“Is this thing legit or is it a scam? I was thinking about it up to the minute they called and said I won! I didn’t want to be made a fool. But it was real,” said Dr. Charmain Jackman, Psychotherapist and Entrepreneur. The new business competition, she didn’t expect to win, moved her idea from concept to working website. She added, “…It was almost like an answer to a prayer. The application was only 150 words, but somehow I conveyed that this was important.” Amen! When the universe delivers opportunity, how do you make space for it?
Invest in Support & Self-Care
Women leaders are still underrepresented in our most powerful institutions: government, business and even higher ed. Unreasonable circumstances call for innovation and more women, intent on flexibility and growth, start businesses. But, it takes time for new ventures to generate a living wage and many Moms, begin while juggling full-time jobs. Charmain, a school Psychologist with a private practice and consulting sideline, was already beyond busy when she entered the competition. But to realize her vision – to make it easy for people of color to find therapists of color – she needed support, new skills and capacity. She chose to invest in her growth and self-care, with intention and the acceptance that she would do it in stages.
Decide to Go Pro
Charmain said, “It’s been a year for the business now and it’s interesting. There’s still a lot of wrestling with my schedule and finding the balance. When we met, I was trying to make InnoPsych, take shape. In January last year, I moved from a sole proprietorship to a corporation. To make this thing legit, plan for expansion and realize tax benefits.” Awesome. She added, “The idea was originally more of a co-working space for therapists to have offices. I decided, I needed more of presence and a community first.” A wise approach. How did she test a concept before having a product? She began with conversations.
Start With a Pilot, Then Iterate
Charmain explained, “I did a workshop for therapists on personal branding and how to start your private practice. Then, I did a series of monthly meetups, as a way of continuing that conversation.” Brilliant. Women are socialized to chase perfectionism and we often let fear of the unknown deter us from new initiatives. However, Charmain started small with a test and continued to build momentum, “I did a couple more speaking engagements and the idea of the therapist directory had started to take shape. As a kid, I was the person who remembered everyone’s phone numbers. People would already use me as a directory for other therapists of color!” She realized how powerful it would be to create one online. However, mental healthcare was still primarily a word of mouth industry and she knew she’d have to be hands-on to spread the word in communities of color.
Change Hearts and Minds
Charmain and I share a culture and when I asked about the complex relationship to mental healthcare in immigrant communities, she said, “I’ve seen people be very, very open to mental health! This is a unique time and timing is everything. People say, ‘I have a cousin or a family member or I’ve been looking for someone or thinking about it.’” Wonderful. Charmain spoke at a series of community events and her church to get input. She added, “…Millennials are more open to it and have it in their vernacular. But, even when I talk to older people you may not expect, they’re also thinking about it. They may have a harder time navigating the process, but they’re thinking about it!” Access to mental healthcare has traditionally been limited but increasing its availability is essential when anxiety and depression have reached epic levels.
Value the True Benefit of Ownership
Business ownership is on the rise for women. And people on the wrong side of the wealth, leadership and pay gaps, increasingly seek financial control traditional work can’t provide. Charmain said, “The unique thing has been educating therapists of color, to see having a private practice is a viable option. It goes back to how we’re accruing wealth. When the ‘house always wins’ how do we change that mentality and think about our own ownership?” Yes! She added, “I avoided a private practice for a long time because I didn’t know how to do it.” Business ownership requires comfort with risk, something many of us in busy Mom life resist. However, there are many ways to accelerate learning.
How to Know What You Don’t Know
Charmain takes the business and her wellbeing seriously. She’s invested in an executive coach and asks other entrepreneurs for advice. She said, “My hairstylist is a woman of color, I picked her brain. How are you doing it? How much do you charge?” She has also embraced the power of an extended team and added, “I’m getting comfortable with letting go of stuff that I can do, but it’s not my expertise. I’m getting comfortable with the value of my time.” Huge! Savvy owners recognize their businesses won’t grow unless they grow. What does that look like for someone already managing multiple professional interests?
Prioritize Personal Growth. Even When it’s Hard
Where does self-care fit into her life? Charmain said she asks herself, “Am I living what I’m speaking? I am a mental health professional who talks to people every day about self-care.” She admitted, “A couple of years ago, I was focused on the business and just consumed by it. So, now I’m making time for those book clubs and social connections.” She also has a personal fitness trainer and said, “I’m not a morning person but the workout is really important. …I’ve been getting up 2 days a week at around 5 am. I would like to do it more days, but I have to be okay with that.” We discussed how rising early affects sleep the night before. Charmain said, “Sleep is my kryptonite. And, I’ve always been a night person. I love the quiet of night.” Early mornings are a tough adjustment for many of us former night-owls.
Commit and Recommit to Healthy Habits
Charmain shared, “I don’t get enough sleep and as my body is getting older, I don’t recover as much from those all-nighters. So, my goal is to get in by 11:30 pm and I’ve realized that I have to recommit to that goal every week.” Brilliant. We often believe goal setting is static. It’s not. Charmain is a frequent public speaker and realized if she stays up late before an event, she lacks energy. “I do a good job but feel drained. It’s been a goal to go to bed by 10:30 pm the night before speaking.” I nodded in agreement. She said although the intention helped, “… the next week it fell apart! I can’t set it and forget it. I have to look at what’s coming up and think about how I will feel if I stay up late.” Wise. She also considers healthy food an important part of self-care.
Have Self-Compassion When the Plan Changes
Charmain said, “…I prefer to cook meals. We try to have a healthy, vegetable filled diet. But this past week, literally every night I’ve been out and so we didn’t cook on Sunday.” Right, which means no weeknight leftovers. She nodded in agreement, “So, this week it’s meant eating out. I don’t like that because you have less control over what’s in the food. But I’m allowing myself to be ok with that, because the alternative, is that I’m staying up really late to cook a meal.” Most of us find it hard to prioritize, especially when everything feels important. When asked, how do you decide what comes off of the list? Charmain laughed and said, “That’s the million-dollar question, what can I let go of? I think what I let go of was sleep, to get through that to-do list and those emails.” Something many of us can relate to. She added, “…I have to sleep but it means things I would normally check off don’t get done. It’s a stress on one end but I know what the research says. I am thinking about my children. …I want to be around for them, to have energy for them, to not give them tired grumpy mommy every night.” Beautifully stated.
Many thanks to the talented Dr. Charmain Jackman!
Growing up in a culture where the stigma of mental health was pervasive, but therapists of color were not, she decided that she was going to change that. Dr. Jackman has spent the last 20 years working with people of color (POC) in hospitals, clinics, courts and schools, and has consistently observed that POCs long for therapists who look like them—who understand them and who will do right by them! That knowledge has inspired Dr. Jackman to make it easier for POC to find therapists of color! She also wants to change the negative views of therapy and to educate POC about the necessity of taking care of their mental health and to empower communities to heal.