Bianca’s Squiggly Journey to Successful Virtual Assistant CEO.

Years ago I watched a TEDTalk that showed me that there was nothing wrong with me, because of my very winding career path, and that I wasn’t strange for loving change and enjoying knowledge, 

These were the specific things that led me to the business I now own and run, and have slowly but surely built up the skills that I now use on a daily basis. 

Early Life

Just like a Wikipedia entry, let’s look at the things that brought me to where I am. I grew up with my father as a minister in the church. I was generally in the public eye, and clearly got the genetics for public speaking from my Dad. 

At school I loved to perform – I was happiest on stage, it didn’t matter what I was doing. I was involved in dancing, piano, choir, poetry class, acting, Girl Guides and church youth group. For high school I attended the Johannesburg School for Art, Ballet, Drama and Music – specialising in Drama. Soon after starting high school I realised that in order to make my mark, I needed to find a different part of Drama to specialise in. Suddenly I was pretty average compared to the rest of my class. I became passionate about backstage management and was the first pupil Stage Manager for a main school production. 

In Matric when they did those aptitude tests I was told that I was good at translation. I found it such a strange recommendation and couldn’t think of how it would come in handy down the line, but turns out I’ve used it a lot – particularly around technology.

At university I worked in the theatre, although I chose not to study Drama. I did a Bachelor of Arts degree with Applied Language Studies and Psychology as my majors. The rest of my subjects were all over the place and were mostly just things I was interested in. I did an End User Computing course which was fun for me to get up to speed to the technology and platforms that were current in 1996!! Turns out I was a quick study, and so I used those translating skills to help fellow students and some of my lecturers understand the programs of the day.

Squiggly Careers

After university I decided to travel overseas for a year, and make a decision on which path to follow for my Honours degree. Well one year turned into 5 and working on five different continents. In that time I did the following JOBS: 

  1. Au Pair to twin 5 year olds in Minnesota, and then in Maryland in USA
  2. Barmaid in London over the Millenium
  3. Selling gas and electricity door to door in London
  4. General worker in a hotel in the Scottish Highlands
  5. Conference manager in a Hotel in Durban’s beachfront
  6. English teacher in Taiwan
  7. Mother’s helper in Sydney, Australia

I then came home for a bit. Back in Durban I initially worked for an insurance brokerage as a data capture and general assistant. I then got a job as a travel agent, and worked there for almost 3 years. Turns out that translation skill was a great for being a travel agent, as I was talented at understanding accents. Which was great since we were in a store that was a hub for international tourists.

I was then invited to go back to the USA to work for the Maryland family I’d worked for 5 years earlier. After the summer with the 10 year old twins, I needed to find some other work, so I worked as a handyman’s assistant, I cleaned luxury boats and I did a stint as a pet shop sales assistant. I then found another family to nanny for, and was with them for almost 2 years. 

On my return to South Africa I went back to the travel agency. My plan had always been for it to be a quick stop gap, but I stayed for another 6 years. 

Starting my own Business

After the first of my pregnancy losses I realised that I needed to reduce the amount of stress in my life. I left the travel agency, and after a few months break, I started my first business. 

My Recipe Hampers was ahead of its time. I loved the idea of the business and I really enjoyed the actual part of setting up a business and all the related “stuff”. The idea behind the company was that non-foodies could ask me for ideas for their foodie friends. I would put together all the ingredients for fancy recipes – source the ingredients and then deliver a hamper of ingredients with a recipe for the foodie person to make. At the time there were very few food delivery places, and the rise of the make-it-at-home packs was still at least 5 years away. 

After a year of trying to make a success of my little business, I found a job as a professional concierge. The variety and interest of that business really appealed to me. I was basically allowed to run the business for the business owner. It was a wonderful learning ground for me to see how to run a business without the financial commitment. I was with that business for almost 4 years. 

WAHM WorkSpace

After I left the concierge business, I spent some time focusing on raising my son, and figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. I then became pregnant with my daughter and I believe it was a case of pregnant body, pregnant mind. I had become involved in the local cloth nappy community with my son – “involved” is an understatement to be fair – I was and still am a major activist for cloth nappying, and I loved them – they became my hobby. 

While I was pregnant I developed the idea of a coworking and retail space for Work At Home Moms (WAHMs). That’s where the name of WAHM WorkSpace came from. For the first six months of my daughter’s life I was passionately figuring out how to run a coworking space, what I needed for a physical space, I learned about retail work, and I did A LOT of networking! I however realised that I would need a lot of money for a physical space, and someone I respected suggested I look at working as a Virtual Assistant. 

Becoming a Virtual Assistant

I wasn’t even sure what a Virtual Assistant was, or what they did in early 2018, when that suggestion was made. I have always loved research, and so I dove into the internet and discovered the world of VA work. There weren’t that many VAs in South Africa in 2018. All of the information I found was from international sites – mostly US sites. From having lived and worked all over the world, I was able to adjust a lot of what I was reading and learning to the South African market. 

It took me about six months of constantly showing up at in-person and online networking places, before I got a consistent client.. I used to joke that I would have gone to the opening of an envelope if I was invited. I went to free and paid in person networking events. I was in ALL the Facebook groups, I joined LinkedIN Groups (Remember those?). I made posting and interacting on social media my full time job. 

I spent a lot of time educating about what a virtual assistant was in my posts. Not just with my family (who didn’t know what I did for work), but with potential clients, networking groups and friends. Now it’s certainly not as difficult to explain and more and more people are aware of the world of virtual assistance. 

That first client who committed to a few months of work, was the break I needed to be able to get more consistent in my income. It was a slow burn, but she’s now been a client for more than five years, and we run her business admin almost exclusively. 

Building a Team

That same trusted person who had suggested virtual assistant as a job for me, also made the recommendation that I build a team fairly quickly. Which I did. Of my current team of 4, my business partner Adrienne has been part of WAHM since 2018!

I have had more than 15 VAs work in the business. I have always felt it was important that my team outgrew me if it was what they needed. I am passionate about empowering people, and that includes sometimes empowering people out of my business. I am passionate about improving the skills of those around me, so that they can grow their own knowledge and income. 

I have had international teams that span the time zones from Auckland to Austin. I have had a team as large as 9 and as small as 3. What I have learned is that passion for what I am passionate about, is the best indicator of someone being a long term member of my team. 

Learning because of Clients

Another clear indicator of success in this industry that I’ve learned is a passion for learning and growing. With almost every client that I have worked with, I have had to learn a new program, a new way of working, a new style of communication or something else. 

This has grown my skills and made me more and more marketable, but it has also made me a better VA as I have learned to use platforms that have pushed my boundaries. Actual platforms and programs are only part of the learning that I have done for clients. 

I have had more than a few clients who have taught me lessons about how to or how not to run my business. I have learned lessons about managing finances, about customer service and how I want to treat others. I have learned lessons about integrity and how important it is to me. I have learned how to manage hard conversations and how to set boundaries. Sometimes these lessons have happened years into my business, but that is the thing with the virtual assistance business – it’s always changing. 


So 6 years into my business, we have rebranded the business so that I can focus on things that I’ve learned and be able to share those with the world. Something I’ve loved since I was a child. Earlier this year I did a personality assessment called the Sparketype Test. My primary Sparketype is the Sage – I love to gather knowledge so that I can share it with the world. 

WAHM Training is my platform to be able to share everything I’ve learned working as a VA and particularly to empower South African VAs to be able to work better and more profitably in the international sphere. I’m ready to help even more VAs than the ones that I have in my team, and share my knowledge with a much wider audience. If you’re like to see what sort of trainer I am, why don’t you join us for our VA Success Accelerator in September.

Bianca Johnson

Bianca is the CEO of WAHM Workspace and is passionate about empowering women. She's brilliant at translating ideas and loves to people grasp concepts. She lives in Durban, South Africa with her husband and two children. She survives thanks to coffee and red wine.