Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in mental health care but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Stephanie Williams, Founder & Clinical Director of Integrated Psychological Assessment Services Inc., located in Gilroy, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
IPAS is a niche mental health practice that provides mental health services to the Black, Indigenous, and Persons of Color (BIPOC) and Marginalized Genders (MaGe) communities. Our team believes in the healing and restorative power of psychology in all its forms (therapy, psychological assessment, and research) and our mission is to provide quality mental health services that are insurance reimbursed. Our therapists have specialized training and believe that mental healthcare is a right. Our clients are people seeking a better way to manage the day-to-day, students looking for help, parents who want to learn how to deal with many stressors of life, young adults who may be struggling with relationships, and first responders/military who might be dealing with trauma.
Tell us about yourself
Like most business owners, my company was started out of personal need. There was a period in my life when my family was struggling emotionally. My son was dealing with the stressors related to the routine and senseless killing of Black men and boys, my daughter was struggling in school, and I was unable to find any qualified mental health providers that accepted our insurance. With the cost of living in the Bay Area California, I was unable to afford the high out-of-pocket costs for therapy sessions even while making six figures. This was what I called the lightbulb moment: How could working-class families find reasonable mental health care? It was then that I started to build my mission for IPAS. And the thing that keeps me motivated each day is knowing that my colleagues and I are helping clients build, find, and access their best selves.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment to date is building a mission-based insurance-reimbursed healthcare company that focuses on providing a living wage to staff while continuing to provide high-quality mental health services. Today with many tech companies entering the arena of mental health, I am proud to say that our qualified clinicians are ethically and responsibly trained to provide evidenced-based treatment while ensuring the highest level of confidentiality and treatment. We don't see our clients as a bottom line but envision a better life for all the people we work with.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
The hardest thing about being a business owner is understanding the importance of financial stability. There was a saying in grad school that "therapists don't make good business owners"; which I find now completely untrue. Although it has been hard finding the balance regarding finances as a small Black-woman, veteran-owned business - I remember that the most important thing is that staff and clients feel safe. So, navigating the insurance minefield, although difficult, is rewarding in the end.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
1. Understand the lay of the land in your area of expertise- making sure you have the right qualifications, education, and training to become successful.
2. Have a mission- it is easy to be swayed when trying to build a business but having a mission keeps you on track.
3. Lastly, knowing when to change directions; although painful, change is necessary. Recognizing when something is not working and having the courage to change directions helps with longevity.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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