Pembroke Pines, Fla. – Entrepreneur Nicole Williams is the first Black woman to start her own human resource business in South Florida. Williams had to overcome major obstacles including alleged racism and financial struggles all while grieving the loss of her husband, who died in 2014.

Despite the hardships, Williams, 48, was able to launch PEO Awareness in Pembroke Pines this year, beating the odds to help small and medium sized businesses grow and create job opportunities and careers for the Black community amid an economic meltdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The business is located at 6941 Southwest 196 Ave.

"One of the difficulties I faced as a Black woman is access to capital," Williams said. "I’ve boot strapped it from the beginning with the severance pay I received from my previous employer. "As a Black business owner, I’ve experienced some difficulty with other races not wanting to see us succeed, however, I am firm in my decision that we belong where we are."

Williams said the pandemic was the initial reason she started the business, and it gave a lot of small business owners access to the Protection Paycheck Program (PPP).

"We did nothing but scale and were not able to qualify for the PPP," said Williams.

After learning the human resource business from the ground up including serving in the upper echelon of management roles for 23 years, and not giving the same opportunity in South Florida, Williams decided it was time to go out on her own.

Her company oversees her clients’ human resource services including processing payrolls, employment benefits, technology support, helps attract and keep key talents, and writes company handbook policies.

So far, she has 50 clients that outsource their human resource services including air conditioning, home inspections, plumbing and software companies, as well as home health agencies and local cities. South Florida Times is one of her clients

"In addition, what we offer for services is to help small businesses grow," said Williams. "When you utilize PEO Awareness, you free up your time for HR services and focus more time on your business."

Williams, who’s been in the human resource and management business since 1999, spent 21 years in Texas before making the move to South Florida, which was prompted by the death of her husband in 2014.

Williams and her 9-year-old daughter moved to South Florida the following year.

"I wanted to move away and get a fresh start in life," she said.

In Texas, Williams worked for Insperity, TriNet, LRJ Staffing, CBS Payroll and Aramark.

For LRJ Staffing, Williams said she processed payroll for 500 people a week as its branch manager, but she left for CBS Payroll when management tried to push her into a sales role.

Williams said she did very well at CBS Payroll where she climbed the corporate ladder from sales representative to field manager to sales manager.

She said the company sold the business to the makers of Quick Books, which sent the payroll processing center to India.

Williams said she then went to work for Aramark and moved to South Florida in 2015, where she was a district manager for Benefit Mall in Miramar for payroll services and later worked for Venture in Miami Beach before she started her own business.

Starting over in South Florida but with years of human resource management experience, Williams said she grew tired of being overlooked for promotions because of the color of her skin and gender.

"I have the skill-sets to compete for high positions, but I was always overlooked," she said. "It was time to go out on my own. After all, it’s my belief that we are the ones that truly make America hum."

Soeusette Hogu, operations director for PEO Awareness, said Williams puts the company’s clients first over profits. "I’ve witnessed when a client has come to her, regardless of it being a fault of their own; she makes the necessary corrections and doesn’t charge them an arm and a leg," Hogu said.

Hogu also said Williams is the most patient, caring and understanding boss. "I’m glad that Ms. Nicole gave me an opportunity to work here, knowing I only had HR experience and no payroll experience," Hogu said. "I would go above and beyond for her and the clients because no matter how long it took for me to grasp it, she remains calm and understanding. I’ve never had a boss that treats me that way and I’ve been in the workforce for over 45 years."