January 17, 2024
Dr. Vedas Burkeen
We’re excited to announce the December $10,000 Amber Amber Grant recipient. Congratulations to Dr. Vedas Burkeen, Founder of Excel Science Consulting . She is the first qualifier for the 2024 year-end Amber Grant ($25,000).
Recently, WomensNet Advisory Board member Jama Hernandez sat down with Vedas for an exclusive interview. You can listen to their conversation and view the transcript below.
WomensNet: Hi everyone. Welcome to a conversation with our grant winner for December, 2023. Today we have the pleasure of chatting with Dr. Vedas Burkeen of Excel Science Consulting, who is our Amber Grant winner.
I’m Marcia Layton Turner. I’m one of several WomensNet Advisory Board members, and I have the great pleasure of chatting with our winners and hearing their stories. So thank you for making time to chat with me today. And I thought maybe we’d just start kind of at the beginning. Could you tell everybody a little bit about your company and where the idea to start it came from?
Vedas: Yes. So I am a scientist by trade and I have a very outgoing personality. So I decided to start a company where we kind of fill in the gap, where people outside of the discipline hires somebody that has technical experience and is able to communicate that to other people. So a lot of our consultants, we are from academia. We are a group of minority technical scientists and we support food manufacturers and food safety and occupational safety. We also do STEM initiatives. And our services are just to really support our clients. But we do a lot of SOP development trainings, you name it, whatever they need, we take on those projects for them. And we have been growing exponentially in the last two years.
WomensNet: Fantastic. Now let’s talk about business planning. Because usually when you’re at the idea phase of your business, you start to think about ‘is this viable and how would I run it?’ Did you develop a business plan? Did you turn to any specific resources that you found were really helpful in developing a plan?
Vedas: No. In 2010 we started the business and of course that wasn’t full-time. We were just consulting. And we are now in full-time business for about two years. And as consultants, our job is really to just problem solve, to support our clients. So we adapt and we pivot and we do all the things necessary to support them. So our list of services keeps growing. We have our financials and all those things that are necessary, but we’re just a creative solutions team, and so we’re okay with that pivot and moving toward the thing that’s gonna support our clients.
WomensNet: That makes sense. A lot of companies put together a business plan early on in the process, and then they file it away and never look at it. And you kinda have to wonder why did they do that, if they’re just gonna file it away.
Just for anybody watching, it might be helpful to know that there are small business development centers across the US and you can make an appointment for some free consulting, regarding your business plan, whether you need market research or help putting together financials. It’s free.
What have you done to spread the word about your business? What strategies have you found effective at letting others know about your brands or your companies? How do you market your consulting firm?
Vedas: It’s just being in your field, you know, meeting different people and fostering those relationships and how this came into full-time. I was talking to a food safety person and they needed help and I was willing to help. I had the business and it just rolled into something full-time.
We try our best to, if you give us the floor, we’re gonna do 110% to keep that client and to do what we need to do. And that has worked. We are now at our second major organization, and this year we’re talking about expanding and doing marketing, but it’s basically being, you know, knowing other people. And some people have nominated us for magazines… so we’ve been in three, Atlanta-based magazines in the last year. So that’s just been helpful, fostering the relationships, making friends and word of mouth.
WomensNet: And in consulting, I think that’s really smart because it’s very referral-based, isn’t it?
Vedas: Yes. And it’s a very hard market to get into when you’re just saying, ‘Hey, we wanna support you as a large manufacturer…’ So it definitely has to be very niched, so it’s hard to get into.
WomensNet: Awesome. Well, how about any lessons learned? Any lessons learned or stories that you might share with folks who are maybe early in their business creation process?
Vedas: The biggest one I have is to really ask for help. I think we try to be the superwoman. We try to do everything, and it’s very important to stay on your road at what you do. The other I think is to prepare for the lean times to really know your business when it goes up and down, and to make sure you have the finances to get through those seasons. And the last is to use your past experiences to really catalyze you. You know, I was in academics, a dean running a department by myself, and it prepared me. I complained probably the whole time, but it prepared me to run my business now. Now I’m looking back and saying, ‘wow, that was what I needed.’
So, making sure you are looking ahead, but also looking behind and using all of those together.
WomensNet: So, how can members of the WomensNet community show support for your businesses? What can they do to help you?
Vedas: Yeah, our website is ExcelScience.net. If I had to say anything, we really want support for STEAM period. To be an African-American woman with women getting our PhDs and moving in areas where doors are usually closed for us. Making sure that you open a door that you advocate for people that you know can do the work, do it exceptionally, and help us get in there. Help us stay in there, and serve as a mentor for other people in your avenues. And just make sure that we stay community in the community environment and foster one another.
As women, we have to help each other get to the next level. And it’s not easy, but just making sure that we support each other and just do what we need to do and encourage one another. ‘Cause it gets hard at times. You think you’re alone. But just being there supporting, like I said, the biggest thing is having somebody that’s there to speak to you in rooms when you’re not there. That’s what helps you stay in that arena.
WomensNet: Excellent. Thank you all so much for taking the time out of your busy day or night to share your story with the WomensNet community. Congratulations again on being our December Amber grant winner.