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Interview with an Entrepreneur: Quisha Umemba MPH, BSN, RN, CDCES, CHWI

By Sarah Hormachea posted 01-15-2024 00:39


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. Quisha has developed, implemented, and overseen numerous health initiatives and community collaborations throughout her career.

Specializing in Workforce Training and Development, her training approach blends conventional, experiential, and transformational methods to create engaging educational content, delivered across various platforms. Her distinctive approach has earned her the moniker "The Trainer's Trainer." An advocate for health equity, her life's mission is to empower, educate, and transform the lives of others.

Q: How did you get involved in the field of diabetes care and education? 

After several years of working nights, I wanted “normal” hours and applied for a Clinic Coordinator position in The Diabetes & Endocrinology Clinic, at the Little Rock VA Hospital. I had a very supportive team of doctors, residents, a pharmacist, RDs and eventually a CDCES who never hesitated to take time out of their schedule to teach me about diabetes care. It was during inpatient rounds and teaching our DSMES classes that I fell in love with diabetes education. I wanted to become a diabetes care and education specialist [formally CDE].

Here’s where I would like to give a shout-out. Our clinic director, Dr. Monica Agarwal, would stay after work to help me study for my [CDCES] exam. She did this for several weeks and I passed the exam on the first try. I am forever grateful for her time.

Q: Can you discuss a specific initiative or product you've developed to improve diabetes care, and its impact on patients?

Diversity in Diabetes is a non-profit organization I started with my co-founder Kacey Creel. Kacey and I met at a diabetes conference where we noticed the lack of diversity. We connected months later to identify gaps and create solutions in the diabetes space. Attention is lacking in this area despite the effect diabetes has on communities of color as well as known racial and ethnic health disparities in diabetes treatments and outcomes.

Since founding Diversity in Diabetes, we’ve hosted an annual People of Color Living with Diabetes Summit, an Empower Hour series, several cohorts of our Virtual Diabetes Education Program, and a long-standing Virtual Support Group called “Insulin Inclusive”.  Most recently, we received the 2023 Sanofi Health Equity Award,  which will support our Type1 Navigator Campaign and our work to promote equal access to T1D  information about screening, treatment, and technologies among adults of color at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). 

Q: At what point did you look at your business and consider it a success?

As a social entrepreneur, I think what most defines success is my ability to create change in an agile and effective way. I love researching and identifying pain points in traditional public health and then finding ways to solve them. Being an entrepreneur allows me the creative outlet to develop innovative solutions that address root causes of health disparities. That is why I started Umemba Health. I saw an opportunity to help solve health disparities and advance health equity by training members of the public health workforce. 

Q: What are you most excited about in your work right now?

In an effort to transform healthcare and public health through comprehensive workforce development, Umemba Health is launching a new Transformative Leadership Series for our Make People Matter campaign. In our industry, connections are pivotal to personal and professional success. I’m excited to help organizations optimize influence and impact to improve communication, build and strengthen relationships, and advance leadership competency. This in turn will help healthcare and public health professionals improve their relationships with clients, colleagues, stakeholders, and community members.

Q: I am sure running your own business isn’t easy. What is the hardest part of being an entrepreneur?

Mindset is the biggest challenge to overcome in the beginning stages of business. Like many women, I struggle from time to time with imposter syndrome, perfectionism, fear of the unknown, fear of failure, and sometimes fear of success. I have since learned that as you reach new levels, mindset is even more important to overcoming self-limiting beliefs.

The second biggest challenge is time management. I started my business as a side hustle while working full-time, being a wife and mother, directing a nonprofit, and trying to get my business off the ground. I was often pulled in 101 different directions.

And get this… one of my hobbies is working! I love my work and the creative process that comes with it. At times, I struggle with setting boundaries around the amount of time I work (even though I work from home). It’s challenging to juggle running a business while also being available for family and friends.

Q: Can you elaborate more on imposter’s syndrome? How do you deal with fear and doubt?

I am a woman of faith. I know that fear and doubt are not gifts that would come from my Creator. (God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7). I am also human. I know that the flesh will struggle with these emotions.

I discovered the Self Coaching Model and framework some time ago. I use it to get to the root of fear, doubt, and anxiety. The premise is for you to evaluate your thoughts, feelings, and actions related to a circumstance, in order to identify the problem and take action. It has been useful in helping me address the real reason behind my worry, fear, doubt, or anxiety and come up with solutions.

Q: What are the biggest mistakes first-time entrepreneurs can make?

All mistakes make great lessons learned, if you actually learn from them. Mistakes can be the best way to learn. However, there are things that I see others fail to do that I credit my early success for.

  1. Start as a side-hustle. Defined as work performed for income supplementary to one’s primary job, it was the best way for me to transition into full-time entrepreneurship. I could develop an exit strategy and “bootstrap” while still working full-time. Bootstrapping is launching and growing a business without external capital. It’s using your savings or your checking account to get your business off the ground.
  2. Hire coaching and consulting. The day I incorporated my business is the day I hired my first business coach. I have been in business for 4 years and have had a coach for each year.  I just hired a Media Coach for 2024. I can’t stress this enough. There is a BIG learning curve for a new entrepreneur. Invest in someone who has proven business success and can provide valuable insight and support so you can be profitable sooner.
  3. Scale Quickly. Within my first year in business, I hired several Virtual Assistants for different projects. By year two, I had several contractors. By year three, I had hired my first full-time staff. I scaled before I thought I could, and before I could even afford it (I got paid last, if at all). I discovered that when I scaled in capacity, I also scaled in revenue because I was able to automate, delegate, eliminate, and prioritize tasks in my business. 

Q: How do you stay positive and productive personally and professionally?

I stay positive by controlling my environment and what I allow myself to be exposed to. I’ve stopped associating with negative, energy draining people. I set up Google alerts for important topics I want to follow and rarely watch the news. I limit posts from certain people or organizations so they don’t appear in my social media feeds.  How do I stay productive? I’m an entrepreneur, I don’t have a problem being productive. My issue is carving out more time to rest. 

Q: What advice would you give to someone just starting their own business?

Do something you love to do so much that you would do it for free, then figure out a way to charge for it. I think that’s really the only way to be happy in life. Embrace a “purpose-driven, profit-focused” mantra and lifestyle so you can do what you love, how you love to do it, and get paid handsomely.

Connect with Quisha!