WHILE GROWING UP ON THE ISLAND NATION OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO AND in the inner city of Chicago, Isha Edwards was inspired by business owners, who she felt had a sense of freedom and wealth. That realization sparked one of her missions: to help minority businesses succeed. "If you teach a man to fish, he can feed himself for life," she says.
After earning a business management degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Edwards took a job as a business education teacher in the DeKalb County School District in Decatur, Georgia, extolling the benefits of entrepreneurship to minority high school students. She became an entrepreneur herself after being challenged by one of her students.
"One day, one of my accounting students said, 'Since you know so much about business, why aren't you out there running one yourself?'" the 40-year-old Edwards recalls. "I knew I needed to start a business so I could come back to the classroom and be a model for my students so they would know that they could do the same thing."
In 2005, Edwards--with about $4,500 worth of personal savings, angel investments, and discounted business services--started EPiC Measures L.L.C. (www.epicmeasures.com), a brand-driven marketing consultancy that she runs part time when she isn't teaching at Clayton State University in Morrow, Georgia. She acquired her first clients through word of mouth and from there, she actively sought clients based on past successes. With minority firms comprising 70% of her client base, Edwards has coached, mentored, and instructed approximately 300 entrepreneurs from Atlanta, Los Angeles, Johannesburg, and Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. She has taught them how to develop the marketing skills necessary to increase brand awareness and promote top-notch customer service.
Edwards's client list consists of entrepreneurs in entertainment, academia, nonprofit, and professional services, ranging from early stage startups to established businesses. Those requiring basic consulting services pay on average $1,200 per project, while services such as brand management, business planning and development, marketing communications, and promotional event management cost clients about $2,500 per project. She also offers a B2B Fast Pitch service, where clients pay a flat fee of $300 for two hours of consulting, which includes a review of a business profile document--assessing such factors as the client's purpose, goals, strengths, product viability...