Lisa Nicole Cloud: Up-Close
At People You Need to Know, we believe it is important to help document the lives of business people because for the most part, many of their stories go untold. Using audio, video and print, Spark Plug brings business professionals and their stories to life.
Here, you’ll find an in-depth interview with one of Atlanta’s brightest stars in the world of business, Lisa Nicole Cloud. Lisa was gracious enough to take time out of her busy schedule to grant us this inspirational and memorable interview. It has been edited and abbreviated for the web. The audio version can be found here. Ms. Cloud will be speaking on March 26 in Baltimore, Maryland, at the Women’s Leadership Summit.
Spark Plug Intro: Welcome to People You Need to Know on Spark Plug Radio. I’m your host, Spark Plug, publisher of People You Need To Know Magazine, metro Atlanta’s premier business spotlight publication, where we are the best at promoting your business.
For more information, log on to SparkPlugPeople.com and discover more people you need to know. The sponsor of today’s program is Kissable, the new health and taste sensation in toothpaste, developed by Dr. Danielle Greene. We are honored to have as our guest today, Ms. Lisa Nicole Cloud. She is the CEO of Elite Marketing Strategies, a direct marketing company. Ms. Cloud, welcome to the show.
Lisa Nicole Cloud: Thank you, Spark Plug. I’m very honored to be your guest today.
Spark Plug: Well, we’re honored to have you. Lisa, you were born in Baltimore, Maryland. You were an only child and you were raised by your mother. Your father was from St. Thomas, in the Virgin Islands. Do you have any kind of relationship with him today?
Lisa Nicole Cloud: Oh, absolutely. I visit the Virgin Islands at least once a year, sometimes two and three times a year. Over the last couple of months, I’ve been down there a lot because I’ve also been working in that market, so it’s nice when you can bring business and pleasure together. But yeah, my father and I over the years have gotten to be very close. He has a very peaceful, gentle spirit and he’s very laid back. He’s given me balance, so that I’m not just always driving, driving, driving, which I have a tendency to do. He just kind of says sometimes to me, “Lisa, just look around you. Enjoy the sunshine. Smell the flowers. You know, you only live once, so you’ve got to have that balance in your life.”
Spark Plug: Lisa, you’ve said your mission in life is to help people identify their God-given talent, so they can do more, be more, achieve more, and impact the community in a positive way. How long have you been living according to this mission?
Lisa Nicole Cloud: Well, a couple of years ago, I attended a workshop called Inward Journey and it really helped you kind of reflect back on some of the voids in your life and it also helped to figure out exactly what your passion and your purpose in life was about. And from that experience, I realized that I had an entrepreneurial spirit and that I needed to get out of corporate America, but once I attained resources, I needed to give back to the community because I really believe to whom much is given, much is required.
Spark Plug: Okay, well, let’s go back to your childhood a little bit. You said at ten, you and your mother relocated to Atlanta, Georgia. What brought you to Atlanta?
Lisa Nicole Cloud: Well, at that point, my mother still worked for the government and her job transferred her down to Atlanta. She stayed with the government for a couple more years and then she ventured off and started her own business, so everything is divinely ordered. I really believe that the government got us to Atlanta, but there was a higher calling on her life and she embraced entrepreneurship.
Spark Plug: You’ve said your mother taught you discipline and focus and because she was a single parent, she taught you about the importance of being independent and self-sufficient. How has that helped you in your adult life?
Lisa Nicole Cloud: Yes. My mother was a single parent. She was very, very determined. She had me in her early 20′s and she worked also. She not only worked, but she got her college degree while at the same time raising a young child on her own, and so she really taught me that whatever you put your mind to, no matter what obstacles you face, if you really are willing to focus and work hard, you can accomplish whatever goals you set for yourself.
And so, I think there are lessons that are taught and I think there are lessons that are caught. I saw her facing obstacles and overcoming them. That really made a strong impact on my life because I have had obstacles that I’ve had to overcome and because of the discipline and the focus that she had, and that I witnessed while growing up, I was also able to develop those same types of characteristics.
Spark Plug: Your mother has been a good role model for you all of your life. You wrote that she was an entrepreneur and owned several companies in the medical practice acquisition industry. Tell us a little bit about that.
Lisa Nicole Cloud: She got involved in entrepreneurship, I guess, in the early to mid-80′s and at that time, the medical field was thriving. Doctors were making a great living. They were still in private practice and so she was one of the first in the medical field to start selling practices … when doctors were retiring … to new doctors coming in. And at that point, it was a very thriving business. She did extremely well with it. Like most industries, they have different cycles. You know, it’s usually probably a 5- to 10- to 15-year cycle and so as you know, the medical field rapidly changed. Managed care came in and private practice literally became a thing of the past. Most people were moving into group practices and at that point, she got out of that business and moved into something else.
So, no matter what obstacles came her way, she always landed on her feet and found the next business venture to get involved with, and I learned that you can’t just try something once and if it doesn’t work out or something changes about the industry, that you just go back to working a job. She did not want to ever go back to working a regular job and this taught me to persevere.
Spark Plug: Lisa, you went to middle school and high school in Georgia and then you attended college at Emory University where you were a Psychology and Pre-Med major.
Lisa Nicole Cloud: Correct.
Spark Plug: Now, how did you become interested in Psychology?
Lisa Nicole Cloud: Well, here is what happened, I was at Emory and I was on the Pre-Med curriculum track. I had a major at that time in Chemistry. My second year in college; however, my mother told me that she was not going to pay for the rest of my years of tuition and that if I really, really wanted to graduate from Emory, I would figure out a way to come up with the money to pay for school.
Spark Plug: Now, let me stop you right there.
Lisa Nicole Cloud: Yeah.
Spark Plug: That was a great lesson your mother taught you.
Lisa Nicole Cloud: Yes, it just taught me that you can overcome whatever obstacles come your way if you just put your mind to it and you work hard. The reason I bring that up is because I had to figure out a way to come up with … at that time, it was $30,000 a year to attend Emory. And so, I took a semester off and I started working for MBNA America Bank and I did really well and I moved into management and one of the benefits that they offered was tuition reimbursement. So that’s how I ended up getting through school. I worked full-time and MBNA paid what didn’t get covered by scholarships and grants.
Spark Plug: You found a way to make your dreams come true.
Lisa Nicole Cloud: I did. I did. I mean, you just cannot let anything discourage you. There are going to be so many obstacles that come your way in life and you just have to persevere and you have to be disciplined and you have to be persistent and consistent in whatever your goals are and work towards them.
You asked me how I was a Psychology major on a Pre-Med track. Well, MBNA would not pay for a Pre-Med degree because they couldn’t relate it back to the business need, so the lesson here is … don’t be discouraged, where there is a will, there is a way. What I ended up doing is making my major Psychology and my minor Chemistry because they could relate adult training to Psychology. So that’s how I ended up getting a Psychology major and Chemistry minor at Emory.
Spark Plug: Well, let me ask you a question about that quote you just mentioned, and we’ve been hearing that quote all of our lives, but do you think a lot of people take that quote for granted, “Where there is a will, there is a way?”
Lisa Nicole Cloud: I do. I think sometimes we hear these things and you know, they just kind of roll off our tongue, but we really don’t realize the impact that they can make or that they make. I believe you have the ability to speak your reality into existence and so if you believe what you say, if you believe there is a will and that you can find a way, then you’ll make that happen. But if you take these quotes lightly, then they’ll just be that, words, so you really have to believe what you’re saying.
Spark Plug: And how important is belief … to really believe that your dreams can actually come true?
Lisa Nicole Cloud: You know, I think many people out there have stopped dreaming. I think that’s one of the saddest realities that are out there. People have these lofty goals and dreams and then they end up settling for a job and that job doesn’t really meet the demands of their goals and dreams and so I think people kind of have to reprogram themselves and if the job isn’t getting them where they want to get to, then they have to figure out what else they can do to get to their goals and dreams.
Spark Plug: What would you say to the people out there, you know, our listening audience and on the Internet, people out there listening around the world, who may have stopped dreaming and they think it’s too late for them, what words of encouragement would you share with them today?
Lisa Nicole Cloud: I would say it is never too late. You know, in the business that I’m in, I meet people from all walks of life, all ages, all nationalities, it’s never too late. At my recent convention, a gentleman came up to me. He was 85 years old and he said to me, “I’m going to be the oldest senior vice-president in this company.” And I looked at him and I said, “You know what? You are because you believe you can be that and you will become that.” As I’ve said before, (one of my favorite quotes) what the mind can conceive, it can achieve. Your words are very powerful.
Spark Plug: Lisa, you were on track to become a doctor, but you decided that with your business background … now as a matter of fact … I need to back up a little bit because your story is so interesting and so intriguing from your time at Emory to when you were 14 years old, when you worked in a professional position, such as a legal clerk in a well-known law firm. You were a service manager at Valley Fitness Center and you were in store operations at Target Stores.
Lisa Nicole Cloud: Right.
Spark Plug: Please tell us about that because at 14 or 15, that almost sounds unheard of.
Lisa Nicole Cloud: I was a type of kid who always wanted to play business. I would be in my room acting like a manager of a corporation at the age of 8 and 9 and 10, and so as soon as I could get a job, I got a job. I got that worker’s permit and I started working. It’s funny, because I’ve always had this passion for business, but a lot of times when you’re young, you want to kind of have your own identity and you want to create your own identity a little differently from what your parents did, and I kind of fell into that and didn’t want to be this business person. So I decided that I was going to go after the medical degree and pursue a medical career.
But what you always realize is that what God gives you, you really need to embrace that and that’s where my strengths were. I had to work hard when I was Pre-Med. I mean, I wasn’t one of those students where science was like second nature to me. I was the one who was in the library studying at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning trying to understand biochemistry, so that was a challenge for me, but I still pursued it.
But then after I graduated, when I had the degree, that business person came out of me again and it was like the second voice saying, “Well, okay, are you going to go and get $150,000 in debt, work as a resident after you go to medical school and maybe work and make $20,000 to $30,000 for a couple of years while you’re doing your residency? Or … are you going to go and start making money now, are you going to start pursuing what comes naturally for you?” Because I moved into management so quickly at MBNA, it ended up happening that I went the route of corporate America and not medicine.
Spark Plug: And how long were you with MBNA? Was it five years?
Lisa Nicole Cloud: I was with MBNA six years.
Spark Plug: Six years.
Lisa Nicole Cloud: Six years, and I started off as a telemarketer on the phone in the telemarketing division. I did really well selling over the phone and moved into management in their telemarketing division, and then later went into their customer assistance division. So I always had a high level of business acumen, to do well, to communicate well with people, and to provide excellent service to the customers I was servicing. I learned that well at MBNA because that was one of their philosophies.
Spark Plug: Now, Lisa, tell us about your experience in pharmaceutical sales.
Lisa Nicole Cloud: Okay, well, I spent seven years in the pharmaceutical sales industry. Some of the time, I was with SmithKline Beecham and I also spent some time with Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals. That experience taught me how to really leverage relationships, how to provide excellent service to my clients and also to really know how to sell a product that I believed in. So I think that with people that are listening that have an entrepreneurial spirit, just take everything you’re getting at whatever job you’re in and just realize that there is a lot to be learned from a corporate job that you can parlay into your entrepreneurial ventures.
Spark Plug: You had a burning desire to own your own company, so you took your sales/marketing experience and you started your own marketing firm. Tell us a little bit about Elite Marketing Strategies.
Lisa Nicole Cloud: Well, Elite Marketing Strategies is a company that I started. I knew that my background and my strengths were in sales and marketing and as we discussed earlier, I believe when people venture into entrepreneurship, they should really embrace their God-given talents and that was what I was strong in. All of my years of working in corporate America had helped me to really develop those skills and so I just started a company of my own.
In this particular company, we focus on technology and telecom marketing. I work with people to help them build telecom and technology businesses. I can help people develop marketing strategies and execute the strategies they’re developing for their businesses. That’s what Elite Marketing Strategies evolved into. Initially, it was a firm that came up with various trainings and training content and also helping to develop and implement marketing strategies. But our strong suit is really in telecom and technology.
Spark Plug: So Lisa, what would you see as the major turning point or points in your life?
Lisa Nicole Cloud: I think the major turning point for me was when I had to overcome obstacles, figuring out how I was going to get through school. In your early 20s, $30,000 a year seems like a million dollars and I had no idea where I was going to get the money to finish Emory. I knew that my goal was to graduate from Emory, but I didn’t know how and so I realized when I successfully got a job, worked through college, maintained the grade GPA and still kept the Pre-Med curriculum … when I was able to do all of that, I realized there was nothing I couldn’t do if I put my mind to it and I wasn’t afraid of failing. I was just going to try. And once I let go of those fears, the sky became the limit. It seemed as if whatever I said I wanted to do, I accomplished it, and I accomplished it well.
Spark Plug: Well, today, Lisa, what drives you? What gets you up in the morning?
Lisa Nicole Cloud: My why is my family, my children, my husband, spending quality time with them. When I was building my business, I had to work a lot. I was making a lot of sacrifices and spending a lot of time away from them to be quite honest, but those short-term sacrifices were for the long-term rewards. Now, I’ve built a very successful business and I can spend my days with my children. My husband and I spend a lot of quality time together. You know, that’s my passion, and then I also wanted to help other people get to that place in life, too, because it’s very rewarding and very fulfilling when you have people come up to you and tell you how much you’ve changed their life and how thankful they are that you shared the opportunity with them. So those are the things that kind of keep me going and keep me motivated.
Spark Plug: Okay, so that’s another question I have for you, how do you stay motivated? What else do you do? Some people out there may be a single mother, she doesn’t have the husband to support her like you do. What would you suggest to her to stay motivated?
Lisa Nicole Cloud: Well, the first thing I have to tell people when they ask me what motivates me is, you have to find a very strong why, and your why has to be bigger than you. It has to be bigger than money or financial gain. My mentor once said to me, “If your why doesn’t make you cry, it’s not big enough.”
Spark Plug: Say that one more time. That’s really powerful, Lisa.
Lisa Nicole Cloud: If your why doesn’t make you cry, it’s not big enough. You have to find something deep within that you can get passionate about that can motivate you to get up and do things that you may not really feel like doing. For me, my why was my son when he was first born. You know, when I was first building my business, it was all about the money and consequently, I was working to get a check and that’s all I was getting, it was a check, and sometimes it was good and sometimes it was bad.
Well, my business didn’t take off until my why became my son because he motivated me to work harder than I had ever worked before. He motivated me to get uncomfortable for us to be in a comfortable place. He inspired me to greatness. I always tell people, “My son inspired me to greatness. I couldn’t do it for me, I did it for him.” When I was pregnant, I delivered him early. He came at 27 weeks, so almost seven months. So I was in that hospital and I was going to that ICU every day to see this little life, just holding on, and I remember praying and I remember talking to him and I just remember saying to him, “You just hold on and you fight. I will never let you down.”
And he made it. At 27 weeks, he made it and if you would see him today, you would never know he came out as a premature baby. He’s just as healthy as he can be, no complications, but he fought. He had that fighting spirit within him. I guess maybe you pass on to your kids what you are made of, and he made it. And so at that point, I worked harder than I’ve ever worked before, to create something that would be a legacy for him. I mean, if I stopped working today, the beauty of my business is that it will still keep creating an income because people are going to still keep paying their phone bills. They’re going to still keep paying their cell phone bills. They’re going to still keep surfing the Internet and every month when they do it, there is a check coming for my family and that’s powerful.
Spark Plug: Well, Lisa, is there anything that you say to yourself every day that maybe some of the listeners might be able to benefit from?
Lisa Nicole Cloud: To always thank my Father above for the blessings that flow because ultimately He is the one in control of the blessings that flow, but I also try to stay humble. I try to not let success create an ego, be very thankful for the people that are in my life, as well as my business partners that I’m working with. I teach them things. They teach me a lot of things and I always remember to just work hard. Work hard, stay positive and find that passion that’s going to keep you going through the tough times.
Spark Plug: Okay Lisa, before we run out of time, tell us how you can be reached.
Lisa Nicole Cloud: My number is 1-877-299-6665.
Spark Plug: And your website?
Lisa Nicole Cloud: My website is LisaNicoleCloud.com.
Spark Plug: And finally, Lisa, where do you go to relax and unwind? As busy as you are, I’m sure you have a favorite place that you like to get away to.
Lisa Nicole Cloud: Well, I love escaping to the Caribbean, you know, watching the sun set. I love spending time with my husband and with my children. When I travel, we always try to make it like a family outing, a family vacation, so it’s just nice being able to do business and pleasure at the same time.
Spark Plug: Well Lisa, I would definitely like to say thank you for being with us today and sharing your inspirational story.
Lisa Nicole Cloud: Thank you so much, Spark Plug, and I appreciate you for your magazine. It’s so needed and I hope that we continue to network together.