Five Questions With Making A Difference Consulting Founder Angela Flowers

As a licensed social worker, Angela Flowers has a knack for nurturing children and families that deal with difficult issues in their daily lives. While working in the school system, Angela realized that the mental health care for students was insufficient. Angela decided to tackle this problem by co-founding Making A Difference Consulting, an in-school counseling service that teaches children valuable coping skills for improving both behavioral and academic performance.

Angela is also part of JumpStart’s Core City: Cleveland Impact program, an intensive business assistance program designed to support the development and growth of businesses located within some of Cleveland’s most underserved neighborhoods.

She recently sat down with us to share her unique entrepreneurial journey—from getting her venture off the ground, to her plans for developing a franchise model and all of the challenges in between.

What inspired you to create your business? Where did the idea come from? What problem does your service solve?
My partners and I were counselors and social workers for school districts. Through this work, we found that children who were unable to cope with anger issues or different life stressors were impacted in the classroom.

We started off doing our programs during the summertime, but we found that children need ongoing support/therapeutic services—something that guidance counselors cannot offer. We’re able to work with our students individually during their lunch periods or non-academic periods, allowing us to provide that ongoing support right in the classroom.

A lot of our students were not going to clinical counseling services because they did not have transportation or access to the services. Being able to provide that support in the school bridged the gap. Districts saw an improvement in behavior and academics, and they weren’t suspending kids as much because the students were developing necessary coping skills.

How did you connect with the Core City: Cleveland program, and what do you think so far?
I heard about the program in January at a grant meeting for the United Black Fund where Lamont Mackley spoke about the program. When I was finally able to visit JumpStart and sit down with Patrick in April, there were only two days left before the application was due.

I chose to apply because I want to take my company to the next level, and I feel that JumpStart is an organization that can help me to develop new marketing skills, as well as introduce additional opportunities to grow my brand.

What are your future plans for your business?
One of our future plans is to take the mental health model that we developed and expand it into a franchise model. One of my partners resides in Phoenix and she performs the same service in Arizona as I do here. Ultimately, we want to have about 75 therapists in Ohio, and then expand that to have about 75 licensed therapists in Arizona as well.

Are there any unique challenges you feel you’ve had to face as an African American entrepreneur?
I think that as a female entrepreneur, sometimes we’re not taken as seriously. As a female, when you present professionally and you have a quality brand, people start to take you more seriously.

As an African American, it’s been difficult for me to find funding streams and people to help support growing our company. JumpStart and the Women’s Business Association are helping me to develop my brand and to network with other entrepreneurs that may be in a similar position.

We ask all the entrepreneurs we speak with to give us examples of failure or setbacks they experienced. Anything come to mind for you?
Definitely. When I first decided to leave my full-time job, I had a major setback. I thought that income would be flowing because I had contracts in place, but I didn’t receive income from the insurance companies that I was billing until six months in. One of the lessons I learned is to prepare by having income set aside to help you float through some of those times. Even though you may have a contract, it may take months in order for you to get payment even after you have performed the service.

Another setback was convincing my partners to do this full-time. When you have a team that you’re working with, one of the challenges of being an entrepreneur is that you all have to be on the same page in order for things to work. You have to fail, fail, fail and when you get it right that one time, then you’re going to see the success.

Also, if your venture is something that you’re passionate about, make sure that you’re doing market research, that you’re doing your customer discovery and that you are finding out where other entrepreneurs in that particular area or field has failed or what their successes have been. This will save you time in the long run.

Watch Angela’s elevator pitch for Making A Difference Consulting below. To learn more about the Core City: Cleveland program, click here.