Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: How Elizabeth Schwartz Reinvented Herself as a Soloist In Her 60’s
By Shana Clarke
Elizabeth Schwartz of Better Speech Now wants every voice to be heard. The speech pathologist primarily works with clients on accent reduction and modification, which they find can be a barrier to career advancement. Beyond her pronunciation work with non-native speakers, she also helps clients develop strong presentation skills and educates them on how to be better interviewees when applying for a job. In general, “I solve communication conundrums,” she says. She’s been in the field for over 25 years, but didn’t expect to become a Soloist at an age when others retire.
Throughout her career Elizabeth changed jobs several times, always working as an employee at a company. However, after being let go from her last job, she realized she was at a crossroads.
“I had just had it.” Plus, she knew finding a job at her age might prove to be challenging. Instead of job-hunting, she seized the opportunity to branch out on her own and start her own practice.
The Queens-based Soloist and a business partner identified accent modification as a niche and underserved need in her community; “I’m in Astoria, which is fertile ground for this type of work. [The community] is so diverse,” she says. Although the vision was clear, the process was daunting. “I’m from a social service background and didn’t know anything about business,” she says “I didn’t know how to set one up, what form a business should take, know how to get the word out - I didn’t know anything.” One of their first steps was getting in touch with an organization called the Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC). “They’re a Queens-based nonprofit that really help small businesses in every aspect,” from workshops to mentoring to general support. They helped her write a business plan and assisted with all the “nuts and bolts.”
In 2012, she and her business partner entered - and won - a QEDC startup competition. “I couldn’t believe it, I thought my business plans sucked!” she laughs. “So, that’s how I got off the ground.” From there she started networking, building her website, creating a social media presence, and “telling every person I met what I do.”
As exhibited by the work with QEDC, community support was a huge part of her success. She connected with the Queens library system and started doing workshops for them. “Since Queens has such a large immigrant population, it was ideal,” she says. “They didn’t pay me but it was just for the purpose of educating the community on what I do.” She also found a space at an arts and music center, located just a few blocks from her house, as a place to meet with clients. She says the owners are very accommodating and flexible with rates, which is a huge boon to her business.
Although Elizabeth and her partner split about two and a half years ago, Elizabeth loves being a solopreneur, especially at this point in her life. “It just worked out that way and it’s been just great.”
Interested in working with Elizabeth? Connect with her on Prefer.