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Peggy Homesly & Kathy Taylor: DreamBuilder graduates & entrepreneurs

By Glenda M. Lassiter

In the tumultuous atmosphere of the coronavirus outbreak, entrepreneurs Peggy Homesly and Kathy Taylor are survivors. One is a business owner who specializes in effective communication; the other is a grant writer for non-profit clients. By being strategically innovative in the face of an economically-crippling crisis, both women re-appraised their action plans to remain competitive.

Taylor and Homesly are graduates of DreamBuilder, an initiative constructed by the Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship's Women's Business Center (WBC) at Old Dominion University. There, Virginia women business leaders - whether freshmen in the game or long-established - are provided a toolkit of rich advice, connections, business roadmaps and instruction from various industries.

In 2016, Taylor entered the program to merge two interests but learned, instead, that separating communication and event planning might be a better, more focused business strategy. When the outbreak disrupted business as usual, she embraced that advice and intensified offering services as a training, facilitation and human behavior consultant.

Singlehandedly, she operates I Am Kathy Taylor. Her company's name bespeaks bold ambition - just what its customers are inspired to embrace. She's a change agent, but some people know Taylor's flair as a professional event planner. Frequent need for the latter service waned when COVID-19 upended wedding and events industries.

"Everything I had in the event planning space was either postponed to 2021 or indefinitely," Taylor said. "So, that made me think about what would sustain me long-term, if I want to continue my business. I also decided to get a new business coach to help me sort through things and get a little clarity."

Taylor recognized that with the new virus, as video meetings replaced face-to-face ones, some people became challenged by how to communicate.

"So many people were having a hard time transitioning to all things virtual," Taylor said. "That whole learning curve is different. I have met so many who don't understand training virtually versus training in person. My value proposition statement is I help people identify and relate to behavior styles and ideas that create change in communication."

"As I evolve, I see that communication and the way people connect is really important to me," the author and podcaster continued. "I want to make sure people are connecting and communicating in a way others understand, not just for themselves. And a part of that is through understanding personality assessments and people skills. I am really energized about helping people understand each other and not taking it so personal. Everything I do now is about connecting and communicating in order to create change."

She said, "I think that was one of the biggest things, that I went back to the foundation of DreamBuilder. I always wanted to do both those things, but because our environment has shifted, what is the thing that's going to serve me well? I enhanced the part of me that's most relevant now."

Because of the pandemic, Homesly - in a distinctively different business - experienced a potential game changer. She found that many philanthropists diverted their benevolence to humanitarian relief. In 35 years of working with charities and foundations to secure grant funding, she hadn't experienced a dilemma of such magnitude.

"That was tricky," the non-profit strategist, recalled. "That changed my dynamics in helping people to cope with what they were doing." Coping included reassuring a client whose survival suddenly teetered on Homesly identifying financial assistance.

Her company is Fund Your Dreams - apropos for turning vision to fruition. An admitted "information bug", Homesly delves into her work thinking outside the box. If her research uncovers resources not ideal for a current client, she strives to pair them within her customer base, or share it with other organizations. She has spread the word about the U.S. Small Business Administration's (SBA) relief programs. "It's like I get a sixth sense about this," she said. "You look at one thing and find out you can go to another."

Homesly shares her passion and wisdom about grants online via the electronic capabilities of SCORE, a resource partner of the SBA. She said, "The perception is it's easy to get money. But you need to have certain things in place. In order for people to be successful, I help them organize their organization. I think with a business you can start to freeze or panic, or you could start thinking of alternate ways of resourcing yourself or your business."

Homesly, who only completed DreamBuilder last year, said when she began the nine-week class, "I didn't know anything about business because I've been in a nonprofit world. They (WBC) have a curriculum. They were giving you the tools, the confidence, and when you came in with a question, it was answered, or helped you find the answer. They set you up with an at-home curriculum that was very basic and then you're walked through it. It went from soup to nuts. By the time it was over, everybody was deeply entrenched in their business. It's probably one of the best kept secrets."

Considering COVID-19's negative impact on businesses across sectors, through the tenacity and success of Homesly and Taylor, DreamBuilder - where both polished their smarts - has earned bragging rights.