I am excited to start this interview series on Conscious Entrepreneurship with Sierra Hillsman, the creator of Legacy Speaks — an online platform committed to destigmatizing mental health-related concerns within communities of color.
Sierra graduated from the University of South Florida with two Bachelor of Arts degrees — one in Communication Sciences & Disorders and the other in Psychology. She relocated to metro-Atlanta after have a post-graduate crisis and moved with the intention of starting a new career path in public relations.
Within the first few months of relocating in 2014, she found herself dealing with a series of personal hardships that made her realize the importance of mental and emotional wellness. At the time, her maternal uncle was dying of stage 4 Colon Cancer while her mother continued to navigate the role of being his caregiver. Sierra’s father, who had been struggling with severe depression for years, was involuntarily set to inpatient treatment for experiencing suicidal and homicidal thoughts.
Recognizing how much of an impact this had on her family, she began focusing on personal development as well as mental health awareness and advocacy. In 2015, she enrolled in the University of West Georgia and eventually went on to graduate with a Masters of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with the goal of becoming a licensed professional counselor. This is when she founded Legacy Speaks.
CONSCIOUS ENTREPRENEURSHIP — What meaning do you give this term?
I define conscious entrepreneurship as the intentional act of building an entity with the sole purpose of seeing a global need, and then creating a solution that speaks to that specific need. It’s one thing to build a business that provides products and services however, conscious entrepreneurship addresses concerns that are rooted in the human experience. Legacy Speaks was created with the desire to foster healthy conversations about mental health and wellness. Through in-person and digital events, consumers can improve their quality of life in a way that strategically connects them to local and national resources as well as psychoeducational services.
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 wouldn’t be where I am today without my clinical supervisors. I have had three over the course of my profession — Dr. Valerie Conkey, Ph.D., LPC, CPCS; Cha’Ke’Sha Spencer, LPC, CPCS of Grace Anthony Counseling; and Laura Morse, LPC, CPCS. They have helped me so much in my personal and professional development as a clinician. Because of them, I am able to conceptualize clients morally and ethically while providing care in a way that positively impacts the clients that I serve. Another mentor of mine would be Dr. Nicole Garner Scott. She is a serial entrepreneur and financial coach. I was feeling stuck and stagnant at the top of my third year in business. I knew that I wanted more but I struggled with consistency and lacked the confidence to boldly go after the changes that I wanted to see in my business. I appreciate our weekly discussions and love the fact that her mind is wired to look at people (mentees and clients included) from a holistic perspective. She goes hard for women who have a passion for changing the world and I’m grateful for all of the insight and encouragement that she provides.
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?
Absolutely! I currently operate as a solopreneur but I look forward to being able to eventually scale my business by creating positions for fellow clinicians and mental health-enthusiasts. The Mental Wellness for the Culture Conference that I hosted was such an amazing experience. Not only did the audience gain new skills and the language for what they were experiencing, but the featured speakers were also able to walk away with new clients as a result of their participation. No sales, no pitches; just organic connections through serving our community at large. To know that I served as the bridge for that level of transformation is mind-blowing. I aim to create even greater opportunities in the near future.
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?
Mental health awareness and advocacy is my primary cause of focus. Although I am an entrepreneur, I also work as an on-site clinician at a residential treatment facility in Midtown Atlanta. I also operate as a mental health assessor at a psychiatric hospital. As an essential worker, I was able to witness how the pandemic impacted people from both an emotional and psychological standpoint. This is especially true amongst communities that lack access to the resources necessary for maintaining some level of functionality. In response, I developed and hosted a free 2-day digital conference in July called the Mental Wellness for the Culture Conference. This event had over 200 registrants and featured 18 clinicians and entrepreneurs of color within the mental health space. It was a powerful experience. I am so grateful to have been able to partner with such an amazing group of people to carry that vision out.
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?
The face of entrepreneurship changes with the times. I think it’s important for companies to understand that this generation of consumers are looking to invest in companies that truly care about the world we live in and the people they’re marketing their products and services to. Brand mission, vision, and consistency are so important. Consumers are beginning to hold companies accountable for how products are produced, how it impacts the environment, what assets are used in marketing, and the messaging. Companies can adapt by being authentic and purposeful; bringing value to greater good of all.
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?
A friend of mine once said, “God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.” It’s ok to feel limited but understand that you don’t have to stay there. Avoid ruminating over the resources that you don’t have. Develop a strengths toolkit and begin leveraging what you do have. We live in the information age where everything you’d want to know is at your fingertips. Get out of your own way and gain the courage to take that first step towards whatever goal you’ve set out to accomplish. Connect with people who share the same interests as you and collaborate horizontally so that you can have the social proof to build vertically.
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 am very unapologetic about my desire to have more in life. I am a firm believer in abundant living; not just financially but also spiritually, emotionally, and holistically. I’ve tried settling before and that never truly sat well with me. The early stages of entrepreneurship are not sexy. I know it’s trendy and cool now but it is very much a rollercoaster of emotions. Nevertheless, I couldn’t authentically operate in my purpose if I didn’t have entrepreneurship as the outlet for that. I am motivated by the people that briefly share their mental health journeys while I table at local events. I am motivated by the direct messages and thank yous that I receive from clients after they’ve implemented a new skill from a therapeutic intervention. I am even motivated by the conversations that are sparked from my Therapy is Dope tees and crewnecks. I love knowing that I get to wake up every day and change the trajectory of somebody’s life just by doing what I have been gifted to do.
CHALLENGES — Entrepreneurship is very challenging. We each have our own coping mechanism. Mine is humor. What is yours? Can you share a story?
Music is my coping mechanism. I can’t live without it and I often use it with my clients. I used to attend at least two concerts or live shows every month prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The last concert that I was able to attend was for Tyler the Creator’s IGOR album. My brother and I share the same love for music and I always try to get him to fly into the city to experience a show at least once a year. The energy was everything and more. Plus it’s always great to share moments like that with family. Atlanta is a music hub and is one of the best cities to attend concerts. You can pay to see your favorite artist and you’d end up witnessing special guest performances from other artists that live locally. Now, I just connect my laptop or phone to my bluetooth speaker and play anything from neo-soul and LoFi beats to afrobeats and coffeehouse jazz.
YOU — Is there anything you would like to share that we have not asked you here?
I am a Fort Lauderdale, FL native. I moved to Atlanta from Tampa. I am also the author of two mental wellness journals, which are available on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3dAzSae and https://amzn.to/34lXuLw I started Legacy Speaks with a YouTube channel; creating free content to help normalize conversations about mental health.
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.