We had the good fortune of connecting with Paula McMillan, LCSW and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Paula, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
In one word, access. I noticed that communities of color traditionally have lesser access to resources that support and uplift the people who live there. As a result of this, there are individuals who identify as Black, Brown, Latinx, etc. just to name a few who feel strongly about creating opportunities that will oppose these narratives. As a social worker, I have seen firsthand the impact that support services can have on individuals as well as family systems. The way that education, resources, and skills can change the trajectory of an individual and a generation. The way that change can leave a meaningful and long lasting impact.
After giving some thought to what are the skills and passions I have that can uplift and amplify my own community, I thought about coaching. I looked for other companies and organizations that offered coaching services to communities of color and I couldn’t find any. When I asked some colleagues and friends about this I often received similar responses that “Black folks to get coaching” or “is that some new way to trick people into therapy by calling it something different?” As a result, of these response, a fire was lit. I realized that I had to do something not only to change the narrative and provide education about coaching but also they ways it can be transformative. Not to mention, demonstrating that our communities of color can and will be positively impacted by this level of partnership.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
At the heart of the company we are a small team who partners with individuals, groups, schools and other community based organizations to explore and identify the limiting belief systems and ineffective mindset that creates barriers to growth. Many of my clients are professionals, parents, educators and others who are believe that there is more for them in this life but are unsure of the steps, skills or support needed for change. Others are just overwhelmed with the demands of life and want to carve out space for change.
I am very proud of how I was able to pivot the ways that the team was providing services when the Covid-19 pandemic first began impacting out communities. Pre-pandemic, all services were provided in-person. As a result, there was a quick shift to virtual. In this realm, it helped me to not just realize the impact of how quickly business can and will change but also how we respond to it and the needs of our customers. As a result, I also shifted focus a bit to infuse more mental health and wellness aspects into coaching with client due to the impact that Covid has had across the world. It’s helps that one of the main tenets of social work is meeting people where they are which fosters great engagement for a working relationship.
Another piece that I am proud of is Support and Style which is an off-shoot of Personalize Your Coaching. All proceeds from Support and Style go toward support and uplift our helping professionals while creating awareness to minimize the stigma associated with mental health. All proceeds from the clothing and merchandise purchases go toward sliding scale payments for individuals in underserved areas who would like coaching who otherwise would be unable to afford it.
One of the lessons that I have learned along the way is that not everyone who had skills and abilities can just up and run a business. There were and still are many lessons that I have to learn but I am grateful for the bumps along the road and the many people who have offered themselves as resources to me and my team on this journey. Especially as I move to open the next business in 2022. Stay tuned!
What I believe is the most important thing to know about me is that I am a girl from The Bronx who wanted to know that I was not alone when I was struggling with difficult feelings about the world and my own identity. As a result of that, I can now be what I needed to see when I was just a girl for others so that there is a little less struggle, a little more self-esteem, and a lot more hope for what this world can offer us as people of color. I was fortunate enough to go into detail about these experiences as a featured author in the book, Latinx in Social Work by Erica P. Sandoval. Being able to demonstrate the personal experience that drives the business side is an important connection that helps build community which as you can tell is at the core of this work.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Lucky for me my best friend lives not to far away but I would say that I would start by taking them to the “real” Little Italy in the Bronx for a nice Italian lunch, then head over to the New York Botanical Garden to walk off that big meal and see some beautifully curated exhibits, then we might venture over to Yankee Stadium for a game, possibly head to City Island for some amazing seafood and finish off the evening (if we had any room left) with some New York Style Cheesecake from Juniors.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to highlight a good friend who is basically my sister. Inaudy Esposito. She is a dynamic Latinx woman of Dominican heritage. She is a devoted mother, activist, public speaker, professor, and true “Madrina” to many. She has been a supporter of mine since we were in high school and as we moved on to helping professions, we have been able to learn and grow from our bond. Uplifting each other along the way and living the example that community starts at home. I would not be who I am today if not for my relationship with her.