Jacksonville-based tech training company shares pandemic lessons
With a technology training start-up, Vinzanne Leysath quickly became familiar with working as a subcontractor for a large training company. She didn’t have to market or scramble for new business.
But two years after Training on Wheels launched in Jacksonville, the pandemic hit. And it didn’t take long for him to lose his main client, which accounted for 80% of his income.
She realized that she was essentially out of business for the first time since she started her information technology operation.
“For two years, all I had to do was show up and train people,” she said. “I gave it my all to make the training interesting, but didn’t even have to turn on a camera because I wanted to focus on learning. …not me. I’ve trained over 5,000 people In two years.
But like so many other companies nationwide, the company she worked for suddenly lost contracts and decided to lay off employees and contractors like Leysath’s company.
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Leysath said she spent several months trying to find new niches. For example, she created and marketed a course for kids in K-12 because too many kids are tech-savvy but not computer-savvy. Only a few customers signed up. She even offered a free seminar for teachers on how to train online.
“I tried. I failed. And I tried again,” she said. “But at the end of the day, I always had the heart to keep pushing.”
Finally, she began to focus more on marketing, and between word of mouth, social media, and past clients contacting her, the business began to grow.
The pandemic prompted start-ups
In one of the worst economic downturns in modern history, startup activity has surged nationwide a year into the pandemic, according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Startups grew from 3.5 million in 2019 to 4.4 million in 2020, an increase of 24%.
Leysath is one of these start-ups. I reached out to her to get some local insight into those stats. Just because many businesses started during the pandemic doesn’t mean it’s been easy. Some businesses were started because the owners couldn’t find jobs. This is certainly the case with Leysath.
Her passion for the tech industry is what has fueled her during slow times.
“I’ve always been in love with technology because you can do so much with so little,” she said.
Leysath said the pandemic has caused her to focus on her desire to put her 15 years of experience as a trainer and speaker to work for herself. In addition to degrees in accounting and management, she has several professional certifications in Microsoft Office.
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“The blessing is that it allowed me to identify who I am and who I want to serve,” she said. “The key is that my heart is to serve. This business aligns with my heart. I can serve people every day and improve their skills – not just any skills, but a transferable skill.”
One of the main reasons the business started to grow a year after the pandemic is that she and other trainers go to different companies. She also credits the company’s growth to its ability to meet people where they are, whether they’ve never been on a computer before or have worked on computers for a long time.
Focus on business to business
Leysath said the biggest change in the past year has been the focus on medium to large companies, ranging from manufacturers to a charter airline.
“What sets us apart is that we move into businesses and train people on site,” she said. “People learn best when they’re comfortable, and they’re comfortable in the workplace.”
Customers believe there is much more to its success.
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Cristine Kirk, president and CEO of Malone AirCharter, said Leysath runs a professional business that she was able to easily find online.
“My staff needed to learn additional computer skills and Training on Wheels was the perfect fit,” she said. “They have a very organized itinerary that clearly explains the purpose of the course. Ms. Leysath went above and beyond and came to our office to work with our staff in their environment so they could learn from the computer stations at which they were used to. I highly recommend Training on Wheels to anyone looking to improve their computer skills.”
Customer validation is most important, but Leysath said being named one of the 2021 Tech Leaders of the Year by the Jacksonville Business Journal was a huge reminder that persistence pays off.
Linda D. Woodard, who runs LDW Group LLC, a Jacksonville-based company that trains career development professionals, said she turned to Leysath for help reaching people online. His company develops programs for organizations that help displaced workers, career changers, youth leaving foster care, reintegrating youth and adults, and unemployed workers with limited work experience.
“Training On Wheels is my go-to company for all my tech needs,” Woodard said. “From training on Canva and PowerPoint presentations to creating pivot tables on Excel spreadsheets, they do it all.”
Leysath said she was no different from most people who had to pivot due to the pandemic.
“We all feel comfortable at some point in life,” she said. “But I learned that you have to try different things to grow.”