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Entrepreneur Interview: Lisa Bradley

Entrepreneur Interview

In 2006 on the brink of divorce and close to losing everything, Lisa Bradley and her husband Steven appeared as guests on The Oprah Winfrey Show. They were featured as participants of “America’s Debt Diet,” as part of Oprah’s challenge to America to encourage people to get out of debt. According to Lisa, the challenge taught them how to “own their finances.” The program was a success; Lisa and Steven were able to become debt free.

The experience left Lisa with a yearning for more. She was now in a position where she could start a business venture. But she wanted to create something in which she could be of service. She wanted to take the experience and the knowledge that she gained and pay it forward. She learned through her experience with the “America’s Debt Diet” that there is a mental mindset behind financial struggles. Unfortunately, this often causes stress, anxiety, and depression for individuals and families who do not understand the tools they need to gain their financial freedom.

Armed with her knowledge and tenacity, Lisa decided to create A United Community a North Carolina based substance abuse and mental health clinic.

We talked to Lisa about A United Community and her desire to empower others towards financial freedom.

Small Business Advice from Lisa Bradley

Talk to us about your journey to entrepreneurship.

I started the company shortly after we appeared on Oprah’s “Americas Debt Diet.”

The experience changed me in so many ways. It allowed me to understand debt and the mindset and habits that cause you to go into debt.

When we came out of it we were in a position financially where we could start a venture. But I wanted it to be something that was service-oriented in which I could share with others what I learned. At the time, I was teaching and working as a counselor part-time. I felt that it was something that I could do on my own if not better.

A United Community is a substance abuse and mental health counseling agency for individuals who either lack or have limited health insurance that may not cover substance abuse or mental health.

I wanted to make a difference in the lives of other people. Although we were coming out of debt on the other side, during the process we were vulnerable and raw.

When we put our story out there we thought that people would automatically be supportive, but that wasn’t necessarily the case. So that gave me a bigger desire to want to help people. I wanted to create a safe haven.

How are money, truth, and A United Community related?

I talk about the mindset behind money. 90 percent of the families that we work with have financial issues that have created a double layer of problems because the issues were not dealt with. I take them back to a place and get them through it. We work backwards from crisis to recovery to solutions.

What are some of the financial health strategies that you employ?

First people have to get real; I call this living in your money truth. I see other people not wanting to face their money truth and not owning their finances. The experience that I went through is what I see others experiencing, such as not wanting to open their bills. It’s like, if I don’t know I won’t owe it.

I also find that people are afraid to speak to their family members about finances, whether it is their spouse, their children, or other family members. There is a cycle that has existed in families and what happens is there is no anchor to connect to in order to get to financial stability.

A big part of that is understanding your finances including what you can afford, such as extra expenses and luxury cars. So my strategy is that I get them to see all of that and come up with a plan whether short or long-term. This all includes understanding interest rates, late payments, and in some cases taking care of additional family members that you can’t afford to help such as the 25 year old failure to launch kid.

After they get a grasp and have a keen understanding, then a specific plan has to be implemented. Once that is done then they can move away from the burden and the shame of being in debt. The plan sometimes is the hardest part because it may mean that they have to take extreme measures. For example, when we were going through it and we thought if we turned the cable off it was the end of the world. But what we learned is although it was a struggle it caused us to be greater communicators and it did not break us. So I think I am able to help because I can see it from both sides.

I am able to help with short-term and long-term planning. Depending on someone’s situation it may mean a short-term plan, while in other cases it may mean bankruptcy. I help them understand their rights, which includes understanding that your credit score is only calculated from the last 24 months. So it may mean they need to take a year and rebuild their credit history. It’s amazing how they feel once the stress is lifted.

Don’t be afraid of tomorrow; you can get back the life that you want.

How have you been able to grow your business?

Unfortunately mental health grows itself. But I have been able to grow by thinking outside of the box. By telling my story, which includes mental health issues within my family, I have been able to personalize my services. I am able to do this by going into homes and working in the community. I decided early on that I wanted to remove the barriers about mental health services, especially in the minority community. So part of our branding is that we discuss the myths.

Tell us about your experience being a woman entrepreneur.

It has been a challenge. As a woman I had to recognize that I had to empower myself. I had to become comfortable with myself while setting unconditional goals. I had to recognize that people had to align with my business mission and vision. Once I started doing that, then people started looking at me as a businessperson and gave me the respect I deserved.

What is your marketing strategy?

I took a look around me in the community and I studied the competition to see what they were doing and what I was missing. I used Survey Monkey to ask people their opinions. I was able to obtain great feedback from people using Social Media. I also asked the school districts how I could help to raise the education bar and offer my services.

I put my brand in a position where we could fill the gaps with services, products, and informational seminars. I continually ask myself who else can benefit. This has allowed me to also offer my services to corporations by providing corporate trainings to help their employees. So in the end, educating everyone about mental health and keeping that conversation top of mind has helped me grow my business by being a mental health educator, mental health trainer, and a mental health service provider.

What have been some of your biggest successes?

By being an entrepreneur I have been able to teach my children what it means to be of service to others. I think also being able to hire people and then help them cultivate their skills so that they can help others as well. In the end it’s a win-win for everyone.

What advice would you like to share?

You could love what you do, but that doesn’t always transition into a business. I struggled in the beginning with all of the business related tasks, such as accounting, payroll, and taxes. But I had to learn that these were all things that came along with being a business owner. So I tell people that they need to understand what it takes to run a business. Combine that knowledge with what you love to do and your business will grow.

 

You can learn more about Lisa Bradley by visiting her website.

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Kabbage Team

The Kabbage Team is here to not only fund the small business loans you need, but to help you grow your business through free marketing tips, webinars, tools and more. Is there something you'd like us to cover or want to get your small business featured on our blog? Send us a note at content@kabbage.com.

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