Every weekday morning, the team at Soukup Strategic Solutions, a nonprofit advisory firm in Naples, sits down to a 10-minute meeting. Most days, its founder, Sheryl Soukup, is there, leading the meeting in her clear voice and tapping the table with her pen for emphasis. Everyone speaks about his or her priorities for the day, and they wrap with “one good thing,” a positive update from each person at the table.
“It’s our rhythm,” Soukup, 48, says of the morning meetings. “Having that rhythm in business, working together in a structured way, has been really helpful.”
The 10-minute meetings are just part of the successful strategy that has led Soukup’s firm to expand from a one-woman operation when it began in 2012 to a nine-employee company today. Annual revenue has grown 328 percent since 2013, its first full year in business. The company typically works with 10 to 15 clients at a time. Most are in Southwest Florida, but because some have statewide offices, Soukup and her employees travel to other cities across Florida. The company also has a national client, the Administration for Community Living, a federal agency that is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Soukup brings such an order and precision to her business that it’s no surprise she began her career as a scientist. She trained as a microbiologist, and her professional goal was to teach at the university level and run her own lab.
“Then I had Eva,” she says, referring to her daughter, now 22, who was born with cerebral palsy. “When your first child has a disability, some- times your life takes a different path.”
Soukup found herself in nonprofits, first as a volunteer, then as a staff member then as a director. She served as executive director of three local organizations—Immokalee Housing and Family Services, Naples Therapeutic Riding Center and Families First of Southwest Florida—before she decided to set off on her own. “When you’re the CEO of a small to mid-size nonprofit, you often wear many different hats. I was searching for a way to concentrate my time on the things I was uniquely talented in.”
Her specific talents revolved around strategic planning, fundraising and grant-writing, and for the first years her consulting company was in business, that was its focus. Today, Soukup Strategic Solutions has expanded its offerings to include marketing, social media, graphic design, content development, committee structuring, administrative support, database management, recruitment and hiring. The company can even stand in as executive director.
There’s a great need for this kind of service,” Soukup says. “I’ve been able to offer nonprofits a large variety of support services, and I have a whole team of people that can provide expertise in different areas.”
Before she started her consulting firm, Soukup met with other consultants who worked in the industry and asked for their perspective. What did they find especially challenging? “One of the things they all told me was keeping projects in the pipeline. There are dry periods, and consultants that have been in this business 10-plus years have weathered that well.”
Soukup launched with a multi-year contract from the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council in Tallahassee, which gave her the financial security she needed while she grew her business locally. Luckily, that didn’t take long. “I had collaborated with a lot of other nonprofits as a nonprofit CEO, so it was natural to continue working with people that I already knew and respected and had a good working relationship with.”
By 2014, she was ready to move out of her home office and hire her first employees, an assistant and a consultant. From there, her business continued to grow to what it is today.
“We love nonprofits here,” Soukup says. “We get great satisfaction from helping them be the best they can be.”