“It’s really important for people of color to be creative and allow your uniqueness to drive you -- and not allow yourself to think you need to replicate what other people are doing in order to make inroads. I know that personally, taking risks and trusting the answers to my prayers to do things differently has made a huge impact in growing my business.”
Michelle Nusum Smith, owner and founder of The Word Woman LLC, has been committed to serving others for her whole life.
Even before her 30-year professional career in the nonprofit sector, Michelle worked to give back to her community. Her mother, who Michelle says was a “do-gooder,” raised her to seek ways to help those around her. Growing up, Michelle spent time volunteering for various events and organizations, continually helping others when she could. She learned the value of giving what you can, despite the circumstances. From an early age, Michelle developed an innate ability to make a difference.
Her upbringing launched her into a career in the nonprofit sector. Michelle’s mother continued to encourage Michelle to help others as much as possible -- even giving Michelle’s cell phone number to people who needed services offered at the nonprofit where Michelle worked or assistance with other needs. (Michelle laughs reflecting on the challenges to her mother’s giving nature could create for her.)
Many began approaching Michelle for her insight and industry expertise. A previous employer asked her to stay one to write grants for their organization on a contractual basis. Leaning into her entrepreneurial spirit, Michelle eventually decided to start her own business.
As her business developed, Michelle made several divinely-inspired leaps of faith -- including the name of her business, “The Word Woman.”
As Michelle was trying to come up with a name, she prayed about it and woke up in the next morning with “The Word Woman.” Michelle reveals that initially she was hesitant with the name, thinking that something more traditional like “Nusum Enterprises” would be more appropriate .
However, she decided to trust the answer to her prayer and stick with the name. And although her professional services have grown beyond grant writing, the name “The Word Woman” has proved to be the right one.
“I’ve gone all the way to conferences in Texas where people don’t know me, but they’ll see my business name on the room and say, ‘I know you -- you’re The Word Woman!’”
Over the past ten years, The Word Woman LLC has evolved into a full-service nonprofit consultancy, including coaching and training services. The Word Woman LLC works to help nonprofits, governmental agencies and individuals develop the skills, knowledge, and resources to achieve their goals. Or, as their website says, they are “do-gooders helping do-gooders do good.”
Through it all, Michelle has followed her heart and makes sure to continue to give through her business. Michelle creatively extends her expertise through accessible offerings, such as her “Pay What You Can” Nonprofit Training Program and her weekly (and now online) “Nonprofit Coffee Chats” open to everyone.
Although Michelle’s hard work has led to a thriving business today, she acknowledges the challenges she has encountered as an African American woman in business. Michelle shared that she’s had multiple experiences of being disrespected or overlooked due to someone’s judgment about her race.
Michelle doesn’t allow those experiences to cloud her judgment or make her callous. Instead, she allows them to strengthen her and help her recognize her own power and value.
“I think about these experiences as learning opportunities. I have a choice -- no matter what this person is saying or doing or assuming about me, I have a choice about whether or not I give them the gift of being able to work with me. That, for me, is even more powerful than anything someone else might do or say to get me to doubt myself.”
As one of her mentors has said: It doesn’t matter how many people do what you do; there’s only one you. No one can do exactly what you do. No one offers the experience you create because of you.
After ten years of business, The Word Woman continues creating powerful experiences, trainings, consulting and coaching that help nonprofit agencies, both new and longstanding, achieve their missions and make a difference in the world.
Find out more about The Word Woman here: https://thewordwomanllc.com/