May Consultant of the Month
Growing up as a military brat, Amelia Clay frequently moved around the U.S., then explored other countries while working on her master’s degree and launching her own startups. Now based in Austin, Texas, Amelia is living her dream life with the freedom and flexibility that consulting provides.
What are you currently working on?
Amelia's Keys to Success
- An entrepreneurial spirit
- Resilience in challenging situations
- International work experiences
- Intentionality when pursuing new roles
I'm at PayPal working on a new customer reference program for the small business team. In a nutshell, we're capturing stories of merchants that use PayPal so we can inspire other small businesses to keep going or give them advice and education. We’re launching it during Small Business Month, and I’m really excited about it.
What path did you take to become a consultant?
Funny enough, I was going to be a pilot in college, but I actually crashed the plane on my first solo! My first job was in aviation leasing and finance. That industry was rigid. I’ve always had this entrepreneurial spirit and it just didn't fit me.
Next, I had a whole chapter in startups. I worked for a Groupon-like company called Couptessa, as their first employee out of Miami. I helped them open across the country and got to work with many small businesses.
I got so passionate about small businesses that I started my own fitness app. I raised money through Incubate Miami, but didn't have all the skills to make it work, so it fizzled out. I left for South America, only to be there for three months.
I stayed almost two and a half years. I sold smoothies on the beach, taught English, and helped a translation company go online. I lived in Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Argentina. It was a nice, free life, but it came to a point where I wanted to do bigger and better things.
So I pursued an international master’s program where we studied in Brazil, France, and China. We traveled as a unit for a year and a half. I thought I'd go straight to being a consultant at one of the Big Four. For my thesis project, I got excited about eco-friendly manufacturing and the Brazilian spirit, so I started a sandal company that ended up being a four-year stint. I gave it my all, but was missing a true understanding of business finance. On the outside, it looked great. I was in several stores, had a huge social media account, and worked with models. But behind the scenes, I was struggling. The loan money from school ran out.
I landed a job with Jungle Scout and made enough money for the next inventory run of sandals. It was a good growing experience, but ultimately I couldn’t keep the sandal company going. At Jungle Scout, I was an affiliate manager, then led social media. They got funding, grew to 400 employees, moved to Austin, and so did I.
It was a fun ride, but I wanted to do something different and decided to leave. A position at Facebook popped up, and it was perfect. I helped run communities for their products, specifically to get feedback on shipping in Facebook Marketplace. That was the start of consulting for me.
What do you love about consulting?
Consulting is similar to startups – I like to solve a problem in a short amount of time with the resources that I have. But while working on startups, I was still on a nine-to-five and tied to my laptop. I wanted to set up a lifestyle where I could come and go for a couple months, and be more free. Consulting has opened that up for me. That's the life I dreamed of.
What has been your biggest challenge about being a consultant? How have you addressed it?
You need to come into a project and be ready to go. There's a very short window to get up to speed. Talk to as many people as possible, because everyone has a different idea of what you're working on and how you're going to help them.
How do you market yourself?
I'm very intentional and don’t take no for an answer. If I want a project, I reach out to the company directly. I will hound them on social media, ask what consulting roles are open, and find out who the person hiring is. I keep asking until I get some kind of next step. I've also gone through LinkedIn to see who the consultant was for a project I was interested in and asked, "How do I work there?" Instagram's great, too. It’s not the most professional platform, but people respond to their DMs. I found TikTok's recruiter for contracts and they got back to me. It takes a bit of time, but it works.
What are the things you like to do when the work slows down?
I absolutely love real estate and am a realtor on the weekends, with the goal to build an investment portfolio. For so many years, I feel like our culture has been, "If I grind, I can be successful and enjoy my life later." I really don't like that. Real estate is a great way to set ourselves up so that we don't have to grind.
What’s one tip you would give to new consultants?
Come in with the attitude that you are an expert. That's why they hired you. Feel okay making decisions, setting boundaries, and saying no. Challenge the way they're doing things. Talk to as many people as you can in the first couple weeks to get their view on the project and how you can help them.