Lifting entrepreneurs, breaking cycles
Both as a mental health therapist and an entrepreneur, Nicole Sublette is all about connection and community.
After a decade in the field, Nicole opened a private practice four years ago and this year expanded it into New Hampshire’s first Black psychotherapy practice, Therapists of Color New England. She wanted to create a haven for people of color, those who identify as LGTBQIA+, and women who have experienced discrimination, oppression, and marginalization, even from their previous providers.
As a student of racism within the foundations and the modern practice of psychotherapy—and the intergenerational trauma it has caused—Nicole wants her practice to offer hope. The first race-based diagnosis described a disease that created an “irrational” urge for slaves to run away, and Black people today are more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia or be prescribed first-generation antipsychotics with severe side effects.
She says she and her therapists offer a contextual understanding her clients may not get from someone who hasn’t experienced racism or discrimination.
“Through my own experiences as often being seen as a black therapist—an excellent therapist, but first seen as a black therapist—and through the microaggressions I’ve experienced as a professional, I decided that it would be better to branch out and start my own practice. Because I knew that, as a professional, if I was witnessing and experiencing these things, I could only imagine the care that my clients were getting.”
The effect on her clients, she says, has been profound. “Belief, relief, gratitude, it’s just really amazing,” she says. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that this is the first time that they have felt heard and listened to and supported.”
That’s a powerful connection, and one Nicole has sought within the Black business community in and around Manchester.
This spring, Nicole was among the recipients of the C-DEE (Community-Driven Economic Empowerment) Accelerator, which awarded one-time funding and/or connections with business mentors to 26 entrepreneurs of color. C-DEE is a pilot program of the Manchester Chapter of the NAACP and the Community Loan Fund.
She used her award to hire a bookkeeper, a pressing need as her business has grown from no employees to six in just six months. But equally valuable, she says, was the connection to the Center for Women & Enterprise, one of the organizations providing business coaching to Accelerator participants.
When she was launching her company, Nicole hired a business manager and a colleague with experience in starting a private practice. “Funding mentorship is really important to help people establish business plans and to lay the foundation of a solid business,” she says.
“We can have a lot of beautiful ideas, but mentorship is invaluable in moving those ideas into practicality. And that’s part of this process with the Community Loan Fund.”
Among her ideas is that the therapists on her staff, all of whom are people of color, should be rewarded and honored for serving their community. They earn higher-than-market rates, have four-day work weeks, and make business decisions collectively.
“People who experience racism age on a cellular level faster and we’re more likely to have hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and all these things. Combine that with being a therapist who holds trauma all day long … I don’t want the people working for me to burn out or not do well financially because (if they do) who’s going to serve the community?” she says.
“I also want to change the way we model business. Instead of me being at the top and there’s like a hierarchy, how can we make that as communal as possible?”
Mentorship is a crucial element of the Manchester-focused C-DEE effort and our statewide Minority-Owned Business Lending (MOBL) program. The others are access to financing that meets the needs of growth-ready businesses, capacity building, and a peer-to-peer network, to grow businesses and build their resilience.
Nicole is eager to see the program reach and connect with more entrepreneurs.
“You’re giving folks who experience marginalization, oppression, and discrimination the ability to flourish,” she says. “It’s giving people a chance to get out of the (intergenerational poverty) cycle‒maybe for the first time in their lives.”
A condensed version of this article appeared in the Community Loan Fund’s 2023 annual report.