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LaVonne Ellis – Complete Flake, Voice Coach, Customer Lover, Writer, Adventurer
I first met LaVonne Ellis soon after I started blogging. I joined a couple of online communities for bloggers and people wanting to promote their businesses ethically and responsibly online, and LaVonne showed up in both of them.
LaVonne didn’t just show up, she welcomed me. And in the faceless, potentially anonymous world of virtual “communities,” that meant a lot. Then she started following me on Twitter. So I started following her blogs and Tweets. (Two years and one week ago today, in fact!)
As it turned out, part of LaVonne’s fascinating story is that she used to work in radio. Which, of course, means she has developed (or was born with) a wonderful Radio Voice. And one of her businesses was providing services as a Voice Coach.
Well at about this time, my frustration with my voice was reaching critical mass. For ten years my speaking voice had been deteriorating, making telephone work, public speaking and online presentations well, difficult. To say the least. And my frustration hit its last nerve when I was interviewing someone over the phone and she said, “I think we have a bad connection, can I call you back?”
Sigh. “No,” I said, “It’s just my goofy voice. It’s not the connection.” *hungheadinshame*
So I reached out to LaVonne, who was offering promotional half-off half-hour voice coaching sessions. I ponied up the money and sent her my pre-session questionnaire with a recording of me interviewing someone. I was so excited to get started!
She turned me down.
LaVonne Lives By Her Ethics
LaVonne read my description of my voice problem, and listened to my recording, and declined to work with me: She said it appeared to be a medical condition which had not been confirmed and could be serious, and said her strategies wouldn’t be effective for me. She encouraged me to see a medical specialist, and she immediately refunded my money.
I was crushed.
I had finally worked up the nerve to do something – again, after being disappointed by multiple doctors who couldn’t solve my issue and brushed me off to others – and she turned me down.
She did The Right Thing.
LaVonne could have taken my money and coached me and then said, “Hmm, too bad, so sad.” But she didn’t.
And it kicked my ass into trying one more time to get my voice diagnosed – this time successfully. Which has led to a two-year process of discovery, which is still going on.
I later reached out to LaVonne to thank her, and she told me how bad she had felt about saying no and disappointing me. But she did it anyway. The right thing.
Not long after that, LaVonne and much of the online world read a post by Naomi Dunford, “Make Them Love You. THEN Ask For Money.” Like many others, LaVonne was inspired. Unlike everyone else, LaVonne decided to do something.
And she invited us to come along.
And the Customer Love Challenge was born.
I won’t go into all the details about the Customer Love Challenge – you can read the backstory here.
What I will tell you is why it matters to me, and why I hope it matters to you.
Why It Matters
The Customer Love Challenge quickly grew into a Phenomenon. A website was born. Tweetchats were held. A community formed. A free ebook was published. 28-day Customer Love Challenges were launched. Formats were experimented with. Budding business people who really didn’t have a clue – or an audience – found support and encouragement.
Nearly all for Free.
LaVonne provided a catalyst that helped people (us) focus their (my) attention on their (my) customers rather than exclusively on making money. She helped people (me) put the horse where it belonged, before the cart. Love your customers, she taught, and the rest will follow. And she led by example.
She provided a platform, a forum, for people to connect and support each other in figuring this stuff out. Guest posts were solicited and published. Ideas were incubated and loved into life.
Ironically enough, LaVonne helped me find my voice – as a writer. I wrote four guest posts for Customer Love Challenges in less than a year and a half. I am not alone when I say the opportunity she provided me to develop my thoughts in this area and be exposed to a wider audience meant a LOT to me. And I met a TON of fascinating, inspiring, hilarious, creative, dedicated people, many of whom have become friends and some of whom have become colleagues. Several of my Customer Love confreres, including LaVonne, went on to write Captains Curious guest posts for my blog – what an honor for me! And that is just an example of another of the lovely benefits that grew out of Customer Love – members found people with complementary skills who could help each other out.
In other words, LaVonne helped me see the positive power of the internet for Good.
As time went on, LaVonne noticed that many of the Customer Lovers, as we called ourselves, needed technical help with their websites and making all of the bits of online business work. So she branched out, and launched Trust Wanda. Since LaVonne had figured out how to do all this online WordPress, shopping cart, hosting, eeek, stuff for herself, she began offering that as a service. First to Customer Lovers, then to a broader audience.
And something interesting began to happen.
Just as many of the Customer Love peeps grew in confidence and began to stand in our abilities and plant flags on the tops of the mountains of our dreams – or at least make progress up the sides of those mountains – LaVonne grew in confidence too.
First, it became clear that the Complete Flake identity behind which LaVonne had been masquerading was, in fact, obsolete. A Complete Flake she clearly was not. So that website – and alter ego – was retired.
Then, LaVonne launched One Blue Berry and had us all hanging on the edges of our chairs, waiting for the next installments of her Green Card story.
And then, LaVonne knocked us out with her announcement about deciding to pull up stakes and set out on her Road Trip. Charles-Kuralt-style, LaVonne intends to set out and roam the continent (or at least a big chunk of it) and write about her adventures.
I, for one, can’t wait to read about them!
But first, she has to leave. Set out. Make it so.
LaVonne has helped so many of us make our dreams come true and find our voices (literally and figuratively). I want to help her make this dream come true.
How? Well, Moral Support is important and, I’m sure, always welcome. But there are other ways we can help.
- Although the Customer Love challenges have run their course, you can still have access to three of the Customer Love tools to help you love up your customers and build your business on a firm foundation:
- Hire Wanda – I mean LaVonne – to build or maintain a WordPress website. She’ll even help you with recording and editing audio files to post on your website. Interviews? Webinars? Piece of cake. With coffee.
- And, of course, you can Chip In and provide direct financial support to the Road Trip in the amount of your choice.
LaVonne is someone who has made a difference in the lives of many, although she’ll probably blush to read that. Let’s make a difference in her life.
Please join me in supporting LaVonne on her Road Trip! I’m so curious about what adventures she will have, the people she will meet, the tales she will tell, and how she will be changed by it all. Are you curious? Let’s make it happen, and make LaVonne’s voice heard.
(My thanks to Jenny Thomas of DesisisterJen for inspiring this blog post. Thanks Jen!)