By Ramunda Lark Young
Sisters Who SOAR is a column created to connect women around the world to extraordinary women of color who’ve surpassed obstacles and rose to great success. So often I hear women say there are not enough leaders who share their experiences, successes and fears. This column is poised to enlarge your personal circle of knowledge and learn from brilliant women who continue to SOAR!
Sheyna Nicole Burt focuses her practice on the representation of condominiums, cooperatives, homeowners’ associations, charitable nonprofits, and families located in Virginia and Washington, D.C. She eagerly provides her clients with a full battery of legal services including negotiations, litigation, document drafting and review, covenant enforcement, assessment recovery, and counseling related to governance.
Sheyna has served as the President of World Doctors Orchestra and Concertmistress and President of the Old Bridge Chamber Orchestra. She serves on the Boards of the Hylton Performing Arts Center, Friday Morning Music Club, Keep Prince William Beautiful, Manassas Business Council, Court Appointed Special Advocates – Children’s Intervention Services, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia. Sheyna is a 2013 graduate of Leadership Prince William and named Top 40 Under 40 by both Potomac Local and Leadership Arlington. In 2015, she was named an “Influential Woman” by Prince William Living Magazine. She currently serves as an Elder for Stewardship and Finance at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Woodbridge.
Ramunda: What has been the most surprising part of your transition from working at someone else’s law firm to creating your own practice?
Sheyna: I always knew I wanted to make a difference while in law school. Since working at both a large and small firm, I quickly discovered my need to be part of an organization where I felt I could make an authentic impact. Establishing my own firm allows me to represent clients I care about while having the ability to participate in community activities that are important to me. Entrepreneurship is truly the path that allows me to do both.
Ramunda: What brought you to Prince William County and has kept you here?
Sheyna: I’m an Army brat. When my father completed his time in the Army and became a member of the Coast Guard, we moved to Prince William County. I attended both middle and high school in the County and after researching other areas, I moved back after college because there were so many opportunities.
You could see the potential and the amount of investment and development our officials were making in the area and I enjoyed it while I was in school and even more as an adult.
Ramunda: As an entrepreneur, what has been the biggest obstacle you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?
Sheyna: The biggest obstacle for me was disbelieving entrepreneurship was even remotely possible for me. I thought you needed a ton of money, to graduate from a prestigious college and know everybody.
It’s amazing how little you can accomplish by only working as a cog in someone else’s dream. Once I became an entrepreneur, I realized there were aspects of my business that I lacked experience in. I quickly realized I had to get over myself and identify who I needed to talk to that could help me avoid mistakes and solve the ones I did encounter. When you own a business, so many areas of the operation may feel overwhelming but aligning people around you who are leaders in those fields is crucial. I have a solo practice, but it is totally not a solo endeavor. You have to ask for what you need and there are many people willing to help because they simply like what you’re doing.
Ramunda: You are a well-respected community leader. Why do you think it is important for women to step outside of their comfort zone and establish authentic connections with thought leaders, and mentors in the community?
Sheyna: It is unbelievably important to establish connections.
You can handicap your business before you even start if you try to do it alone. Often women are concerned that others view us as weak, scared or even vulnerable when asking for help. Alternatively, we fall prey to other’s perceptions when truthfully there are people who want to help us. We must be confident enough to realize we are enough and still not need to have answer for everything. Instead, we can be confident and bold and still not know what a certain tax form looks like. Not knowing is not weakness, not going out and building those relationships is.
Ramunda: How has face-to-face networking impacted your business overall since many entrepreneurs make their primary focus marketing, promoting and connecting with potential clients online?
Sheyna: Literally, face-to-face networking is the reason I can keep my lights on! It’s because I belong, and present at meetings and shake hands with people at events and take the time to connect. My social media presence is not a far departure from my in person presence. I use my online platform as a way for people to really get to know me, and once we meet in person, they instantly make that connection. I have noticed they gravitate towards my authenticity. A few key tips for those sharing on social media:
- Be careful what you post and if you say it, you better mean it.
- If it’s done right, social media can easily translate into an “in person thing”
“In person” is where the deals are made because others get to experience you. If it weren’t for social media and in person encounters, I wouldn’t have work at my firm!
We must learn to walk into a room where we don’t know anyone and sit down and have a conversation. I’ve found that introverts often make great connections because of their ability to listen. If you’re an extrovert like me, yes, it is less terrifying to meet strangers but in the end, we all have to play into our strengths when cultivating relationships, extrovert or not.
Ramunda: What advice would you give a woman who is solely focused on her professional life — about the significance of giving back?
Sheyna: (Laughs) My mercenary answer is simple: giving and serving others counts as networking!
I need people to see me as a community leader in service areas that are important to me as a person. I want people to think of me when they think of leaders in this county. To not have a service component tied to your entrepreneurial efforts is missing a tremendous opportunity.
Now for my philanthropic answer: Recently a hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico. I felt it was completely unacceptable to have a family flee the hurricane who now live in our county and not have clean warm clothes. The community in turn rallied around them because my business created a way to collect monies and clothing for that I can truly can serve. I am struck by people who are in need and I have so much to offer by galvanizing my community.
Ramunda: What does fear look like to you?
Sheyna: Fear looks like stagnation. The idea of not growing and learning, remaining in the same place is horrifying to me. It is the main reason why I couldn’t’ stay at a large firm. The idea of being stuck in a box doesn’t allow you to change. That’s the stuff of nightmares and I wanted and needed change!
Ramunda: What one piece of advice would you give your 12-year old self about life?
Sheyna: I’d give 12-year old Sheyna two key points:
- Stop trying to feather your bangs! When you turn 13, you won’t be concerned with them anyway.
- When you get to college, don’t take the credit cards! Learn how to deal with money before you get sucked into bad money habits. Be more thoughtful with your financial future.
I’d also tell her to be bold in your ideas and your goals. There will be no shortage of people who tell you how crazy your ideas are. Do it anyway!
Ramunda: What’s next for Sheyna?
Sheyna: Grow my firm, bring on a couple more attorneys. I want to continue to be reason that someone does something they didn’t realize they had in them.
You can connect with Sheyna online at burtlaw.co .
About Ramunda Lark Young: Mom, SocialPreneur, wife, community leader, lover of people and God. She is the Chief Encouragement Officer and Connection Strategist of Ramunda Young, Inc. A firm dedicated Encouraging Extraordinary Women to SOAR! Built on the premise that leaders can exceed beyond their expectations when given the proper tools and connections, Young has dedicated her life to equipping women for success
She and her husband co-founded MahoganyBooks, an online award winning bookstore whose books are by and about people of the African Diaspora and plan to open a brick and mortar location in Washington, D.C.
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