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January/February 2020

For years if I was asked about starting my own business, a private counseling practice, I would swear it would never happen. “I’ll always work for someone else” or “I don’t want the responsibility of being a business owner” would always be my reply. In 2017, my life changed. I became a divorced single mom. I hear sadness and pity from some when I share that I am divorced, to which I respond “It’s a good thing. I am happily divorced.” I wouldn’t be where I am without the personal growth that occurs from adversity and struggle in life. The refining nature of adversity built my confidence and gave me a humble strength that I didn’t even know existed.

Two years ago, a stirring in my spirit began to take place. In March of 2018, I decided to climb out of my grief and loss, slowly accepting my new position in life. Accepting that I truly was on my own, I began to think outside myself. I stepped out in faith donating a percentage of money monthly when I didn’t have the money to give. In November 2018, I met with a dear friend. I shared my fear that I would be in the same position financially five years from now if I didn’t do something to change my income. This friend, Cortney, encouraged me to consider opening my own practice. In two weeks’ time, a shift happened. A small fire was lit within me, fanning the flame of confidence that I could indeed open my own business.

I decided March 1, 2019 would be the day I opened my doors. I had no experience or knowledge about starting a business, but I knew that I could. I believe that the work I did in 2018 to accept what I could not control, allowed me the confidence to courageously change what I could control. I met again with Cortney just a few weeks later, telling her I was going to take the leap as an entrepreneur. She said that she had spoken with her husband, never knowing if I would open a practice, but telling him that if I did, they needed to invest in my business as angel donors to help me start. If that wasn’t a green light in my book, I don’t know what was! All of the donating I had been doing came back to me ten-fold. It was both a blessing and humbling to know that these friends believed in the work I do enough to support me as I embarked on this business adventure.

My choices over the next four months moving towards opening affirmed I was exactly what I needed to be. This new endeavor would be successful, and my family and friends were supportive. My sister, Stephanie, who is a master networker, provided me with B2B referrals to businesses through her employer The Connection Exchange. I sat diligently with her in a Starbucks brainstorming the perfect name for my business, finally deciding on Navigation Counseling Services.

As a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) specializing in trauma, using a technique called EMDR, I began developing my business plan. I decided to no longer confine the work I do to insurance company restrictions, therefore only accepting private pay clients. My first month in business I worked half the hours with clients but was able to match the income I had made the last month at my previous employer. Much of my time spent away from the office over the last nine months became filled with business meetings including the Little Black Book: Women in Business gatherings, Chamber of Commerce in Cottleville events, BNI meetings, along with multiple other networking events. I am learning about what it means to be a business owner, and the various hats a business owner needs to wear aside from the actual service I provide. I reach out for help when needed and delegate when I recognize that I am not the expert in all of the hats. I have made many mistakes and continue to experience a rollercoaster of emotions as I learn how to be a better business owner.

I know I have a long way to go to be what many would consider a “successful business owner.” I have no doubt that financially I will be successful, because I have to be. But I don’t measure success solely in pecuniary terms. Remember when I mentioned that I have a fire that was lit within me? Every day I try to feed that fire, my two children Lola-Joan and Bobby J being my primary fuel. They fuel my fire so that the vision and passion for my business continues to grow.

I measure success by the quality of the work I do and the woman I am developing myself to be as a business owner. I also measure success by being open to expanding what I do and how I do it. Most importantly, I measure success by my ability to live life authentically in my business, no longer consumed in fear or self-doubt. My business WILL BE successful only in direct correlation to the personal growth I continue to experience. I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given and I am ready to work hard in my business endeavors that are yet to come.

Caroline Bedel is a Licensed Professional Counselor with an MA in Counseling. She is the owner and Clinical Director of Navigation Counseling Services, LLC and will celebrate her first year in business in March 2020. Her career includes work at the St Louis Crisis Nursery, Crider Health Center and B JC Behavioral Health. Caroline received additional training in Acceptance and Commitment therapy techniques, Mindfulness techniques, and treatment options for symptoms of PTSD and developmental trauma.

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