We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Valencia Carter-Bennett a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Hi Valencia, thanks for joining us today. Let’s start with the story of your mission. What should we know?
My mother was diagnosed with a mental illness at 22, which was approximately one year after having me. She told me the story of her first psychotic break and how she knew something wasn’t quite right with her, but she didn’t seek help because when she asked a work friend if she knew anything about the mental health center, the response was “you mean that place where the crazy people go?” That one response kept her from getting the help that she needed at the time. Once I was about 10 years old, we had been through a few cycles of hospitalization due to her having an episode so I became somewhat of a caregiver for her; keeping the house running while she was away getting much-needed treatment and therapy. By this time she was married, but in my opinion, she chose wrong. I watched her struggle for years with him; the frustrations she’d experienced because the bills weren’t getting paid despite him having two jobs. After becoming an adult living on my own she would call me to ask me to send money so she could get her medication or pay a utility bill so the services wouldn’t be disconnected. I often asked her why she didn’t just leave and live on her own and she would respond that God hates divorce and that with her only income being social security she didn’t feel she’d have enough money to make it on her own.
Watching her stay in an unhealthy, toxic situation because of finances was heartbreaking and I never wanted anyone else to have to do that so my ultimate goal is to start a nonprofit organization for women and children who are currently victims of abuse, survivors of abuse, and the mentally ill. The purpose of the organization will be to provide the counseling, legal, and financial resources they need to be able to live on their own rather than stay in a horrible situation because they lack money.
In addition to providing them with the resources they need, I would like to educate them on the importance of will creation as that is a strong building block to creating generational wealth.I haven’t yet gotten all the pieces of my vision together, but I know this work is my purpose.
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers?
In my initial interview, I spoke about myself as a speaker whose primary focus was on educating people about the importance of creating a Will and the negative consequences of not doing so. Additionally, I offered free virtual events to accomplish that goal and an affordable workshop to help them create their own will since the majority of the people I encounter cannot afford the services of an attorney.
I have been a licensed attorney for approximately 16 years and while the majority of my jobs have been in corporate America or government I have always had a heart for helping people so in 2013 I entered a Masters program at the University of Texas at Arlington and obtained my MSW with a concentration in direct practice with children and families in 2016.
I began the program to launch the speaking aspect of my life in 2020 shortly before the world shutdown. Since that time I have had several opportunities to speak about the importance of creating a Will. However, will creation is not the only topic I speak about; having been a caregiver for my mother in one way or another since the age of 10 I have a unique perspective on caregiving that I can speak about. I also speak about how to recover from weight loss setbacks after losing a large amount of weight and gaining some or all of it back.
I feel what makes me different from others is that not only am I knowledgeable about the areas that I speak about or offer services for, I also share myself and my past/present experiences in these areas because I have lived it so I understand what the people who have sought my help are going through.
Since my initial, I have had the opportunity to participate as a contributing author of a book entitled “I’m Speaking”. It is a book focused on women being disrupters of the status quo in whatever rooms or spaces they may find themselves. I am currently finishing up my first independent book on caregiving and have submitted material to be featured in the Texas Bar Journal.
My proudest moments are any time I get the opportunity to speak about the things I am passionate about and any time I get the opportunity to help someone create their Will or encourage someone to keep going despite a setback or to show empathy and offer advice to someone struggling as a caregiver.
We’d love to hear the story of how you built up your social media audience?
After completing my speaking course, I began individualized sessions with a speaking coach to help me perfect my talk and help me to get my name out there as a speaker since this was a new arena for me. My speaking coach helped me in the social media department by reviewing my advertisements for events before I posted them, giving me the framework of what I needed to post, where to post, and how often to post. She also encouraged me to go live rather than always posting on the platforms I use to market myself.
The key to building a social media presence is to be consistent in your posting and to make sure if someone were to go down your fees that they would know what it is you do or are passionate about. You can’t say that you’re into clean eating and every post of food you make is something deep-fried or unhealthy. . Also if they never see anything on your timeline about the thing that you do or are passionate about then they won’t know what it is you do; you got to mention it as often as possible without going overboard, it’s a fine balance. Also as much as possible avoid posting negative things. Finally respond to every comment on your post because that helps the algorithm keep your post on the timeline longer, which allows other people who might not have seen the original post to see it.
Any advice for growing your clientele? What’s been most effective for you?
If you can, give a small sample of what you have to offer a way for free. This seems counterintuitive, but the offer of something of great value for free will attract people to you and while they may not purchase from you they may recommend you to someone they know who will purchase from you.