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Passion Fuels Success: Scale Strategic Solutions

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Calista H. Smith’s impressive educational and professional credentials no doubt have been essential to her entrepreneurial success, however, a conversation with Ms. Smith reveals the foundation upon which her business has been built is her passion for education and training.

Ms. Smith is a PMP, certified project management professional, and holds a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. She also earned degrees in Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Arts Honors, magna cum laude, from Villanova University in Pennsylvania.

A Cincinnatian born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, when asked about her motivation to become a business owner, Calista shared: “I never wanted to start my own business until I started my own business, but I always wanted to be involved in the social sectors like education, public health, social services.”

Calista Smith Founder Scale Strategic SolutionsCalista Smith Founder Scale Strategic Solutions

That’s exactly the path Calista Smith took in her early career. Post college, Calista joined Cincinnati-based KnowledgeWorks Foundation, an educational and workforce development organization specializing in educational policy innovation, where she served in several capacities including public relations, program evaluation and development, and grant selection and monitoring.

Building on her success, Ms. Smith moved on to become a senior consultant with Haverstick Consulting, an Indianapolis, Indiana-based firm specializing in the evaluation, planning, design, implementation, and management of strategic Information Technology and Business solutions. While there, she facilitated teams in project management methodologies to create business plans and implement technology applications.

Prior to founding her business, Calista was a Development Supervisor in adult workforce education at Butler Technology & Career Development Schools in Hamilton, Ohio. She had previously managed industrial programs for adult workforce education for the career-technical school district.

Ms. Smith describes her transition from professional to entrepreneur by relating how a friend made a connection for her as she sought a consulting opportunity, which morphed from there. She then parlayed a series of fortunate introductions and associations that led to the founding of her own enterprise in 2011.

In Calista’s own words: “Scale Strategic Solutions, which aims to transform information into action with expertise and love, provides continuous improvement services, including strategic planning, organizational development, and program evaluation in education, public health, social services, and economic development.”

Her passion for helping and contributing is palpable, which Ms. Smith attributes to familial values and upbringing. “Giving back is important to me because I come from a family of generous people,” Calista shares. “It is in my blood to serve and honor my roots.”

Calista Smith grew up in the southwest Dayton, Ohio neighborhood of Edgemont, founded prior to the Civil War in 1853 and saw a growth spurt after the turn of the century during the Great Migration of African Americans from the South coupled with industrialization during World War 2. A century later, by 1960, the population of Edgemont had become a predominately middle-class African American community of homeowners.

By sixth grade, Smith had decided she wanted to attend a boarding school. She set her sights on Darlington, a 500-acre institution located in Rome, Georgia, 70 miles northwest of Atlanta, in its 90th year when Calista began attending.

“I found out about Darlington at a school fair sponsored by the Queen City Foundation in Cincinnati,” according to Smith. “Queen City Foundation was affiliated with A Better Chance, which helps students of color and low-income families find independent schools.” Acceptance at Darlington began the start of her distinguished academic career achievements.

Calista has developed a diverse portfolio of clients served over the years in preparation to offer her professional services entrepreneurially. For instance, she’s served as a project manager and lead policy implementation consultant evaluating program projects for Interact for Health, a Cincinnati-based health justice advocacy organization.

As well, she’s consulted with State agencies like the Ohio Department of Higher Education, the Ohio Department of Education, and major private institutions like Westat, a data collection, research and analysis firm located in Rockville, Md, and regional councils of the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund, amassing a versatile range of experience.

Ms. Smith’s expert contributions in the education sector have included strategic planning services, initiative management, and stakeholder facilitation. She has crafted strategic planning processes for prestigious organizations like the Institute for Higher Education Policy, GRAD Cincinnati, an urban youth educational preparedness nonprofit in Cincinnati, Civitas Development Group, a for-profit real estate concern advising on municipal land use strategies, and Middletown Moving Forward, a school building revitalization effort in Ohio.

Calista’s business website defines her company this way: “Scale Strategic Solutions transforms information into action through our data-driven management consulting, organizational development, and program evaluation services. We help organizations and systems execute their visions, understand their impact, and inform their work. We specialize in health, education, workforce development, and social services.”

As Scale Strategic Solutions’ array of services has expanded along with its geographic client footprint, Calista Smith and her team have targeted e-learning as an area of expansion consistent with her company’s strategic goals for growth.

Not only is this niche partly driven by market demand, it is also a business model that is customizable, able to dovetail with individual clients proprietary needs, giving Calista the option to hire outside her existing staff if necessary to draw upon consultants with acumen in specialized vocations to retrofit the appropriate customization seamlessly.

Following this strategy has led Smith to find new expansion opportunities through e-learning with the Vermont Department of Health and the National Association of County and City Health Officials, a government employee advocacy coalition headquartered in Washington, D.C. Scale Strategic Solutions has also worked with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The near epidemic of mental health challenges facing the nation, spotlighted since the COVID-19 pandemic brought it out of the shadows, has also become a growth area where Calista is finding expansive consulting opportunities. Her firm advises clients on processes to address health equity and inclusion, general mental health and wellbeing, and trauma-informed care.

Calista advises fledgling entrepreneurs that it’s nearly impossible at times not to feel as though you’re “building the plane as you’re flying it” when trying to get your business off the ground. She and her five-person staff at Scale Strategic Solutions, however, are flying high in 2024.

Your Turn

Starting a business can be daunting, but as Calista demonstrated, it’s possible to succeed by leveraging your expertise and network. If you’re at a crossroads, unsure of how to move forward, take a page from her book and reach out to your connections. You never know where your next opportunity may come from. As you plan the launch of your business, what steps can you take to build and maintain meaningful relationships within your network, ensuring that you have a strong support system as you navigate the challenges of starting a business?

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