Psychologist Reshale Thomas opened Allay Psychological Services in June 2018 to create safe spaces for people to experience health, healing, and wholeness. When COVID-19 emerged, Allay experienced a surge of new referrals. Unable to handle the increase in business without additional support, Thomas turned to trusted partners for help in seeking funding. Working closely with Access Plus Capital and the Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce, she was able to apply for and receive funding for two new employees. Read more about the process below:
Tell me a little bit about your business and your mission?
“Allay” (pronounced Uh-lay) means to sooth or diminish worry or fear. Allay Psychological Services was founded in June, 2018 and is one of fewer than about 20 Black-owned psychologists’ private practices in the Fresno area. We provide high quality, affordable mental/behavioral health care services and we focus on reducing stigma toward mental illness and mental health treatment, promoting health and wellness, and increasing quality of life in our community.
OUR MISSION: Allay exists to create safe spaces for people to experience health, healing, and wholeness.
We accomplish our mission through three main objectives:
- Service to Underserved and Underrepresented Populations
- Community Engagement
- Training, Education & Mentorship of Prospective/Early Career Psychologists
What did you need funding for?
We desperately need funding to expand and continue sustaining operations, including adding 2 additional staff and for marketing. Allay was already beginning to grow, and when COVID-19 emerged, our ability to provide telehealth services made us a preferred provider. In addition, we began seeing a surge of African American/Black clients who were looking for a provider based on cultural matching, so we began having trouble keeping up with our referrals. We had to send people to other providers, who are also overwhelmed, so potential clients might end up on a waiting list anywhere from 2-4 months. This funding was able to help me hire 2 staff: (1) a clinician who specializes in treating children/adolescents and (2) a billing/administrative support person.
Why did you feel as though others in the finance world didn’t support you?
I think the main reason it was difficult getting funding is because, in general, mental health services are not necessarily talked about from the business side of things. As a doctor, nowhere in my training did any coursework include how to establish and operate a business. Similarly, going to mainstream funding sources was difficult because mental/behavioral health tends to be a boring “sell.” That is, beyond the nonprofit world, behavioral health funding is strictly assumed to be an insurance and/or out-of-pocket funded business. So, I realized early on, that I would have to get some help and coaching to develop a good sales pitch for why mental health is a good business investment.
Secondly, aside from the fact that, as a Black woman, fall in a statistical range of being underfunded, I had a difficult time getting funded because I didn’t have any credit history as a business entity and my own personal credit history was not that extensive beyond student loans. I had no assets and no savings, so the situation was very bleak.
How did Access Plus Capital/Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce support you through the process?
Tara Lynn Gray and the FMBCC have always provided immense support for Allay. In this case, the FMBCC provided the technical assistance needed for meeting the criteria for and completing the application.
Access Plus Capital was amazing. I worked with Ernest, Ana, and Ronna at various stages of the process. My experience with Ernest was perhaps the single greatest determining factor that helped me complete the process. He remained in constant contact with me, even when I had decided to give up on pursuing the funding. He was an awesome encourager, came up with creative solutions, and helped me remain hopeful during the process. He and Ana both worked tirelessly to ensure that I had a strong application package. Ronna was very warm and facilitated the process quickly and efficiently.
What role did trust play in seeking funding?
Trust played an extremely important role in seeking funding. I had been turned down countless times over the past two and a half years, and my own bank was unresponsive to my initial inquiries regarding funding information, so I was very frustrated. I would not have gone to Access Plus Capital had I not been referred by the FMBCC and my business coach—I trusted initiating contact with Access Plus Capital because I trusted my referral sources. The trust and rapport I developed with Ernest helped me see the process through to the end. He changed the trajectory of my business.
What are you looking forward to in the future now that your business will remain open?
I look forward to continuing to be able to provide much-needed support to Fresno and surrounding rural areas. While I will always be hands-on in operating my business, now that I have new staff, I get to focus more on being a psychologist and connecting with my clients and community.
Any advice for other business owners in the same position?
Never let yourself be just another statistic. All it takes is one good connection with one person in one key position, and the systemic level barriers to success can be overcome. At that point, you get to be part of a system of change if you remember to reach back and grab someone else on your way up.
Where can people find out more about you?
And now with funding for marketing, you can learn more about us at our website at www.allaypsych.com (coming in early 2021!)