Public health entrepreneurship: an honest conversation about the journey, with Quisha Umemba, MPH, BSN, RN, CDCES, CHWI

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In this episode, Sujani sits down with Quisha Umemba, the CEO of Umemba Health. They discuss what Umemba Health is and its mission to improve the public health workforce, Quisha’s experience with consulting work and creating her own company, and talk tips on entrepreneurship and taking the first step to create your own business.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • How Quisha discovered public health and her transition from working as a nurse to working in public health
  • Tips on entrepreneurship and starting work as a consultant 
    • Where to go to gain more business sense
    • Social engagement and choosing your social media to build your company’s image
  • What Umemba Health is and how they are undertaking their mission to improve the public health workforce
  • How the pandemic shed light on areas for growth within public health work 
  • Staying connected to current and relevant public health topics as a consultant or someone not “working on the ground”
  • What a day in the life of and how her role has changed since she first founded the company

Today’s Guest:

As the CEO of Umemba Health, Quisha Umemba (pronounced “Kwee-shuh oooMEMbuh”) brings over 20 years of diverse experience to her roles as a Registered Nurse, Public Health Consultant, and Entrepreneur. Boasting multiple certifications and an impressive work history, Quisha has developed, implemented, and overseen numerous health initiatives and community collaborations throughout her career. Quisha has worked as a Disaster Response Nurse Leader for the American Red Cross, a Clinic Coordinator for an outpatient endocrinology clinic, a Chief Nurse and Program Manager for a local health department, a Diabetes Nurse Consultant for a state health department, an RN Care Manager for a Federally Qualified Health Center, and a Clinical Programs Training Specialist for a value-based care consulting agency. A nurse with a public health background, Quisha has a multifaceted, blended expertise that enables her to design unique curricula and training programs with multi-level interventions. Specializing in Workforce Training and Development, her work focuses on equipping the public health workforce and her training approaches blend conventional, experiential, and transformational methods to create engaging educational content, delivered across various platforms. These distinctive training approaches have earned her the moniker “The Trainer’s Trainer.” As the CEO and Owner of Umemba Health, Quisha helps public health organizations and healthcare systems to educate their frontline workforce, empower their leadership, and expand their community presence. As the Principal for Quisha Umemba Consulting, she teaches “helping professionals” to monetize their skillset so they can build, launch, and scale a profitable public health consulting business using her proven step-by-step system. In addition to being an expert facilitator and trainer, Quisha is a devoted servant leader and health equity advocate. Her life’s mission is to empower, educate, and transform the lives of others.

Featured on the Show:

Episode Transcript

Quisha 0:00
I’m just excited about the innovation that we’re going to bring to training and really helping to bring this public health 3.0 vision to life, I’m so thankful to be a part of it. I’m thankful to be a student of it, right? I’m still learning as well. But as I learned as I develop it as I evolve my company, my business will, I’m developing the next generation of public health leaders. And I’m very proud of that. And it’s something that I hope I get to continue to do for a very long time.

Sujani 0:34
Welcome to PH SPOTlight, a community for you to build your public health career with. Join Us Weekly right here. And I’ll be here to your host Sujani Siva, from PH SPOT.

Good morning, Quisha, and welcome to the PH SPOT podcast. I feel like this is a long overdue conversation with you.

Quisha 0:57
A long time coming indeed, thank you so much. Sujani. I’m glad to be joining you this morning.

Sujani 1:02
And I feel like you know, we always say the saying of public health is so small. And I think the online world has also made it small. So I’m almost very confident that many of our listeners may have come across you, especially Umemba Health, which is your business. And so we’ll get into that piece. But I think what a lot of people and myself included, didn’t realize is that you have this past life as a nurse.

Quisha 1:29
It’s so funny that you said past life because I tend to forget that I’m a registered nurse as well. I always say I’m in nursing I bit by the public health bug. And so it’s been about almost nine years, almost a decade that I’ve been away from the bedside. But- But yes, I am a nurse, registered nurse. Yeah. And I think once you’re a nurse, you’re always a nurse.

Sujani 1:48
And then you got to go even I think another decade before that. That’s when you got into the field of nursing. And I’m curious, when you discovered public health, like did you know about public health when you went into nursing? Or did you get into nursing for other reasons, and then kind of discovered public health? Tell us- tell us about that.

Quisha 2:07
Yeah, that’s- that’s very interesting. So you know, after I got my BSN, my Bachelors of Science in Nursing. I knew I wanted to get a masters, but I really wasn’t quite sure which masters I want. And I had a physician friend of mine, she was endocrinologist. And she said, you should probably go get an MPH because you enjoyed your community nursing semester or class. And so I was like, Well, what is that I keep seeing that behind all the doctors names MD mph. And so she’s ultimately the one that led me to it. But going back to that class, and she wasn’t my also my supervisor at the time, I was a clinic coordinator in endocrinology clinic, and she was the director. And I remember her saying, not realize everything had to do with public health. They gave us this windshield assessment to do for homework and you know, I drove around my neighborhood is a new development. And I noticed that there were no sidewalks and there were no bus stops. And, you know, there were dogs that were running around off leashes and all these things, you know, that you don’t even think about unless someone asked you to really, really take a deep look at, you know, what’s in your neighborhood, what’s in your community and how these things affect or shape your life. And so after doing that assignment, I really realized like that everything has to do with public health. And so it was a combination of that introduction to realizing that everything in our environment affects us affects our health and how we, you know, ultimately thrive in this world. And then also with her encouragement, as well. So I you know, I think this would marry perfectly what you do. At the time, I just got my certification as a certified diabetes care and education specialist. And so it just seemed like it was a perfect fit. And I’ve been taking public health ever since.

Sujani 3:45
As I’m looking at your timeline on LinkedIn, it sounds like it was seven years of you working bedside as a nurse. And then that’s when you went and kind of like realized, you know, maybe I might want to dabble into this MPH degree and figure out a career after that. Is that the right timing?

Quisha 4:05
Yeah. And you know, I’ve had my career. So I was on the floor for not and a half. Well, I take that back. So first year, I was student nurse tech. So about eight and a half years, I was actually on the floor. And I started out as a medical assistant, so many nurses and probably many public health professionals, you know, the dream is, is to be a physician, and then life happens and baby tap and marriage has to happen in different things change. But yeah, so I worked for about eight and a half years on the floor. And then I got into kind of management after I got my BSN did some that work as a clinic coordinator, like I said in the endocrinology clinic, and so I started grad school and even before I think it was about eight months out from finishing my program, I said, God give me a job that combines public health, nursing and diabetes. And so the first job that I applied for was Chief Nurse in the office of chronic disease and prevention at the Houston The health department and it was overseeing a couple of programs. And one of those was the Diabetes Program. And it was like a match made in heaven for both the organization and myself as well. And so that’s kind of how my transition, and I will be honest, you know, I tell a lot of nurses, especially if they’re leaving the bedside, you know, I went through withdrawals for about the first six months when you’re a nurse, and you’re used to touching people and, and helping people and providing that individual care. And then you switch to public or population health, it’s different. It’s, it’s like you miss a drug, it’s like you lose some part of yourself. And so I really had to reshape my way of thinking to say, well, if I can just born to these 15 people, that now I’m tasking leading, then they can go out into pour it into so many other people. And so once I kind of changed my mindset to fit within those constraints, I really took my role by the horns, so to speak, and I love every single minute of middle management at the- at the health, local health department level.

Sujani 5:58
Yeah, that identity crisis is how I call it when you’re kind of shifting your health, but you’re kind of, you know, taking a step to the left and to step to the right, it requires a lot of, you know, just self reflection and figuring out and convincing yourself, you know, this is going to be okay, and just take a step and figure it out as you go. And I remember having that after I think it was, you know, seven, eight years of doing, you know, traditional applied epidemiology and deciding, okay, maybe I’m going to try a bit of like a policy role and going to a bit of like digital health type work. And it was an identity crisis, even, you know, getting my letter of offer it no longer said, epidemiologist, and I had to like, those emotions for a little bit. And then they were talking to people. And, you know, I think when I, when I say that to people, there’s half that are like, Yep, I went through the same thing. And the other half was like, no, like, it was a slow transition for me. So I didn’t really feel those emotions. So it’s interesting to hear that you had kind of this similar realizing, oh, yeah, to take about six months to not really get over it. But feel confident that the decision you made and the direction that you’re going is what you want to do.

Quisha 7:11
Yeah, I just realized that I had much more of an impact, really, where I looked at my patient as the community is instead of one individual. And so yes, I loved it. I was able to flourish after that changing mindset to that. Yeah.

Sujani 7:25
And I don’t know about you. And you know, for me, one of the things that helped was talking to people, right, like, you don’t need to make these decisions, or, you know, you make the decision with yourself, but then talking it out with people who are you know, older than you younger than you may have had a similar path or not, and just verbalizing those emotions, I think has helped me and I don’t know if it was the same for you. Or if you just kind of figured it out on your own.

Quisha 7:48
I think I just kind of figured it out on my own. Yeah.

Sujani 7:51
Yeah. It was interesting to hear that, you know, when you’re finishing up your program, you intentionally, were looking for a role that combined nursing and public health and diabetes. And I was curious about that, because I could see that you were working in kind of the the health care system. And then after seven or eight years, and that I see that the next few years you spent in health department and, and I was curious to know, that was an accidental move. And then you discovered.

Quisha 8:22
It was all intentional, although I’m very strategic. So this is, this was my thought process behind it. So I was working at the VA hospital, which pays nurses very well, was working in Central Arkansas Veterans Hospital in Little Rock. And so I knew that my ultimate goal at the time, because entrepreneurship did not even come across my mind. My ultimate goal was I’m gonna work for the CDC, and that’d be a public health advisor. And so I knew want, first of all, I needed to get some experience at a health department. But I knew I could not stay in Arkansas, because I would take too significant of a pay cut that it would affect our quality of life.

Sujani 9:00

Quisha 9:00
And so again, I was eight months out from graduating, I think I actually put in three applications. And you know, AHD was one of them. But I knew I was gonna go work at a local health department for a few years. And then my goal was, okay, I’m gonna go get the experience on the state level for a few years. And then I’m going to get back into the federal system and go and work for the CDC. So that was my entire plan. Like I had my whole life mapped out. And it completely derailed, which is great, because I love being my own boss. And I have that experience on the local level. I have that experience, you know, on the state level as well. And so, but then I ended up going into corporate America and so I just really feel like I have kind of a 360 degree view point of, you know, health care and public health and so I think I just thought it was just time for me to just do it on my own. And so, so far, so good. And again, I love every single day like we were talking about before we started out I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Sujani 10:02
Yeah, it’s a good point. Because you know, as much as it’s super important to have a plan, be strategic about kind of where you’re going and you know, do some research and maybe even put it down on paper, it’s equally important to be flexible. And to kind of know that sometimes everything you write on on your plan is not going to work out. And that’s part of it. I think, you know, as you go through these different experiences, you discover yourself as a person, things in the world change, right? So what we planned for 15 years ago, is probably is going to need some sort of an update, as you move through the year.

Quisha 10:36
Right, you’re surprised to dry and who we are changes, right, you know, when what I wanted 18 is not what I wanted it 30 And it’s not what I wanted at 40, you know, and it’s, you know, what I’m doing right now in my 40s is not going to be what I want, you know, a decade from now. So I think that so glad that you said that you have to be flexible, you have to be adaptable, even in your planning. Yeah, absolutely.

Sujani 10:57
Exactly. Okay, so, in 2019, you decide you’re going to dabble into a little bit of consulting, while you’re still you know, employed full time. Where did that idea come from? Because you said entrepreneurship was never on your plan.

Quisha 11:17
We’ll have to kind of rewind a little bit. So remember how my public health consultancy that was established in 2019. That’s my third attempt at business. So I did a little training and consulting for myself a couple of years before that, I also had a partnership with a couple other ladies. And both of those really did not really pan out very well. And so I haven’t already doubled and dabbled and this is ultimately what came about it. When I was working for the health department, I was in my own right DeVos the amount of hours that I worked the programs and initiatives that I developed that I oversaw, the partnerships that I develop, the solutions that I created, or that my team created when I realized just the value that I was bringing to the organization and some of the innovation in some of the you know, programs that were developed, and the blood sweat, tears, and sleep loss, because I mean, I was glued to my phone or my laptop. And I think anybody that’s listening to the sound of my voice that works in the health department, especially if you’re middle management, or you know, your senior executive or something like that, you know, you’re in meetings all day, and then you go home. And that’s when you do your work. That’s when you write your grants, that’s when you do your technical reports, or whatever it is. And so I was contributing so much of my life to that particular position in those programs and not complaining, I loved it all. I loved it until it no longer loved me back. And so when I realized that I said, you know if I can do this for I think Houston, maybe the fourth largest state in the US or time with Chicago, or it was, I couldn’t do this for one of the largest states in the US, I can certainly do this for myself. And so it was around the time I had this thought process, I was recruited by the state. So I went to go work as a diabetes nurse consultant. So that was the role where I actually had the title of a consultant, and I could see what a consultant does. And so I think about six months into it, I was like, Oh, this is consultant, like, I’ve been doing this I can, I can easily do this. So. So I remember telling my husband, I’m entirely too bored at the state, you know, I don’t know, if anybody’s worked on the state level, that’s the same, but the state is this a little bit slower pace than if you work, you know, local city government. And so I told him, I said, I’m gonna start another business, I’m gonna start enough side hustle, because I think I have something that I can contribute in a different way. And so my time is short lived there, because of my business. But I think that everything that I learned, and I think everything that I learned, I always say that the one degree that you’re going to absolutely use, everything that you were taught is a master’s in public health. That’s just my opinion. And I think most people that I’ve talked to will agree with that. And so I also will say, if you’ve worked at a health department, whether it be the state level or local, and you decide to be a consultant, every single thing that you did and those positions, you’re going to use it in your business as well. So very fortunate for those experiences.

Yeah. And we talked about this, when we say, I don’t know how we’re doing all of this work. And I’m sure you felt like that in 2019, where you’ve got a full time job and trying to start a business and for any of our listeners who are in that position, kind of thinking of dabbling into consulting as a side hustle. Because, you know, they’ve been convinced by you now that they have the skills and the expertise to be able to do this.

That’s right. That’s right.

Sujani 14:47
Do you remember kind of those first few years and, you know, some of the top questions that come up is what do I even go and find my first client? How do I price my services? What do I offer as a service and I don’t know if you had all of that figured out because you had worked for 10 plus or more than that, you know, almost 10 and a half years. And I don’t know if that was easy for you, or if you have any tips just to offer these individuals who are trying to figure it out for the first year.

Quisha 15:16
Yeah, well, no, it’s never easy, right? It’s easier when you do have business coaches. And I always say that’s one of the smartest things I did a business is the day I incorporated my business the day I hired a business coach, right. And, and I’ve been in business, almost four years now. And for every year, I’ve been in business, I’ve had a different business coach for different stages that I’m in, you will never know, you’ll always undervalue yourself. You know, when I first started consulting, my rates were like, $75 an hour, it took me probably a year to get you know, someone who like individual courses, and doing trainings and things like that, but it probably took me a year before I was able to get a client. And one thing that I will say, I think that will bring you a lot of success is one, just do it. Even if you’re you know, you start off with charging 50-75 miles out, you don’t know just- just do it, you got to start somewhere, because you need to build your portfolio. And another thing is, people don’t know who you are, if you’re not out there, you know, if you’re not doing webinars, or you know, info sessions are, you know, social media campaigns, and, you know, establishing some type of thought leadership and I will be the first to admit, I didn’t want to be the face of my business. I wanted my business to stand on my own its own but nobody knew it, right? And so there was there, I was the only person that was the most appropriate person to be a champion for mental health, because I- it was my baby, I knew it. And I knew you know, what we could bring to the table. The other thing that I would say is, if you are fortunate enough to side hustle, I am a big proponent of side hustling. I’m a big proponent of you know, still working full time read, you know, anything that you make in your your side hustle reinvesting that back to the business and scale sooner than you think hire a VA sooner than you think. Bring on a you know subcontractor sooner than you think even if you’re not getting paid, which is why you should still be working full time. Because if it was not, for me scaling and bringing on individuals before I was in a position or before I thought I was in a position rather, it’s one of those things that you can’t afford not to do, right. But if it was not, for me doing that sooner, I wouldn’t now be working full time for myself. So those are just a few tips.

Sujani 17:24
I love what you said in the beginning about going out and getting help. Because as much as we are, you know, you’ve convinced us we’re experts in the field that we’ve been working in-

Quisha 17:34

Sujani 17:35
Starting a business is like you’ve never done it before. And I don’t know about you cliche. But I’ve never taken a business class in undergrad or even in my master’s. So everything was new. And I think you and I were both saying like, we’ve never had entrepreneurship on our life plan.

Quisha 17:52
Right now. Yeah, not at all. Yeah.

Sujani 17:55
And I remember like vividly fighting with my sister who was doing a business degree. And she’s like, you know, you got to do something in business. I was like, Nope, I’m never going to need it. All my courses are going to be held. That’s all I’m gonna focus on. Don’t distract me. And surely enough, here I am, like trying to learn it all. And I think like for any of our listeners who can’t invest the amount, you know, that a business coach needs yet, I think, you know, some of those coaches do have some free resources that you can definitely get started with on day one, right, like podcasts and things that they write or free webinars, like you said, and then kind of jumping into it and just doing something putting yourself out there. Yeah.

Quisha 18:34
I always say I have a PhD in YouTube University, there’s so much that you can do to self teach yourself a lot, but you have to believe it be a student of life. And so you know, if you can buckle down and really say, I don’t have it right now, I’m gonna invest what I’m able, but I’m gonna learn everything I can, you know, and don’t listen to everybody. So that’s that’ll get you to when you listen to every guru and every this and every day, and you don’t know who you are, you know, you find one or two people that you know, are solid, that they’ve got really good advice, and you just stick to those, you know what those kind of nuggets that they’re sharing, and you try to implement them, if it works out, if it doesn’t work, I’m the 90 day girl. If I’m doing something in 90 days, I’m evaluating if it doesn’t work, we’re switching it up. If it works, how can we improve it? You know, so I think you just have to have that, you know, good instincts and definitely good ethic. And if you’re committed to do it, it’s especially entrepreneurship, if this is where you want to be, there’s no backup, there’s no plan B. So you just put in all the plans. Again, it’s kind of like I said, I’m gonna, I’m gonna work at the CDC, and I’m gonna do this first I’m doing this work. You know, you just have to be really strategic with, you know, whatever your ultimate end goal is.

Sujani 19:44
Yeah. And another important thing that you said is putting yourself out there and telling people, I think, you know, if you have this idea, and it’s a service that you want to offer, no one’s going to know unless you tell them about it. And just because you posted once on LinkedIn, nobody’s going to remember that, right? So showing up every day, reminding people in different ways that you are there when when they need that support.

Quisha 20:08
I still struggle with that. And let me tell you what I actually did. As of lately, as I was talking to a colleague, and she was like, Girl, you’re all over LinkedIn. And I’m like, Yeah, because I hired somebody like, that I struggle with engagement on social media. Absolutely. It’s one of the biggest things I’ve always struggled with. Now, you know, I can get, you know, on a zoom like me, and you are with somebody and I could talk for hours, right? But, but engaging on social media has always and so that’s another reason why you bring people on, bring people on, so that they can do the things that either you don’t like to do, or that you don’t have the time to do. And so, but you’re so right, when you are consistent, and you show up. And when you’re authentic, I think I saw, you know, really my business kind of take off when I allowed myself to be the face, because people were able to engage and connect with my message, with my personality, you know, in my authenticity. And so where I wanted to do one of those businesses where it wasn’t, I had to realize until I can establish my reputation to that point, I’ve got to be out here and be the spokesperson. So that consistency is so so accurate.

Sujani 21:14
Yeah. Two things about that I am with you. Like I never understood how to engage on social media. But what I have realized is, and this might be a theory that only works for me, but you know, there’s lots of social media platforms. And I feel that there’s one that aligns really well with, whether it’s like your values or your personality, right? So I tried to be on Twitter, it didn’t work for me, I tried to be on Instagram didn’t work for me. I dreamed of being on Tik Tok, I knew that wasn’t for me. But when I showed up on LinkedIn, and I think I did it without a real like plan or strategy, I realized that that was a platform that aligned really well with my personality.

Quisha 21:56

Sujani 21:56
I’m someone who likes to like reflect and write long form posts, I don’t really enjoy taking photos of myself or, you know, doing quick tweets. And those were not aligned with the way I guess I process things and share. And so when I realized that LinkedIn was my platform, to your point, it took off for me. So from 2017, when PH SPOT was first founded to 2022, November, I never really showed up anywhere consistently, right? So that’s way too many years of not being out there. Other than our newsletter, which was going into people’s inboxes, there was just kind of, you know, these dry posts that we were making on all of the social media platforms. But I think, into your point about putting my face behind the PH SPOT brand and saying, you know, this is me, this is my, like journey in public health being super transparent and authentic about it.

Quisha 22:51

Sujani 22:52
I think I’ve shared what my salary is what my weaknesses are, like everything on on LinkedIn in a way that makes sense for PH SPOT, and its followers. And November of 2022, so we haven’t even hit one year yet is when I kind of told myself, Okay, I’m going to show up consistently, I’m going to do this long form writing. And my followers went from 2000 to 13,000. Right. And I saw direct correlation to the community growing on on our PH SPOT membership community. So it’s points like showing up consistently, and then like, knowing which platform your people are on, and then being authentic.

Quisha 23:34
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Love it. Love it.

Sujani 23:37
Okay. So, in 2019, you decide you’re going to do this. And then how many years of side hustling? Did you-

Quisha 23:46
Two and a half, two and a half. So yeah, and let me just have transparent moment I was working with state said, Look, we can’t wait, you got, you know, side hustling, you didn’t sign the conflict of interest form. So you kind of have to shut your business down or be terminated and cry for three days. And it was my husband, my sweet husband that looked at me after the third day and said, aren’t you a nurse can’t go and work anywhere. And I looked up at him. And I still I remember I had tears in my eyes and I said, Oh, that’s right. I am a nurse. So I put in my resignation, and I you know, I always give a longer resignation. I think I gave him 30 days or something like that. And I remember again, I’m a big manifester. And I said, Well, the next job and hunters me they’re going to hire me with my business, they’re going to know about my business and they’re not gonna feel threatened by its potential. And so I you know, I put Umemba Health on my cover letter, I put it on my resume. I put it on my LinkedIn. And the day after I put it on my LinkedIn, I got an inbox from an organization that I interviewed with about three months earlier and said, you know, we should we’d love for you to come and do the same thing for our organization that you know, you basically do for your business because I’ve always been up Virtual trainer, I started my business five months pre COVID. But it’s always been a virtual agency virtual training virtual instructor led, you know, facilitation. And so I went through four rounds of interviews and you know, three of the four, it was, how are you going to do this? And then it’s your job or your business, how are you going to do this, but that was the one thing that I’ll give corporate America, depending on the organization that you go with, they love each time, they love, you know, people that are entrepreneurial. And so they are very supportive. As a matter of fact, they are client now. And so when I did resign, almost 18 months ago now, that, you know, they said, hey, if it didn’t work out, first of all, we’re proud of you, we hate to see you go, we’re super proud of you, we’re glad you’re going to do your own thing with your own businesses. If it doesn’t work out, you can come back. And so I was able to negotiate a consulting contract with them. And so I still work with them and still help them. I was a trainer there, a clinical programs training specialist, or I just like to say corporate trainer. And so I still work with them on CEE accreditation and internal training programs and things like that. So it worked out perfectly again, believe in the power of manifestation.

Sujani 26:08
Yeah, oh my god, I love hearing when workplaces organizations support your personal journey, and like your personal dreams and goals, and, like, do whatever they can to make that successful for that individual. Right?

Quisha 26:23
Yeah, yeah. It was a dream. I really enjoy working with that organization.

Sujani 26:28
Oh, amazing. Another question for you. So Umemba Health you provide, like education and training frontline workforce and you support like leadership. I’m curious if you had that clarity, in terms of like the services you want to offer, right from the beginning?

Quisha 26:48
No, not at all. So what I started in Umemba Health, remember, I’m a registered nurse Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist, we started off, or I was so paranoid that I’m just really doing virtual chronic disease, education, virtual diabetes, hypertension, and kidney disease education.

Sujani 27:06
For like community members.

Quisha 27:09
Community members, absolutely, I was b2c business to consumer. And so five months into it COVID comes along, and I actually just gotten certified to train community health workers. And I noticed an opportunity where I said to myself, I really believe because I supervise community health workers the entire time, I worked in health department and you know, I’ve developed community health worker led programs and initiatives, and sounds very familiar with this workforce with this profession. And I think I think there’s going to be something like a movement to take place with this particular profession, I know there’s going to be an opportunity for a lot of training, I know there’s going to be organizations that are going to want to know how to integrate them, how to utilize them. And so again, just being very instinctive and intuitive, just kind of jumped on a trend right at the right time, in transition there. But there is a blessing and a curse to being known as an expert in one particular area, as my business now is making a transformation. We everything from our mission, vision, our values, our services, it’s because wouldn’t you get known for one thing, that’s what people think that you do and that’s all that you do. And so to your point in what you just mentioned, yes, we certainly educate members of the workforce, public health workforce, we strive to empower leadership, we strive to help them expand that community presence. But we do all of this for the public health workforce in general, not just for community health workers and love every minute of it. So our new mission is we’re transforming public health through comprehensive workforce development.

Sujani 28:49
I love it. And I’m assuming you work with, you know, all sorts of organizations, right? Did you like niched down even further to say, I’m only gonna work with like government agencies? Or is it a kind of anyone, anyone that employs public health?

Quisha 29:06
And well, yeah, basically anyone. So to date, our clients have been mainly public health organizations, nonprofits, some major foundations, I have a couple of health care systems, but we are moving into the government space into the government sector space. So if you’re in the public sector, if you’re in the public health, you’re in health care in general, then we certainly want to serve you because curriculum design and training and development and workforce development. Now those same principles are going to be used across industries. And so that’s really kind of the direction that we’re going in now into 2024.

Sujani 29:42
You were in the workforce prior to the pandemic, and then you kind of went into providing services for the workforce as early as October 2019. When we’re about to get into when the pandemic is officially declared as a pandemic. I’m curious if you saw any shifts in the workforce from when you were in it versus when you were supporting the workforce? And did you feel like you could kind of like, empathize with the workforce? Because you were in it prior to that, like, I’m curious to hear if you noticed any differences in the workforce, as a consultant versus being in it?

Quisha 30:23
Yeah, I noticed it. And I remember saying, Oh, thank God, I’m not, you know, I’m just gonna be honest, I remember saying, Oh, thank God, I’m not in a hospital right now, you know, just from the fear of the unknown, because, you know, there was not very much that we knew about COVID at the time, where I remember saying, Oh, my God, all my colleagues that are working with health department, like they’re so burned out, they were doing so many hours, and, you know, testing and mobilizing, and I remember thinking, wow, I’m glad I’m not there right now. But some other observations that I noticed is that, especially coming from, like the health department level, local health department level is health departments really didn’t have a good relationship with communities the way that they thought that they did. And they really didn’t speak the language or know how to engage communities, as well. And so again, kind of seeing that unfold and seeing the power of a community health worker, I knew that that was probably going to be a good fit, especially because of my experience with community health workers. So- so that was a couple of observations that I noted. Those are those are just two. Yeah.

Sujani 31:32
They asked that question, because, you know, I’m curious to know, how you keep up to date with kind of what’s happening, I’m gonna say, like, on the ground?

Quisha 31:42
Yeah, that’s too great. Oh, my God was such a great question. So could you, you get everything through a third party? Right. I went to NATO. I went to a NATO conference in Colorado a few months ago. And I remember telling my training director, I was like, it feels good to be here. Like, it feels good to hear what’s going on with the health department, you know, what are the the training programs and initiatives and things that are going on? And so I would say, besides, you know, of course, I have colleagues that are still working in health departments, and working in CDC and different things like that. But I think the biggest thing is keeping my ear to the ground, going to conferences, you know, understanding, you know, what’s current and what’s trending. But it is difficult at times, you do feel at times so far removed, and if I’m isolated, like, if I just have my head down in it, and I’m working for months on, and you know, I’m not really networking, I’m not talking to people, it means I don’t really disconnected at times. And so I have to be really intentional about making the time like, now I spend probably half of my day in lead gen or partnership development, you know, really connecting with people and hearing about their problems hearing about their challenges, what’s going on, in your departments, what’s going on in your business? How can we help, you know, some, it’s a very real thing, just want to let you know, and it’s almost kind of, you know, when I explained that withdrawal that I got when I left nursing, you know, that type of thing as well, because it’s, it’s, it’s completely different, you get your information, third hand, or you’re reading it in an article or something like that, but it’s enough for you to know, especially if you’ve worked in it, I think, because I’ve worked in it. It’s not anything I haven’t seen, you know, even you know, during my time I worked disasters, you know, hurricanes, all that different stuff, I would say someone that has not worked in it would struggle tremendously. And trying to be a consultant is why I’m such a big proponent for new grads getting some type of working experience under their belt before they try to graduate and just immediately try to go into consulting or you know, entrepreneurship.

Sujani 33:53
Yeah. Because there’s lots of valuable skills that you get when you’re working in an organization that is hard to get when you’re on your own as an entrepreneur, right. And I think, you know, as much as they may not be directly related to the services you’re offering, it’s going to make you a much better consultant when you do go out on your own. Another question I have, and I asked, because I am hearing you being like, very transparent with your journey, and Umemba Health. Curious and I’m asking for many of our listeners who are interested in entrepreneurship. And I gotta say, I’m seeing a lot more people in public health interested in entrepreneurship, and I love it. How much of your, I guess clients, we’ll call them clients, do you think you find through networking and going out there and meeting people versus the traditional route of writing requests for proposals?

Quisha 34:45
I’m gonna say 80% of my business is word of mouth, because we have Umemba Health Academy. So a lot of the times our students will go to their employer and say, Oh, I took this course with you know, equations I remember when I took this course in the Mental Health Academy, they provide training on XYZ, and then they they’re sitting more of their staff to me, or someone reaches out or you know, the student says, hey, my supervisor would like to talk to you about doing organizational training this Saturday, either. We have a lot of repeat clients. So if we do one curriculum, one trainee, then you know, six months later, they need to get we they come back to us, but most business is word of mouth, for sure. And then about 20% of it is writing proposal. You know, you’re just making the proposal to every contract anyway. But but just kind of, you know, reaching out, doing RFP writing, which is what I was doing before we joined probably about 20% of my, currently, yeah.

Sujani 35:42
Awesome. Thank you for that. And I think that just further iterates, our point of going out talking to people putting yourself out there and network.

Quisha 35:50
Absolutely, yeah. And that’s why I said I have to be really intentional about spending, you know, almost half of my day, you know, doing that, whether it be most of time, warm outreach, very seldom cold outreach, and I’ll be honest, as well, since I’ll be very transparent. I’ve not really been in the position until now where I’ve had to actively go out and try to recruit for clients, you know, COVID, of course, there’s been a lot of funding, there’s been a lot of opportunity because of the pandemic and because of the workforce needing to be trained and curriculums needed to be developed and so forth. So as that funding slows down, you know, as we turn the tide, hopefully, turn the tie up the pandemic, so I’m having to be a little bit more intentional about reaching out and conducting that outreach. Just secure clients now.

Sujani 36:41
Okay, awesome. Okay, now, time for some fun questions. What does your day look like Quisha, or maybe your week because I’m sure your day.. in a week.

Quisha 36:52
You know what I’m actually going to pull up like. Mondays, I don’t have any. So oh, let me say this to people walk your calendar intentionally. So my calendar is blocked on Mondays, half of Wednesdays and Thursdays, if it was not blocked, I would not be able to get any work done. And so Mondays are counted. If I feel like working on work, of course, like I’ve shared with you, I love working. So I’m probably going to work anyway. Thursdays are primarily when we do a lot of trainings, whether it be internal trainings or organizational trainings. And then half day Wednesdays are like when I go pay my bills and buy groceries and different things like that. And so having that work life balance, if there is such a thing, and entrepreneurship is extremely important. But on those Tuesdays, Wednesday mornings, and those Fridays, about half of the day is direct delivery, right? So I’m still very much involved. In a lot of curriculum development, I’m still doing a lot of client work in deliverables. Maybe we’re doing some, you know, technical assistance or office hours with clients, whatever that is, I do spend about three to four hours a day, just only. So that’s Discovery sessions. That is so we license our CHW curriculum. And so that could be doing a sales pitch or sales presentation to an organization that’s interested, that’s going through all of our training requests, inquiries that come in through our lead form on our website, that is checking in with my training director to see you know, what’s going on with the students. And you know, who needs support, basically, just the status of all of the courses and what’s going on. I’m also in coaching. So I’m going through a certification right now to be a certified bank trainer. Bank is a personality science leadership based on the four four personalities, blueprint action, knowledge and nurturance. So super excited about that. I’m always learning something I’m always in in some type of program, or certification for something I meet with my VAS a couple of times a week. So I’ve got standing meetings with, with everybody on my team, actually. And then as I alluded to, I have one that does LinkedIn engagement for me. So she does it at the same time that I’m on just in case there’s any kind of questions or concerns or anything like that. And then also, you know, tons of webinars, so I’ll probably do a weekly webinar or something like that, because I’m, again, very much hands on inside of my business as well. And then I also will spend, you know, two or three sessions a week or hours rather, coaching. So I have some personal coaching clients that I coach to start their own public health consultancies, just like I have.

Sujani 39:30
Oh, I love it. And would you say a lot of the work that you’re doing in your business is virtual these days?

Quisha 39:37
Yeah. So we started out virtual, I would say probably 95%. You know, we’re starting to see that change. We actually just did a person training in Arkansas a few weeks ago. And so we hope that that will change now, but if it doesn’t, that’s fine. I am a virtual instructor lead trainer. I’m very big on the technology that you can use to keep your learners and participants in engaged in the virtual classroom. And so, so I will say both were open to both. But just historically, traditionally, just because we, you know, started right at the onset of the pandemic, that we’ve always been a virtual organization.

Sujani 40:12
Yeah. Awesome. Thinking back at your two decade career, Quisha, what would you say are some of the biggest challenges, or maybe one of one or two of the biggest challenges that you faced in your journey so far? And then, like, how did you go about it?

Quisha 40:29
You know, what the challenge for others is not necessarily challenge for me, or vice versa. I think time has always been the biggest challenge for me back then. And even now, you know, I didn’t have the traditional educational path. I’ve always been an online school or virtual online classes. I married early, I had my oldest son when I was 19. And so for me, I’ve always worked full time and gone to school. That’s all that I know. And so I didn’t struggle with, like the demands of it, because I didn’t know anything different, right. But I will say that time and what you do with that time, again, if I could just put one challenge, it would probably be that, and I think a lot of that is self created, like honestly, you know, if I have our time, a lot of times I’m gonna choose to, and I’m not gonna say the B word, which is busy, I’m gonna choose to be productive, that’s not telling you it’s up to make it sound better, and make me feel better. You know, if I have a free hour, I’m going to choose to be productive as opposed to rest. And so I think that’s been my biggest challenge, when you are working full time when you’re going to school full time when you’re, you know, side hustling or even if you’re a full time entrepreneur, is just trying to find the time to put yourself first. Because sometimes, you know, there is the spouse, there is the children, there are the parents, there is the job. And we tend to put ourselves last because we never find the time to make ourselves a priority. So I will say that those are the biggest challenges that I’ve encountered. And now throughout my career.

Sujani 42:10
Do you find that, you know, being an entrepreneur and having the flexibility to have your own schedule has helped with that a little bit?

Quisha 42:18
Now, in the first three years? No, no, because that’s a side hustle, I worked every weekend and nights, nights and weekends, I was like a telephone company back in the 90s. I work nights and weekends for three years, you know, I’ve just gotten to the point. And that was actually after hiring a full time staff in February. I don’t have to work weekends, you know, but I realized that you just have to do some of that in the beginning to get started, right? That’s part of the- it’s part of the struggle, but it’s just, it’s just part of the game. Now I’m at the point where I can choose to make my schedule. Now I’m at the point where I can decide if I want to work Monday or not. But again, when you have our personalities, I’m going to couple you into vision as well. You’re a multi passionate overachiever, you know, and you like to work. It’s cathartic. It’s, you know, therapeutic did it can be difficult to pull yourself away from it, especially when what you do, you know, impact so many people’s lives positively. It makes it very challenging to pull away from it. But I’m getting better. I’m getting better with setting those boundaries and getting better with saying, hey, as much as you love to create and develop initiatives and programs and just solutions that you know, work. Sometimes you’ve got to just say no, and that’s, that’s the biggest struggle for me. That’s the biggest struggle.

Sujani 43:49
I can relate so much. And we’d love to talk another hour on this, but I am keeping an eye on the clock and want to be respectful of your weekend. So Quisha, with thinking about the future, what are you most excited about? Like? What what do you have going on that you could share with us maybe?

Quisha 44:06
I’m excited about our new direction. I’m excited about our new our mission of transforming public health and comprehensive Workforce Development. I’m excited about our new values, which are purpose, people and performance. I’m just excited about the innovation that we’re going to bring to training and really helping to bring this public health 3.0 vision to life. I’m so thankful to be a part of it. And I’m thankful to be a student of it right? I’m still learning as well. But as I learned as I develop it as I evolve my company, my business will. I’m developing the next generation of public health leaders and I’m very proud of that and it’s something that I hope I get to continue to do for a very long time.

Sujani 44:48
I love it. Thank you so much, Quisha, for taking the time to come on this podcast to talk about your journey all the lessons learned and providing you know, just transparent advice and tips for anybody who might be interested in following a similar path as you.

Quisha 45:03
Thank you for having me, Sujani.

Sujani 45:07
Hey, I hope you enjoyed that episode. And if you want to get the links or information mentioned in today’s episode, you can head over to And we’ll have everything there for you. And before you go, I want to tell you about the public health career club. So if you’ve been looking for a place to connect and build meaningful relationships with other public health professionals, from all around the world, you should join us in the public health career club. We launched the club with the vision of becoming the number one hangout spot dedicated to building and growing your dream public health career. And in addition to being able to connect and build those meaningful relationships with other public health professionals, the club also offers other great resources for your career growth and success, like mindset coaching, job preparation, clinics, and career growth strategy sessions in the form of trainings and talks, all delivered by experts and inspiring individuals in these areas. So if you want to learn more or want to join the club, you can visit our page at And we’ll have all the information there. And you know, as a space that’s being intentionally curated to bring together like minded public health professionals who are not only there to push themselves to become the best versions of themselves, but also each other. And with that, I can’t wait to see how this is going to have a ripple effect in the world as we all work together to better the health of our populations and just have immense impact in the world. And I hope you’ll be joining us in the public health career Club.


About the Show

PH SPOTlight: Public health career stories, inspiration, and guidance from current-day public health heroes

On the show, Sujani sits down with public health heroes of our time to share career stories, inspiration, and guidance for building public health careers. From time to time, she also has conversations with friends of public health – individuals who are not public health professionals, but their advice and guidance are equally important.

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