Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in mental health, but not sure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Esther Hess, Ph.D., founder of Center for the Developing Mind located in Los Angeles, California.

Tell us all about your business...

This past March 2021, I celebrated the 12th year of my West LA facility, Center for the Developing Mind, a multidisciplinary treatment facility with state-of-the-art departments in mental health, occupational/physical therapy, speech and language support, and educational therapy. We have grown from a garage-sized office to almost an almost 3,000 square foot space.

I am now considered an expert in children’s challenges, including autism spectrum disorder, selective mutism, and ADHD. I am a national and international speaker on the subject of autism spectrum disorder in children and adolescents and an author with several publications on the subject to my name. This Spring of 2020, I published my first children’s book ‘Alfie, You and Me Are Twins: The life and Times of a Therapy Dog’, A story about childhood depression and how to use therapy dogs in session to support the whole family. The second book in this series is planned for early 2022.

What's your background and motivation to get into the solopreneur life?

I am a developmental psychologist specializing in assessing, diagnosing, and treating children, adolescents, and young adults impacted by autism spectrum disorder. While I was working in my private practice in West Hollywood, I regularly heard my patients’ parents bemoaning the fact that there did not exist one cohesive Center that could provide their children all the various therapies that were prescribed (for eg. mental health, occupational therapy, physical, therapy, speech and language support and educational therapy) instead of my parents having to travel all over town so that their children might receive the complex care they needed.

I began to dream of creating just such a Center, A ‘one-stop wellness’ where families with children with special needs could go and have everyone’s needs addressed. But, I was a single parent with limited resources and lots of financial responsibilities. I also dreamt of having a partner in my life where I could share my goals and aspirations. I was blessed that my second marriage was to a man who believed in my dream and actualized and helped me make my dream come true. It took us two years of fundraising and scouring Los Angeles to find just the right site.

As a business owner, what does success ultimately mean to you?

Success means the ability to help special needs children and their families get the most out of life. Most roads to success are never smooth, and mine was no exception. As I mentioned, despite having the ambition to imagine creating a multidisciplinary treatment facility for children, adolescents and young adults, I was also raising my three children alone and making sure that all of their financial, emotional and academic needs were being met.

Once my own children were on route to being launched, I could concentrate on taking care of myself! As mentioned, I met a wonderful man who is my life partner, best friend, and business partner. Since the beginning of our relationship, we have been working together to put into play our individual and mutual strengths.

My husband runs the business end of our enterprise, and I run the business of helping children with challenges and their families. Together we have overcome the financial hurdles of starting a new business, took on the huge learning curve of what it means to open a Center with multiple employees servicing the needs of children in their homes, schools, and clinics all across the southland. We dealt with the legalities of opening a non-profit branch of our facility and faced head-on the obstacles that face women as they open their own businesses.

What are the top 3 tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run or grow a business today?

1. Don’t go it alone!

As mentioned, I am married to a wonderful man who is truly my complete partner. Not only does he continue to be my #1 fan, but we act as each other’s critical ear, allowing for thoughtful decisions.

2. Be ready to work long hard hours and cultivate a business that is better than anyone else.

Our facility, Center for the Developing Mind, is open 6 days a week, 7 a.m.- 7 p.m. We are proud to offer both telehealth and in-clinic services based on the sensitives of our families. What sets us apart from other centers is that we focus on whole families. I’ve coined a phrase; “I have yet to meet a child that lives alone.” I am most proud that my brand reflects a commitment that when a family enters our clinic, the whole family is considered.

We offer supportive therapies (including mental health intervention, occupational/physical therapy, speech and language support, and educational therapy) for the child in need. But we also provide parents, grandparents, and neuro-typical developing siblings various supportive therapies so that everyone feels heard and validated when they walk out of our facility. Center for the Developing Mind offers assessments, diagnosis, and treatment in the home, school, and clinic setting.

3. Come to work every day wearing your passion for what you do, on your sleeve.

I have a pet saying about Center for the Developing Mind; I like to say that I have the best job in the whole world because I get to play with kids and toys everyday-and I mean it!!

If there was one thing you could do repeatedly day in day out to help grow business then what would it be?

The best way I have been able to grow my business and my brand was to become a local, national, and ultimately international speaker on my expert subject (autism spectrum in children). Additionally, I love to write, and as soon as I could, I started to publish book chapters and other professional journal articles to get my name and the name of my business to stand out.

What are some of the things you put in place to maintain a healthy work/life balance and to keep it all together?

Every morning, I rise with the sun and go for a 5-mile walk with our Center’s therapy dog, Elsa. And while I walk, I sing! I’m in a virtual choir sponsored by the Jewish Women’s Repertory Company, and particularly while we were all in COVID lockdown, my music kept me sane, balanced and happy.

Who are some of your favorite entrepreneurs and why?

My favorite entrepreneurs are my parents. My dad of blessed memory was a child psychiatrist, and my Mom is a psychologist. They worked together conducting their psychotherapy practice on the lower floor of my childhood home. They were the first to show me how to merge their marriage partnership into a successful business partnership and how to balance the needs of a growing family with the demands of a successful private practice.

For anyone looking to start a business today, what would be the number one bit of advice you'd give them?

Understand that new businesses take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years to really launch. Ensure that you have the upfront funding to handle all of the unforeseen expenses that invariably pop up. You don't want to get discouraged from following your dreams too early in the game.

Where can people find you online?


If you like what you've read here and have your own solopreneur story that you'd like to share then email, we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

Feel inspired to start, run or grow your own subscription business? Check out and learn how you can turn "one day" into day one.