Podcast with Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt
Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics, American Public University
and Dr. Nicole L. Cammack
Licensed Clinical Psychologist and President/CEO, Black Mental Wellness Corporation
Starting a business, while an exciting venture, has proven challenging for many entrepreneurs. As a result, many valuable lessons are learned along the way.
What are the challenges involved in setting up a business? In this podcast, Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt talks to Dr. Nicole Cammack about the experience of starting her own business and the lessons Dr. Cammack learned from seeking legal and financial advice, identifying a target audience, creating a solid business plan, and knowing how to find other resources. Also, learn why Dr. Cammack believes universities and colleges should incorporate business classes into the curriculum of all disciplines to provide students with a solid foundation in entrepreneurship and help them be more business-savvy.
Read the Transcript
Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Welcome to the podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt.
The goal of this podcast is to highlight our local heroes in our community who are champions of important issues affecting us all on both the national and international scale. Today, we’re going to add to that very important discussion happening on the national and international stage regarding the importance of starting your own business.
Today, my guest is Dr. Nicole Cammack. She’s a global speaker, and she’s a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of Maryland. She received the bachelor’s degree from Howard University, and both a master’s and doctorate degree from George Washington University.
She’s also completed a post-doctoral fellowship with the National Center for the School of Mental Health at the University of Maryland, Baltimore School of Medicine. Dr. Cammack also provides mental health services to veterans as a program manager and lead in an integrated primary care setting. She is the chair of the Psychology Diversity Training Subcommittee and serves on several psychology leadership councils at the Washington DC VA Medical Center.
Last but not least, she’s an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, and she serves on the Executive Board of the Washington D.C. Alumnae Chapter. She enjoys traveling and loves spending time with her daughter and family. Again, Dr. Cammack, thank you so much for joining us today, and welcome to the podcast.
Dr. Nicole Cammack: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: There are so many critical conversations happening today that encourage people to start their own business. And with your expertise and your background, you’ve been a successful business owner for several years. I’m sure today’s audience can benefit from you sharing your story. Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?
Dr. Nicole Cammack: Yes. I am a licensed clinical psychologist. I currently provide individual or group and couples’ therapy to veterans in the Medical Center in the Washington D.C. area. The other thing that I do is, I along with four other colleagues founded Black Mental Wellness, which is a corporation of licensed clinical psychologists.
We really work just to change the stigma of mental health in the black community. That’s where I feel I’ve learned all of the ins and outs, mistakes while starting a business.
Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think this topic is so timely, because especially with the COVID-19 global pandemic, we’re realizing the importance of mental health not only with starting your business, but just making sure that people are in that correct space.
Like you said, it’s important to address many of the stigmas that we have in our society. Could you start by talking about some of the challenges or problems you encountered in the business world?
Dr. Nicole Cammack: I always tell people, in psychology, they teach you how to be a psychologist, they teach you how to be a researcher, how to work in academia, but they don’t teach you the business of psychology, which is interesting because a large number of psychologists also have businesses as you think about private practices and consulting jobs and other mental health-related businesses. The first lessons learned sort of came with, “How do we even set up this business? What is the best type of company to set up for what we wanted to do?”
What we ended up doing was getting a lawyer. She walked us through a lot of the business basics. I feel like it was Business 101 because we’re learning like, “Oh, there’s a difference between an LLC and a S-Corporation, and which one would be a better fit for us?” So really going through what we wanted to do. Sitting with the lawyer and figuring out the structure of the business. A lot of that stuff as we were going through, it was like: “Oh, if we had these lessons while we were in school, we could have saved some money,” with paying someone to teach us at this point.
There were a lot of things in terms of structuring the business. And then we made a lot of mistakes in terms of…we made assumptions like, “Well, it’s our first year; we’re still setting things up. We don’t really need an accountant at this point because we’re not making money. We’re a S-Corporation.”
So we were putting money into the company, and there were all of these mistakes we made in terms of how do you set up your financial accounts? How do you track the money that you’re putting into the company from month to month, so that you can see what are the costs to run the company? What are those monthly costs that we have?
Once we started having money come in, how are you tracking that? What is an investment in the company? What is profit? How do you pay taxes?
We had people on our team that are in different states, and so really having to know like, “Oh, wait. We did this for D.C., but it may look very different for someone who lives in Michigan. And what does that look like?”
A lot of those early mistakes that we made, I feel like it cost us a lot of money to correct, because we ended up getting an accountant who then had to…it was almost like go back and fix every mistake that we made.
As I talk to people who are thinking about starting a business, and then I always say to my team and to myself, “If we start anything else, you’re going to do it. We should learn from our mistakes. This is what you should do.” Start with figuring out what type of company you’re opening, and then it is important to talk to an accountant.
To have some sort of — even if it’s just consultation in the beginning — how do you set up those accounts and your financial management? What is the plan? What are the tax…Oh, my goodness, that was another thing. But what are the different tax requirements based on your company structure? How often do you have to pay?
All of those things that we did that first year where we were like, “We’re not making money. It’s not important yet.” It was important, and we ended up paying double to get it corrected.
Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: You raised some great points, that just one [should] sit down with a professional, maybe a lawyer, to just walk you through it, and then the importance of having some type of accounting structure from the very beginning.
I want to talk on one thing that you said in your response. You said, “I wish I had known these things earlier. I wish I had learned these things, maybe when I was in school.” Let’s touch on that for a second.
Given your background and given what you know now, what are some of those theories and concepts that you learned in the classroom that you are using today? And maybe what are some of those things that you learned that you’re not using today?
Dr. Nicole Cammack: Clinical psychology at the doctoral level, it’s a little different. I think there was… I shouldn’t say it in this way, but there are not a lot of skills in terms of setting up a business that I learned from my education in that way. Like, we didn’t touch on it. We didn’t talk about if you want to start a private practice, what do you do? What are the steps?
We didn’t talk about the financial components, or looking at the market, or thinking about who was your audience that you’re trying to target and what does that look like? What services do you provide? Those things we never touched on.
What I do feel that my background provided me with was I know psychology. I know clinical psych. I know mental health. I know the challenges of treating mental health in the black community.
My expertise came in my background and knowing what we want to do like in terms of what the business will address, how we’re going to set up this information. We knew how we wanted to plan and think in the forward of “this is year one, this is year two, this is year three.”
I think some of the skills… and we always say this, like it’s four Ph.D.s, and one thing we’re taught in that process is how to think. So you’re always thinking critically about what the business will do. What I did not learn was how to do the business, if that makes sense.
Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Absolutely. What I’m hearing is, they taught you what to do to be a successful psychologist, but not to be necessarily a successful entrepreneur?
Dr. Nicole Cammack: Exactly.
Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Okay. Great. So then based on that, then what changes do you think should be made to curriculum to make students either at the undergraduate or even the graduate level more business-savvy?
Dr. Nicole Cammack: There should be a class. I just feel like looking at it, and I know I’m speaking just from psychology. But if you think about the amount of people who — even if you go into academia or if you work in any other setting — a lot of psychologists still have a private practice where they see patients or clients on the side.
There should be a class, like how do you conduct business in your field? What does that look like? What’s the Entrepreneur 101? What are the basics of running a business that you should know? And it should be a requirement.
I remember as we paid the lawyer extra money because we are always wanting to learn, and knowing that we will use these skills again, so she gave us two options. She gave us an option where she would set everything up for us and we pay one fee.
Or we pay a higher fee where she took us through Entrepreneur Jumpstart program where we learned during each step, where she would video us and we would see why we made a decision to file the company this way. What are the articles of incorporation? How do you file, the procedure to get your federal tax numbers and all of those things? She taught us that.
We essentially paid for that initial class, and I wish that programs would think about that. That you don’t just teach the information and how to do, whatever the field specialty is, but how do you teach someone to take that and turn it into a business? I always said I wish I could have taken, like if I could go back when I was in school, if it were possible, I would have taken a business class just to learn the basics.
Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Okay. I think that’s great. What I’m hearing is, to paraphrase it another way, is that sometimes you have street skills; sometimes you have school skills or business skills.
So there’s different skillsets that you need when you start your own business. Okay, so then based on that, what would you say are some of the critical soft skills that are needed to start your own business?
Dr. Nicole Cammack: What do you mean by soft skills? Sorry.
Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Usually, there are soft skills and hard skills. What I’m hearing from you is hard skills you can learn in the classroom. It’s the how to be a clinical psychologist. You can learn that in a classroom, but there are some soft skills about owning your own business and making your own way that maybe aren’t as apparent. What would be some of those soft skills that are needed to start your own business?
Dr. Nicole Cammack: I think some of it is, for us, and I do think that some of these may have overlapped with being in the program and just knowing what it takes to get through that doctoral process. Some of that, and even when I selected or reached out to people to collaborate with on this business was knowing what is their work ethic.
For some of the team members, we worked with the same advisor from the same program. So I know like her toughness, I knew her expectations. And I knew that those people had that same mindset as me that if it requires us to work late, or to have a last-minute meeting, or to go the extra mile, that they would do that. And being able to do that in the beginning where there was no money.
Our first year was all about laying the foundation. How do we build this company up so that when they reach out to us, when opportunities come up, we’re already solid? Knowing that people all had leadership skills, the four of us, but each person is a leader in their different areas of expertise or specialty, and knowing that because of those skills and their experiences, that they also would be forward-thinking.
We couldn’t just think about, even when we started out, our first meeting is like, “Okay, here is where we are now, but what would this look like one year from now, three years from now, five years from now?” And we need to make that plan.
So already be in forward-thinking, having that team approach and really wanting to work with other people, sharing that same mission. And then, I think, it was just important to have people who could see the vision and share that same vision together. Because when it gets difficult or you’re tired, or it feels like, “We’re doing all of this work. Is this going to pay off?”, you need people to give you that reminder of “This is why we’re doing that. This is the outcomes that we’re seeing from that. Keep pushing.”
So problem-solving skills, because every time we would do something, we would encounter something, some problem would come up. It’s just being able to “How are you flexible enough to deal with that? How do you pivot so that you address the problem, redirect if you need to, modify the plan?” Those were all the skills and the things that I do think going through graduate school provided us, because you go through that in your process.
You make these huge plans about “Oh, I’ll be finished in this amount of time, and my dissertation will look like this.” And it didn’t work that way. So being able to apply all of that to the business. It really came down to, as well, just doing the work, being dependable to each other, communicating with one another. Those are some of the other skills, I think, are very important.
Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: What I was hearing, or that connecting piece in all the skills that you mentioned, was people. It’s the skills that you need to work with people to move forward and to start your own business. And sometimes those people skills, either hard to teach or it’s just not taught.
Dr. Nicole Cammack: That has to be something within you because it’s all about those relationships. One more thing I do want to add is understanding when you don’t have the knowledge, or if you don’t have that expertise, that you can connect with the people who do. And not feeling threatened or ashamed by that, but just really being wise enough to connect yourself to the people who can help you where you don’t have those strengths.
Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Let’s kind of stay on the people aspect, because if you need people, then you have to go out to people to ask questions and to get clarification. Working with people is sometimes challenging, because, even though we work in a diverse and in sometimes inclusive environment, there’s also challenges and there’s sometimes biases.
What are some of the biases that you have encountered when it comes to starting your own business either as an African-American female, or just trying to start a business in the area of clinical psychology? Can you also suggest how one can identify any type of biases? And how do they address these issues?
Dr. Nicole Cammack: I probably thought it was going to be a lot easier than what it was to do it. Like, it was just one of those things where we didn’t know what we didn’t know. You hear about businesses that…how many don’t make it after the first year. Or you hear about, oh, with us having a group of four… while we started, we actually started out with five women. Having people say like, “Oh, starting a business with five women, it will be a lot of cattiness and fights!” or “People aren’t going to get along.”
People actually thought these things. To speak to both of those, one, so we thought, “Oh, we hear where businesses could fail; that would never happen to us.” But as you learn all the pieces that it takes to truly start a business, and to keep it going, and to have it be successful, you better pay attention to those things. There’s a reason that information is out there if you want to prevent that from happening to you.
I think it opened our eyes very quickly. Maybe we were a little bit too optimistic, but we need to think about and address some of those challenges that could come. As it came to having a team of women and people warning “Why would you do that?” and all of these things.
I was also intentional about picking people that I knew or had a personal connection with — whether it was professionally or just personally — because I wanted that team appearance of like “This is what mental health looks like.” Also, something that we did was we made sure for as much as we nurture and foster our business, that we nurture and foster our relationships with one another. Because none of that other stuff is going to matter if we’re not cohesive as a team.
Pre-COVID, what we would do, we had to be intentional about, at least twice a year, we’re going to all get together. And it’s going to be about the relationships. That doesn’t include like other ways that we still connect, but that was some of the things that people sort of questioned us about like “You need a man on the team” or “You need to balance it out.” Or, we could just, “This is what we want, and we can figure out how to make that work.”
And then with having five women, that also means like family planning, and things change. One of our co-founders actually had some family changes. She had a second baby. She got a promotion on her job, and it was like having to look at that and say, “I can’t give in the same way to the company.”
But having our support because we had worked on building these relationships to be able to say, “Of course, take care of your family and do those things.” Those are some of the things. Maybe we were a bit too confident and thought that business was easy because we could do everything. I know people looked at us and questioned us being a group of women and what that would really turn out to be.
Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: I’ve read articles where they’ve said that more business loans are given to people where the CEO or the face of the company looks a certain way. At the same time, you’re reading statistics about what demographic or what group is starting their own business more than anyone else, and it’s African-American women.
That’s the dichotomy that I see from my vantage point, is that, well, if the loans and the opportunities are only going to certain groups, but you have more people in disenfranchised groups starting their own business, what does that mean for the landscape of entrepreneurship?
I think what you said was really, really important. That many times in companies, regardless if it’s public or private, it’s all about the work or the work product. I think it’s refreshing to hear, especially when it comes to a group of clinical psychologists, that you’re taking time for the group dynamic to make sure that the team itself is prepared for whatever the future may bring.
As we start to wrap up, what are some resources that you’ve used in the past to help individuals either start their business or just become more business-savvy when it comes to entrepreneurship?
Dr. Nicole Cammack: I took a step back, and as we were going through that first year, I listened to podcasts. It’s interesting because there’s one podcast in particular, and then it sort of led me to listen to other podcasts about entrepreneurs, about starting a business, about women in business. And then I think, too, probably because I’m a psychologist, the story gets me, like that’s how my brain connects. That’s what I understand. It helps me to think about, “Oh, how can I take that piece and add it to me?”
There’s one podcast, it’s Side Hustle Pro. It’s a podcast about black women who started their business, and it started as a side hustle while they still had their main job. That’s exactly where we were at the time.
The beauty of it was that, each week, they would have a different person talk about their experiences with starting a business. Where did they make their mistakes? What did they wish they had known? What books did they read or do they read now? What they did well, what helped them to launch this business.
I literally took notes every week. Like, “Oh, you can have a landing page before you start a business so people know that it’s coming. Oh, you can do this.” It was like just little tidbits about starting that business that helped me a lot.
That was a huge resource. Again, I think, for myself, it was going through that Entrepreneur Jumpstart program, which was essentially like a class.
There are also people who have, and I don’t have with me right now, unfortunately, I’m sorry, like the titles…it might be here. There are people who have like ebook[s]. You can read a quick ebook on if there’s a particular aspect of your company that you’re working on at the time. I did things like that. I listened to podcasts, and then I asked people when I had questions. I asked people who had the background.
If there was a legal aspect, I went to my friends who are attorneys or asked them, “Do you know someone we can talk to about this?” Part of that too is you have to also be willing to pay people for their expertise if it’s a consulting type of setup.
I asked people, and then we talked to the attorney. She said, “You need an accountant.” The accountant talked to us about, “Oh, you also need to think about trademarking.”
The website developer would give us different aspects like, “Oh, you need to think about these things when you’re setting up a website.” So we were able to put him with our lawyer.
It was really a lot of learning as we went and using these resources to get us there. We did not take a traditional route by far.
We’re still not taking a traditional route. I just tell people, “Follow your intuition.” Part of where I feel like we’ve been able to find success is we always followed what we know, and again, we just find the people to help us get there when we need that.
Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Absolutely. Shameless plug for the podcast. I listen to podcasts as well. Again, I don’t want to necessarily say the wrong name for a podcast, but I think what’s really great about [a] podcast is that you can listen to it at your own time. I’m an uber-morning person, so it’s rare that Im going to be able to connect with someone at 5 AM. But that’s where my energy is, and that’s where I could listen to a podcast, or in some cases, even listen to it again.
I think what’s really great in 2020 is that there are so many ways that we can transmit information. As you mentioned, the podcast is great. We have people who really love to physically have a book where they can write notes and go back and review it again. You have people who like audio books, and like you said, there’s even eBooks now.
Who knows what tomorrow’s technology is going to look like? But it just seems like there are so many resources out there. Sometimes it’s even information overload.
I’m glad that you said, “Go with your gut. Talk to people who might have that background,” but also to understand that there are resources out there for you to use should you want to start your own business.
Dr. Nicole Cammack: Absolutely. And you can always see the people that you look up to with that business model and like sort of see, well, what helped them? What was their story? Do they provide any resources? Do they give any suggestions that you can follow up on? That’s what I would do.
It just came to me too. One of the things that we did… I didn’t necessarily look at books on like the business structure of it, but I did read books related to ideas and things like that. One of the books, I think it’s called “Contagious.” It just talks about why certain ideas pick up or why this thing sold in the way that it did. I think when you read those type of books, it opened my mind up to what the possibilities could be.
I always, if I’m reading something, listening to something, take notes to think about, “Now, how would I apply that to what we do? How do I take this idea that I just read and think about our business structure, our goals, and how would it look if we were to apply that here?” That’s what — we sort of did a lot of that.
Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Wow. Dr. Cammack, thank you so much. You are an amazing entrepreneur. Congratulations on your new business, and best wishes on your future endeavors. Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for just sharing those little nuggets of wisdom with us today.
Dr. Nicole Cammack: Thank you. This was great.
Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: All right. Thank you to our listeners for joining us. You can learn more about these topics by signing up for the podcast bi-monthly newsletter. Again, thank you for joining us. Be safe and be well.
About the Speakers
Dr. Kandis Y. Boyd Wyatt, PMP, is a professor at American Public University and has over 25 years of experience managing projects that specialize in supply chain management. She holds a B.S. in meteorology and an M.S. in meteorology and water resources from Iowa State University, as well as a D.P.A. in public administration from Nova Southeastern University.
Dr. Nicole L. Cammack is a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of Maryland. She received a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in human development from Howard University and a master’s and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from George Washington University. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship with the National Center for School Mental Health at the University of Maryland Baltimore School of Medicine.
Dr. Cammack also provides mental health services to veterans as a program manager in an integrated primary care setting. She is chair of the Psychology Diversity Training Subcommittee and serves on several psychology leadership councils at the Washington D.C. VA Medical Center. Lastly, she is an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and serves on the Executive Board of the Washington D.C. Alumnae Chapter.
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