How I Work Project

How I Work #7: Ayanna in Tokyo

Welcome to another installment of How I Work!

How I Work #7 introduces Ayanna Coleman, 32, who currently lives in Tokyo and runs her own business efficiency and marketing consultancy, Quill Shift. Ayanna writes, “I’m a business efficiency and marketing consultant. I work with new entrepreneurs, small businesses, and nonprofits who know their passion and gift to the world but need specific support to run a business around it. I help them organize their business practices and marketing techniques so they can spend less time questioning if they are taking the right business steps and more time connecting with their ideal clients and patrons in a personable and professional way.”

When she’s not busy with her company and clients, Ayanna loves to cook and try new recipes, travel, and play tennis or catch a yoga class. With her background in children’s literature and publishing, it’s no surprise she also loves reading, from fiction (“mysteries, magical realism, fantasy”) to nonfiction (“efficiency, happiness, personal and professional growth”).

Ayanna and I met at the University of Illinois School of Information Sciences when we started our master’s degrees in 2009 and have been friends ever since. Ayanna is driven, passionate, well-read, and well-dressed. She’s my business guru and my style muse, and I admire her courage to jump from the cornfields of Champaign, Illinois after graduate school to New York City and now to Tokyo, with a cute German husband in tow. We’ve been fortunate enough to meet up during personal or business trips to NYC, Denver, Orlando, and Washington, DC. These days, we video chat over Skype or WhatsApp, ever mindful of the crazy time zone changes between the East Coast and Asia.

Why does Ayanna look up to me and consider me an aspirational peer (her words)? My diverse career from law to librarianship to yoga may have something to do with it, but I always tell her she just needs to meet more people… “I moved to Vermont. You moved to Japan!” 😉 Read on for Ayanna’s thoughts on how the coronavirus has affected how she works.

How has the pandemic changed your job and how you work?

The type of work I was doing before centered around marketing plans and website design with a splash of business efficiency. Now, the things clients need are how to get my business online and selling efficiently because I can’t do business in person anymore.

Ayanna focuses on transforming businesses – hers and others – in the time of coronavirus

What have you done to adjust?

I’m now helping clients answer the question of, “How do I move my current customers to this new way of business and how do I attract new customers so I don’t go out of business?” A lot of the focus has been on the business efficiency part and moving businesses over to digital (some who had a sparse digital presence before) and then sprinkling the marketing tactics of lead generation and social advertising in at the end.

Editor’s Note: Ayanna recently revamped a marketing plan and website for a Tokyo yoga studio and made the business fully digital. Check out Sun and Moon Yoga – you can stream classes online worldwide!

The kitchen table also serves as Ayanna’s workspace for Quill Shift

How will these changes affect how you work in the future?

Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what my secret sauce is and my real value to my customers. Not surprising as this pandemic has made a lot of people re-evaluate the way they work, communicate, and connect with others.

I’m in the process of redoing my website [for Quill Shift] to communicate this value that I’ve found in what I do, and my customers’ needs during the pandemic – changing business practices to better work remotely and still provide excellent value to your customers and stay true to your mission and values – because that need is not going to go away. People will keep certain practices they’ve adopted during this crisis, and businesses and nonprofits need a calm, ready-to-dig-in, and energized person to help guide them through these changes and meet their clients where they are, which will be more online than ever before.

A moment of reflection

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned or encountered during this time?

To me, understanding the situation, accepting what you cannot change, and then being proactive about what you can seems like a no-brainer. And after you understand and accept, fear fades and purpose takes its place.

People know they need to invest in their marketing and business processes now during the down-time (maybe they had business lined up, but because of COVID-19, their clients canceled their services) but they are still hesitant/don’t invest because of the uncertainty of money coming in vs. going out.

I totally get this, but one of the tried and true things in business is that you have to spend money to make money. And not spend frivolously, of course. But investment in your business – especially making sure your business runs efficiently when you have the time to set it up correctly – will pay back ten-fold when business picks up again, and will most likely help companies and organizations start back up faster than others who didn’t invest.

Ayanna’s essential work gear for her Tokyo workspace

So people not taking the leap when they have the time and energy to do so, even though they know it’s right, but they are letting fear stop them, is the most surprising thing.

Many thanks to Ayanna for sharing her experience and insights and for supporting the How I Work Project!

What changes have you made to adjust to life and work during coronavirus?

Merci for reading and please subscribe and share!

À votre santé,


About the How I Work Project

The How I Work series on Joie de Vivre highlights how women around the world are adjusting, coping, and working from home during the coronavirus pandemic. It features professionals living in Australia, Turkey, the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, and the United States (from Detroit and Chicago to Alabama and Vermont).

Whether full-time or part-time, entry-level or retired, a student or a stay-at-home parent or an entrepreneur, we are working. And we all have something to share about how the pandemic effects our daily lives.

Sharing individual insights in a positive, constructive space creates a supportive digital community as we weather the storm of COVID-19 together. It also sheds light on the new normal of the collective lived experience of working during the time of coronavirus.


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