Self-starter earns business honor

PAM DAWKINS, Connecticut Post

Article Last Updated: 05/06/2008 11:15:02 PM EDT

BRIDGEPORT — There's a lot going on in 28-year-old Ivy Royster's life: she's taking classes at Housatonic Community College; taking care of her toddler son, Tyler; and she's working to grow her business.

But the Bridgeport native is going to have to take a break on May 20 to accept The Deb Ziegler Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence from the Women's Business Development Center.

"Tenacity and her belief and understanding that education was the way to succeed in life," is why the Stamford-based nonprofit picked Royster, said Fran Pastore, the WBDC's president and chief executive officer.

The late Deb Ziegler was a WBDC board member and a "huge believer" in education, who also always believed it was possible to do anything, Pastore said.

Royster, said Pastore, reached out for the resources and support she needed, and is now the proprietor of Ivy League Enterprises LLC.

Royster describes her business, which she incorporated in August 2007, as a virtual administrative assistant, able to do everything from make travel plans, to developing fliers and cleaning up documents, putting together Power Point presentations and taking care of invoicing, accounts receivable and accounts payable.

She works from her Bridgeport home and is paid by the hour or job. She charges nonprofit groups about $22 an hour; her rates range from about $25 to $30 an hour for other clients.

"My main goal in life is to stay home with my son," and be able to sit on a beach with a

laptop and work, Royster said. "I wanted to be able to enjoy him."

Her ties to the WBDC date back to 2005, when she completed a 10-week entrepreneurial training program.

"I've always known I wanted to own my own business," said Royster, who credits her parents. Her father, now retired, was a carpenter, and her mother, a housekeeper; they shared many of the same clients.

The Bullard-Havens Technical High School graduate learned video production from the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, and said her mother told her about the WBDC. Royster wanted to open her own business and the WBDC referred her to a video production company so she could get some experience. She was an office manager there, but left when she became pregnant, moving to Brooklyn, N.Y., to join her son's father. When they separated, she moved back to Connecticut with Tyler, who will be 2 in June.

"He and I were on our own, homeless," and living with friends.

Royster said she borrowed money from friends and family for an apartment, and then started working in customer service out of her home. But while she was doing that, which she had done for 10 years before having Tyler, people began asking her to fix their resumes or perform other administrative work.

She describes being a virtual assistant as a "major, but quiet and unknown industry." Her clients tend to be other small businesses trying to get off the ground, but she also works for WBDC.

The WBDC, she said, taught her about the need for a business plan. Since starting her own business, she's learned, "Your business becomes your life."

Royster is studying entrepreneurship and small business management at HCC, and said she always wanted to get to a certain place in her life "business-wise," and the award tells her she's getting there faster than she thought she would.

"It really is a big deal," Royster said.

The breakfast event at the Inn at Longshore in Westport on May 20 is the fourth time the WBDC is giving the award, Pastore said. Marjory Abrams, publisher of Boardroom Inc. in Stamford, will be the event's keynote speaker.

Her topic is speaking up, learning how to get what you want from business and life, Abrams said.

"It's really not about being pushy," Abrams said. In her experience, most women are not good about asking for what they want. But to Abrams, if someone believes in what they want, and it's reasonable, they shouldn't stop until they get it.

In particular, Abrams said, people tend to be great advocates for their children, but not for themselves.

"Don't let things go. You have to pursue what you want."

Tickets to the awards breakfast are $75. For information, visit www.ctwbdc.org.