Jennifer Silacci is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 16 years as a psychotherapist treating trauma and eating disorders. With a master’s degree from New York University, Jennifer is passionate about social change and helping people to heal. In March 2020 she formed Therapy Aid Coalition, a 100% volunteer-run nonprofit with a network of over 3000 therapists, nationwide, offering free and low-cost therapy services for essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to victims of national disasters. Jennifer lives in Boulder, CO, with her partner, Jason, and their dog, Shadow.
CONSCIOUS ENTREPRENEURSHIP — What meaning do you give this term?
This is a great question. Conscious Entrepreneurship can mean something different to each person. I think of it more in terms of spiritual and social consciousness, and the creation of an organization which holds the intention of helping fellow humans and doing good in the world.
MENTORS — We all need a little help along the journey. Who has been an invaluable mentor for you? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
I first remember hearing the word, “entrepreneur” when I was five years old. In kindergarten, the teacher asked each student what their parents did for a living. Mom was easy — she was a speech teacher, but dad was tough. As a five-year old, I had no idea what he did. The next day I returned to school and announced that my dad was an “entrepreneur”, to which the teacher explained, “Jennifer’s dad is a businessman.” My father is self-made, has always worked harder than just about anyone I know, and has made me feel that absolutely anything in life is possible. I am extremely lucky to have an amazingly supportive family, partner, and nonprofit board of directors, all of whom nurture my entrepreneurial spirit and mentor me in various ways.
TO THRIVE — When you see yourself thriving: Do you see yourself opening up opportunities for others along the way to participate in your success, and how?
At the core of Therapy Aid is the drive to open up opportunities for others to succeed, by removing obstacles to quality and affordable mental healthcare. I have always held a collaborative mindset and being able to apply that during the formation of Therapy Aid has been incredibly fulfilling. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Life’s most urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” Helping Therapy Aid grow and reach as many clients as possible, means by default, our board of directors succeed, our partners succeed, our volunteers succeed, and those we wish to help can heal and succeed. Life is a group project, and everyone deserves opportunities to be happy, healthy, and prosperous.
CAUSE — What are the causes close to your heart, and you are supporting right now? Can you share a story how you got involved? How did it make you feel?
In March 2020, as COVID-19 started unfolding in the US, I began to hear eerily similar stories from my patients in the healthcare field. Nurses were sharing the same startling truth. They were being given one mask and told to “wear it until it falls off your face”. Physicians, hospital administrators and nurses were riddled with anticipatory anxiety around the “first wave” of COVID hitting, and the ICU’s being burdened. My patients who were not essential workers were also scared and anxious, as grocery store shelves were cleared, and stay-at-home orders were issued. Some were being furloughed and laid off. And, those of us fortunate to be able to work from home were adjusting to an entirely new environment. Everyone was stressed and anxious. I was stressed and anxious. I asked myself, “If we feel this way, how in the world are essential workers coping?” That was when I took action, and the spark for what would become Therapy Aid Coalition ignited. I put out a call to all my colleagues, asking if they would join me in offering free and low-cost online therapy to essential workers during COVID. They joined me and shared the call with their colleagues. We were soon several thousand therapists strong, and within the first two weeks, we connected over 100 essential workers to our therapists.
Given the profound impact of the pandemic on our country’s mental health, my sole focus is growing Therapy Aid Coalition into the Red Cross of mental health. We are working on applying for grants and raising funds to cover the costs of mental health services for essential workers and victims of disasters within the United States, so that we can expand to serve those impacted by crises such as shootings, hurricanes and wildfires.
THE FUTURE — How do you see the face of entrepreneurship in 5 years? How do companies /brands need to adapt to secure their place in the future?
What this time has unequivocally shown us is the urgent need to come together to impact social, environmental and emotionally conscious change in the world. This need is being realized and prioritized in ways like never before. For example, Mark Cuban offered to reimburse all his employees for lunch or coffee purchases made at independent businesses in their communities, restaurateurs have opened up their kitchens to help feed the hungry, large organizations are waiving fees and providing free services for the greater good of the community. If 2020 has taught us nothing else, it’s that we need each other. We need connection. We need support. And we are truly in this together. My sincere hope is that companies begin to put people before profit, and work to heal the world.
ADVICE — What kind of advice would you like to give to an aspiring entrepreneur who feels limited due to their background or lack of resources?
I would tell them not to let that stop you. Curiosity, passion and a desire to learn are the sparks you need to start an entrepreneurial fire. A large part of building something entirely new is learning as you go and growing into the professional you aspire to be. Use your network and tell anyone and everyone about your project. Get them as excited about it as you are and ask for their help. When you hit walls and rejections, keep going. I remind myself of these very things in moments when I feel stuck, or when I feel like I’ve hit a wall.
DRIVE — Do you sometimes feel bad for “wanting more out of life”, and if so, why? What is your personal motivation that leads you through the hardships of entrepreneurship?
No, I do not. Wanting more out of life means so many things to so many people. It speaks to our deepest personal desire to be happy and feel satisfied. We each find that sense of fulfillment in different ways. For some that might mean more down time, and for another, it might mean starting two new businesses. For yet another, it could simply mean more human connection. Life satisfaction is the pinnacle of happiness. We all deserve that.
Regarding hardships of entrepreneurship, it’s all par for the course. What keeps me motivated is focusing on our nonprofit’s ultimate goal of helping others. When I hold that vision, all the challenges, the frustrating moments, and roadblocks are more than worth it.
CHALLENGES — Entrepreneurship is very challenging. We each have our own coping mechanism. Mine is humor. What is yours? Can you share a story?
To be honest, keeping busy with Therapy Aid Coalition has actually been a huge coping mechanism for me during the pandemic. Staying laser-focused on the mission around helping others to heal and access support, makes it much easier to let the challenges, the hours or work, and the roadblocks we occasionally face, roll off my back.
YOU — Is there anything you would like to share that we have not asked you here?
The biggest piece of advice I can offer is to never be afraid to ask for what you want, and to speak with anyone and everyone in order to achieve your goals. I’m convinced that one of these days, through all of my outreach, an organization such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will hear about us, resonate with our vision, and want to join us to help heal the world.
Demee Koch about the MEDIUM interview series on CONSCIOUS ENTREPRENEURSHIP:
Conscious entrepreneurship for me is about building a sustainable business that values and respects the resources used and makes an effort of giving back to society.
I believe we need entrepreneurs to really get involved in the causes close to their heart.
This is why I reach out to entrepreneurs that aim for more than generating profit. With this interview, I aim to share entrepreneurial purpose-led passion to inspire others.
Looking forward to learn from you. Reach out to me via LinkedIn.