offer your technology issue. So again, don’t bring me every problem you have. Give me a tech problems. and allow us to operate so we could find what software’s you were needing, where your holes where we will plug in your holes. So we started figuring out. And so what we’re doing is strategic planning. We’re doing your strategic plans, helping you to identify. And so at the time, it seemed like, oh, gosh, I’ve gotten off track, right? And you’ll go home some nights, and you’ll second guess yourself, and you’re trying to figure out how did I get this far away from where I started. But God has a plan for everything. And so as I continued, and I’m making a name for myself, and I’m sorry, I haven’t stepped away from cybersecurity. It’s just now we’re adding strategic things, right? And more of my program manager and me stepping up. And I’m doing more collaborations, because that’s what I started to find. As opposed to being out here on my own, I start collaborating with other IT companies, right. So you’re an IT shop, tell me what you do, right? So now when I have someone call me and say, do you do a website? I know to say, hey, I don’t, but revision does, right? Or Sydney does? I don’t, but my partner does, you know. So it’s different things that so we started doing those, and the collaboration. And when you’re working on federal contracts, collaborations are really good. The more people at the table, right, then the more secure they feel, then you walked in as a small shop saying I can handle this. And it doesn’t mean that you can’t handle it, right? I think in a lot of ways we play into numbers make? No, because again, it depends on what you need, right? I can I can handle it. So I have a lot of contractors that contractors that work for me, and I work with with various partners. And it allowed me to start building my book of business. But then I ran into another problem, right? That problem became my contractors and my partners every time the phone wrong, they knew they were gonna make money from me. But I felt like the lone tiger in the wilderness, I have to stalk the prey, chase down the prey, kill the prey, and drag it back. And before I can even eat off of it. I’m back hunting again. But everybody else has eaten off my work. That became very tiresome. And then the closer the the more out, the more work I did. Then I started finding even those relationships that I had, when I would call them they kept raising their rates on me. Well, you’re, you’re not the one. So then I found myself going backwards. So how much of this Can I now keep in house because I will once again find myself trying to figure out how to turn those lights back on, even though I’m clear. And that’s became the confusion, I start having conversations with people. Oh my goodness, this is a million dollar company. And I’m going it is but not yet. Yeah. Um, so I don’t know if I’ve gotten off track or if this is what you wanted, or

Sidney Jackson 33:35
exactly what I wanted, because it’s rolling into you getting given a lot of tips into like the process of niching down the importance of it and also insight into government contracting. And well federal government contracting. Wow. No, that that was really descriptive as far as like you being a person that goes after contracts and then having to feed contractors in the sense and then just the overall cycle.

Team RMG 34:08
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Sidney Jackson 34:41
So how have you found yourself stretched then so to speak? So coming away from all of the things that you’re passionate about, and everything that you have experience with like program and project management and programming and stuff like that? To take on all of these additional service offerings for you. How have you? What was like one of the low points where you knew that you had to make a change?

Ieshea Hollins 35:09
Oh, great question. Oh, my gosh. I’m COVID. It was before COVID. I don’t I don’t want to I don’t want to. That’s a great question. Sydney. I felt it coming. It had been coming for a while. I’ve been overwhelmed. But I was managing. And I think as entrepreneurs we all can identify with that I’m managing

Sidney Jackson 35:43
is gone.

Ieshea Hollins 35:47
People see you and they think oh, wow, you know, she’s still open, because there was those that counted me out before I ever got started. Matter of fact. It was the ones who said, Oh, you’ll be back. You know, I’m saying literally, when I left, I had management say, Oh, you’ll be back. You know, and it’s like, wow, yeah.

Sidney Jackson 36:17
Okay, thanks for the governance.

Ieshea Hollins 36:20
There were those that because they wanted me to come back. Or they would, you know, you would either get stiffed on projects, you would, you’re always working to prove yourself, you know, rewriting your resume 24 hours a day, seven days a week trying to make sure that people knew you know, this is who I am, I was I was good enough for a corporation to hire me and give me the salary. Right? Because we’re not gonna throw numbers. But if you can make that salary for them, then why you no longer any good. We just because you started your own shop, um, work that in more out here, right. So there were those, you know, you go home, you get stiffed, on people will I mean, you start seeing a different side, people, you do the work, and they file a contract. So there was, it was always different pieces of you, that was all you always going home, which is a little bit, just a little bit more wounded, right. But I believed because again, I’m a visionary. And I could see, the thing about me was, God, let me know a while ago, you know how sometimes you’re, you’re looking for the door, right? I’m looking for the way and I’m looking for the way I’m looking for who’s gonna, you know, and in the meantime, while I’m waiting on, you know, God to open the door, I’ll just shout in the hallway, you know, they mean that they got. And it was like God said to me, why are you waiting on a door be the door. So I recognized that my organization, I would put food on people’s tables, I was the one who needed to make sure that we were solid enough, because I could give back to my community. Now, because we’re trying to build some billion dollar conglomerate, I will gladly build a billion dollar conglomerate. But it’s not that’s not you know, the whole thing was, how do we, you know, how do we make a change? How do we be the difference? You know, the change that we talk about, right? So, but for me, it became very apparent that people will take advantage of certain things, right? Because I wasn’t the traditional. When I walked in rooms, I’m not the man at the table. And so there’s the thing about women and men our approach or is a bit different. Both great approaches, you need them both. And I say that because you know, we talk about the lack of women in technology, and that’s, that’s why you need both. Not that the women should overrun the man. Just let us at the table, you’ll be impressed by the things we have to offer, you know. So um, but to answer your question, by the time we got to COVID, like I said, we were at 12 contractors at a time. And we have people in the office, we have people in the field, and we’d already landed some of the contracts. So you know, you can’t go backwards on contracts. They were already inked. Right? We already had an amount that we had establish. And so COVID hit and my contracts. I’ve already been having some problems on my contract. So that’s another topic. We could have fun with that one and my contractors began to tell me we need hazard Paik they weren’t calling it pandemic pay yet. If you want me to go on site, I need more money. But I couldn’t go back. Because they were state contract, you can’t go back and say, due to a pandemic, can give all the money. We wish. And, you know, in hindsight, maybe I could have I don’t know, we had, we were all brand new to a pandemic. But I knew I didn’t want to let my client down. My name was very important to me. And I knew we needed to get the job done. And so therefore, now I’m paying what little because I already was only bringing in X amount per contract. And you took that. And it was something about them taking it, Sidney it, it woke me up, and I said, I can’t keep going like this. I can’t do this. And so the thing that the pandemic has did allow, I had to let them all go, right. Let them all go. Mitt, I took on everything, I put all of those, the hats that I worked 10 years to have to take off. And I didn’t have to be the everything, went back in the closet and I start pulling back out, you guys are very familiar with the stress of my, you know, trying to look for help with that. Okay, I could do my own website. But again, that’s the collaboration or, you know, the beauty of the pandemic. That’s this, that was not a collaboration that. But that was can you handle the website part? Wow, I focus over here. And so it did, it made me feel like and one of the mental things, one of the mental hurdles that I’m dealing with right now, is, I physically know every part of my being knows. We’re a 10 plus year old company. But we’re operating almost like a startup. So that’s a shock to your system, right? Because it’s like, Oh, I thought I thought we did this already. I thought I was beyond this. You know what I’m saying. But with any good thing. Some times, going back to the beginning. It has afforded me the opportunity. This is not this is not a sad story. It is afforded me the opportunity to get back to what I loved and what I started for. Anyway. I went and I start accepting all these gigs and jobs. And I’m busy and I’m working and blah, blah, blah, and I’m exhausted, but very little was a handling. In other words, if I was going to do this, then why did I leave where I want to leave corporate, I said I was bored. Not that I was bored. But I didn’t like I knew there was more in me. And I had to get back to my more. And so it afforded me the opportunity to say get back to cybersecurity, get back to the digital, get back to helping get back to where we started. And so with the pandemic, we put our kids online, and we put everybody online, not just our kids, we said Everybody go home and get on your some didn’t even have VPNs were in Louisiana. So they didn’t recognize that we had so many households that were pulling off a rule networks. So they didn’t have the capabilities to be able to allow them to work from home. They didn’t understand the stresses that they brought into the household. And so the more we niched and the more we got there, the more I looked at all of the strategic planning that I was doing, the entire time, I had turned into a chief information security officer, I was doing the work the whole time. I just wasn’t selling it to you, or anybody. Right. I was selling it to you, and bits and pieces. And so it became apparent. Get rid of all the excess and get back to something. Give me a package I can use. Right. And so we began to package our services, don’t look at my website and see a million services. See one service that has a million different benefits or get one specific target. Wow. Yeah. And sometimes, you know, you don’t know what you don’t know. It takes time. It takes allowing yourself to be real and making some of the mistakes We are very hard on ourselves, especially entrepreneurs, we, you know, we feel like oh, I should have known. And there’s times you just celebrate, when there’s a pause, pause, and I felt the pause. I fought it tooth and nail, I kept working through out COVID. But who was I working with? Because so now you’re forcing your services down people’s throat. I was, they were having the same pandemic struggles as I was, I don’t even know whether or not my business going to be in business next week. I don’t know how long this pandemic is gonna last. And you’re selling me security. I can’t talk to you right now. Right? That I can focus. However, when I finally embraced, all of us need a minute. But I’m watching and not just I’m watching outside my home watching inside my home, because my daughter is now she’s online, and she’s downloading apps that I know. Normally, she would have said, No, ma’am. You can’t do that. But we’re struggling for normalcy we’re struggling to allow. Okay, how do we have interactions? And how do we stay connected? And how do we you know, and so with all of that, and then I’m getting phone calls from other clients. And I had one client and just it just touches your heart, she, I took my child, my phone for my child, and she tried to kill herself. What do I do? And that’s not the only phone call. I was kidding. I was trying to get calls that had me go, whoa. So I’m talking to people. And I’m giving back and the whole time, it’s a service. It’s a service, but I’m thinking I’m just talking to my friends. I’m talking to my clients. And I’m okay. Okay, let’s get you to help me. So I’m pointing you in different directions. Let’s get you the help you need. And so I begin to say, no, let’s talk about internet safety. Let’s talk about what this is doing. All it is overexposure. Let’s talk about technology addiction. Let’s talk let’s have the conversations. Let’s put something in place. Let me start redirecting you. And so out of COVID, for me, has come, we’re going to give you Internet safety, not just for your children, for your seniors who were being bombarded with, Hey, Grandma, who and the grandmother can’t come out and see you due to COVID. I ran out of money. And can you wire me X amount of money? These are real cases. Yeah, real things. And the grandparents are thinking it’s a pandemic, I gotta help and I can’t see you. Right, I can’t touch you. But I can, I can be there for you. And so we had elders that were losing money, or seniors that we’re losing money and being tricked, we had, oh, my goodness, the the kids trafficking. That went crazy. You know, just it was so many of them just coming up missing. And then with the suicide rate, it spiked. And so those are all the issues that I said, allowing myself to take a step back, I got back to on the private side, this is what we’re going to offer the people and for technology for the businesses, we are your chief information security officer stop, you don’t have to hunt him down anymore. We’ll we’ll give you your service, we will do your assessments, your cmmc levels, your NIST assessments, we will do them for you, you will have to hunt that down. And we will provide your organization, the training it needs. And don’t call us for anything else. Or everything else. I got a partner for that. You know, and so, you know, take that other statement back you can call us because again, I understand sometimes you don’t know where to go. And you know, we’re happy we’re more than happy to help. But I I love collaboration, I love to be able to say, Hey, I got another guy for that.

Sidney Jackson 49:21
I know someone who can do that. No, that’s incredible because it goes back to the programmer and you trying to solve those problems because I have that to where it’s like if I don’t know the answer to it. It’s like I need to do something to add value right because it’s right to me and a trust in me to be a solution. I can’t be that but I know someone who can or I can research and recommend someone who can or partner with someone if I see the need for it. So know that incredible, incredible back to problem solve and back to the passions. Yes. So what three resources that helped you as a business over your course of 10 years? Uh huh. What? Three? What are the three biggest resources you would think? Or you think helped you, as far as the success of your business? A research researchers, and this can be organizations, individuals, pretty much anything, people like your daughter from motivation, any source of inspiration, that gave you an extra push into it, or a hater, that was just like, hey, you’re not gonna make it and that kind of pushed you and made you into the person you are or major business into the business that it is.

Ieshea Hollins 50:49
Um, I love the breakdown that that now that open? Wait, why right? Now nobody can nobody can be in business alone, we think that we can or will will say that we can, but everybody needs somebody, right? You need support, you need help, you definitely need motivation. I’m definitely you know, as far as encouragement, and my why is definitely my family, my mom, I have a daughter, I have a son as well. So they are my wives, you know. And, um, but you’re right, it was important for me, to allow my daughter to see that no matter what life throws at you, you can shake back, you can make it. So, um, as a woman in a male dominated field, right? You’ll find a lot of hurdles, a lot of hurdles are coming away. But that’s life. Life hurdles come? How do you manage them? How do you? How do you crawl over them, and in some cases, be humble enough to crawl under, not always you have to go over the top. Humbly go underneath. But don’t let it stop. You don’t do not stop. And I’ll tell anybody that do not stop. But definitely my women, it doesn’t matter. There’s things I got some stories, oh, that I could tell you. Know, your show. But, um, you know, you feel like you’re being singled out or that you can’t handle certain things. And, you know, it’s understanding, just keep pushing, you know, if this was your baby, this was your passion. You know, the same way you wouldn’t give up on your literal baby, don’t give up, you know, but understanding when you know, sometimes pivoting, you don’t know when to pivot. And sometimes you will miss an opportunity. Think about the whole blockbuster that didn’t want to go the red box way and didn’t want to go there. Again, there’s nothing wrong with staying relevant and in the time and resources. I definitely I was I was a client of the LSB, etc. There’s the pluses, the minuses, the goods, the bads, but I won’t take that away the LSVT sea was a wonderful resource, just wonderful. Reach out, talk to them. You know, there’s so much training that they offer. It’s recognizing, you know, what training that they have a beautiful connection was you guys like being able to work with your team like you guys? Motivation? Okay. Mikayla? Like, it’s been amazing to be able to say that I have you guys. Like you asked a question. That’s my truth. Like, really? You guys were amazing, dude, especially throughout this time, so I would definitely, definitely and it’s not even a shameless plug. Genuine, genuinely, you know, it being able to say, you know, through the LSVT See, I was able to be connected, you know, with you guys. And, um, you know, just as a hard working small growing firm, you guys are doing an amazing job and I applaud you. I really do.

Sidney Jackson 54:12
Thank you. That applause goes to Mikayla, she’s She’s over here. She’s just simply incredible. She is simply incredible over the year. Well, it’s about to be a year but over the year that she’s been here, just so much growth and personal development, and then just bonding with our clients. It’s it’s simply incredible. Right?

Ieshea Hollins 54:37
That’s right. Yeah, it’s, um, but, but I love the fact that you you recognize when you have a good resource, you know what I’m saying? And oftentimes that is what happened. We’ll have a Good resource and fail to and I don’t think you don’t have that problem at all. I don’t want anybody to think, Oh, she’s talking about no you guys, you know, from what I’ve seen, you know, and I’m on the outside, you know, looking in, but I do love the dynamic I love the, the freedom that you give her, you know, the trusting her, but at the same time being at the helm, you know, because there’s something about being at the helm and being able to handle your team.

Sidney Jackson 55:30
Yeah, people. Um, so I’m still super new to this. But as far as like the vision that I see, for us as a team, it’s super big. So I have to always open always have to give trust to people because people are just simply incredible. I’m fine. Not anyway. And even if they are not incredible, you learn so much from the individual, that the trade off is worth it. And you have to open your hands for growth. At least I’m finding now it’s I trust my team with a lot of stuff. But Makayla, specifically, because she has just develop appetite for she’s she’s super aggressive. She is aggressive, and she makes my aggressiveness as far as like being an entrepreneur make a little more sense. Yeah, I’m strategically, right. So she has these questions. And it’s like, I didn’t think about that. Because I’m, I’m trying to go so freakin fast. And then we have that ability to slow down. And it’s good to have that dynamic. But for you, what would you tell your 15 year old self? What all of this knowledge in that? That’s a tough one. But what would you tell your 15 year old self as far as like entrepreneurship and the possibilities that was out there?

Ieshea Hollins 57:06
So you have hit me with some really good ones today? Yeah. Sucker Punch 15 year old me. Oh, the things that I would tell 15 year old me. I’m building believe in yourself. Regardless of what it looks like, there’s a lot of you know, I’m not a personality type that you’re gonna see that I question. But then there’s the daily battles that you always have. People miss, understand what they see as strength. And then they attack it, they continue to attack. I’m embracing who I am. I come to growing up. I was my personality, in particular, was attacked a lot, right? Because I’m very verbal. I need things to make sense. That’s why again, this time, not a shameless plug. But the reason for making it make sense, it’s so important because I like for things to make sense to me. And but when I would ask for things to be letting make sense. I was treated like I was just challenging everything. I was challenging authority. I was challenging leadership, I was challenging. And I never grasped the challenging part. I never could understand what people meant, right? Because I genuinely, I’m a different type of person. When I asked for feedback, people are afraid to give it to me, because we’re in a society where everybody wants to be lied to, right. Tell me only what

Sidney Jackson 59:02
I want to hear. There’s no growth in it, though. There’s

Ieshea Hollins 59:05
absolutely no growth. There is critique me, give me feedback. But don’t be ugly to me. And I’m saying there’s a way in which you can deliver feedback to people that you don’t have to leave them in a puddle crying somewhere, right when you’re done with them. And then therefore, you could thump your chest. I have not done good, right? No, there is there’s their strategy. But we’re each and every one of us different and some of us the way our minds work is different. And so I’m a person that when you talk at me, you but once the light bulb comes on, you can never turn the light bulb off. And once the light bulb comes on for me, then I’m able to articulate for probably everybody in the room that they didn’t get it. It’s as I’m now in emo 40s I See that that was a gift, it was a skill set that got challenged so much. I tried to hush it. And so my 15 year old self I would tell, don’t be silenced, not silent, silenced. Because that’s what I feel that I was, I was made to feel that it wasn’t okay to be in those rooms, or to fight my way into those rooms, and fighting to be where I am. I find myself one of a few, you know, minority women that are doing what I’m doing. But how close we got to me not sitting in this chair. Only mean God no, you know, because there are days you know, that you, you know, you don’t want to see your life. I tell people is hard in the streets. Yes, yeah, you have people that make it look easy. And, um, that’s why I say I love this platform. So often we we fail, we go from, I started my own business, my business is either successful or is closed, and we missed the story. And between in between. And so therefore, if you lost your business, you feel like a super failure, because nobody’s having the conversation, I failed, or I had to reboot. Um, you asked about a hater, I had a client. If we have time for this, I had a client. And at the time, financially, we were struggling, right, my family, and me. And so when I went to go meet with this client, every piece of me said, Don’t do this. I knew this was a bad contract. monetarily, I couldn’t walk away from the contract, I needed the money. And people smell desperation in the water. Right. Um, and not that I went there desperate, I just went there with guards that I had worked to build up, I put them down. And so I’m working very, very hard on and she’s she’s throwing different things than me that are outside of my wheelhouse. But again, she’s trying to tell me my job and making me sound almost inadequate, if I don’t do the extra, right. So I’m taking on extra, I’m doing things that are outside and I and every time I got her, you know, she would find these little tweaks with the contract, right? I’m gonna sign it just, I need to change this to that. But since you’re here, and she really was she was a she was a ways away as Dr. relatively far to get to her. So since I was there, I would go ahead and do the work and okay, I’ll make that tweak to your to your contract. Right. So we reached a point where she needed some equipment to come in, I had to order the equipment, and we had to wait. So I hadn’t been billing her and you know, just kind of kind of going so I live in Okay, well, we your equipment won’t be in for about three months, let’s go ahead and just set up where we were. And then once the equipment and I had already ordered the equipment too. And all of a sudden she stopped communicating. And so I’m still not being ugly. But again, all the heads. So not only am I the installer, and the order and the this, and that and the contract person, but now I’m the payroll. Pharaoh, and I’m so I’m reaching out and whatnot, and you know, just going about what we have to do, you know, as entrepreneurs. And then, um, one day in the mail, I received a certified letter from her. And so since it was certified, and it came, right, like he was like right on time, right. So cool. She paid me right there at the holidays. I was like, Okay, great. So I rip it open. And it is a letter on the inside. So I start reading this letter and I’m in my office I literally I start hyperventilating. I can’t breathe and so I’m I had to leave and you’ll get some breaths of air. And so my husband time I somebody used the term I fell in love with my wife husband came out was it what was going on? Are you okay? And in this letter, she had wrote up that she wasn’t gonna pay me. And then I was incompetent, and that I had just totally jacked up her entire office. I had done all this super, really bad work. And if I didn’t know what I was doing that I should have just said so She had heard of the people that came in, they had said that I had done just a horrible, horrible job, and I’m not paying you. But then she went on she went when she went one step way too far, which was an if you reach out to me again, if you call me again, I’m gonna call the police, because I’m gonna label this as harassment. So, use this letter, as you know, my notice to you that you’re harassing me if you reach out to me anymore after this. Sydney, so breathe ice and breathe in. And I cried, and I’m not It’s not easy to make me cry. I’m not easy crier. Even though since you guys have met me, I wonder. But I’m not stop. So. Um, oh, but I did. And it took me a while it caught me off guard, because I started second guessing everything. And I had to think about, you know, the work that I was doing. And I know that I had done a good job. But there was also the part where you were challenging me to do things that were outside of my scope, but I was just doing that for you. Like, so either way. There was a couple of ways I couldn’t went from that. And I went, and I told him, I need a minute, I had to go think. And then I came back. And I looked at him. And I said, for the next two months. Now, I don’t know where I got the number from, I don’t know, where I found the faith to do it. And why he had the faith to wait me out. I said for two months, I won’t touch another client. If they’re not already my client, I’m not signing another one. And I said, because no other client will ever do this to me again. And for two months, when in my office every day. And I worked on contracts. I worked on clauses, there was I worked on stuff, but at the end of city should have already been done. You know, I’m saying, but it took something that ugly to make me go there. But other people, they could have taken something like that. Shut down cry. Oh, you know, again, but I felt myself. I felt her too. You would duck in a bill. That’s all you were doing was ducking the bill. But those are these are the stories these are the challenges you have when you come out here on your own. You know, I’m saying being I thought I was being polite to somebody being kind to somebody, and then they want to know why when you go into business, everybody want to immediately labeled you as Oh, you changed. I had to change. I couldn’t afford to stay who I was, because who I was, was was was road kill for you. And in order to rise above, I had to resurrect from that role kill experience, go into a cocoon and come out something completely different.

Sidney Jackson 1:08:10
Yeah, I Isha Jesus. Yeah. Thank you. Thank you so much. Um, it’s and so much value that you added to me as an individual first and foremost. Thank you. Thank you so much for coming on entre network podcast.

Ieshea Hollins 1:08:31
You’re very welcome. as I as I said, a motto whether it’s to renew or not. I’m here to help. I understand that. I am here. Because I am supposed to help.

Sidney Jackson 1:08:45
Indeed. And what last piece of wisdom would you provide the audience?

Ieshea Hollins 1:08:51
Oh, my goodness, I’m believing yourself believing your dreams. To be an entrepreneur is not it’s not an easy road. But what you’ll find in life, nothing is it’s not easy to be a wife or a husband. It’s not easy to be a parent. It’s so if we went through life taking the easy road, we wouldn’t ever get anywhere. Right? So if you have a passion and a dream, just know you can do it. But find a village right? And you’re right now village is not necessarily your village. You got to understand that and it doesn’t take away from mom and dad and aunt and uncle. They’re gonna love you. They’re gonna love you regardless. But make your business your business. Okay. Who you need in your corner? Yes, great. You can support me but fine. Find those people Find your accountability partners, right? I swear by an accountability group now. Do find mentors. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help, you know, and don’t have to be the biggest voice in the room. Right? Sometimes you learn a lot, just by going in and being accessible. I tell people to volunteer, we have so many people, if I ain’t getting paid for it, I ain’t doing it. Time is money. Time is money, you know. And honestly, some things, you can’t be paid enough to learn some things, volunteerism lets you in a room, that if you had stood your ground and waited to get paid, you would never go sit at that table, or get the experience or get the experience. So, um, you know, resources are available, find your resources, find your community, but believing you Believe in your dream and just get started, done or started is better than perfect. Stop trying to perfect it. Every almost every entrepreneur that is setting and seated has been interviewed as talk, go go back, go find a bunch of podcasts. And you’re gonna find most entrepreneurs tell you I started my business here. And I pivoted test and pivot. It’s a constant pivot. So stop sitting in your room writing. Don’t not make your business plan. But my planning perfect and so I can’t stop. I can’t start start. Yep. Me and pivot

Sidney Jackson 1:11:48
changes it. Always, especially with a pandemic. So.

Ieshea Hollins 1:11:54
Right on the other side of the pandemic. That’s what I would say.

Sidney Jackson 1:12:00
Thank you so much. Thank you for coming on entre network podcast. We will be with you guys next week.

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