The Entrepreneurs Therapist

Member Spotlight: Shulamit Ber Levtov

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My work is as The Entrepreneurs Therapist. I work with women who are self-employed, who are entrepreneurs, who are business owners, who are tired of feeling like they’re going to lose their crap on the daily. 

This is an era of relentless stressors, worse even than it was a couple of years ago. And so if they want a plan for their mental and emotional well-being or they want to care for their mental and emotional well-being, then I help support them in that way. 

Because our mental and emotional well-being has an impact on our business. And our business has an impact back on our life in our mental and emotional well-being. So it’s an important holistic support for sustainable business foundations. And that’s why I offer the service.

What made you decide to pursue your business?

There’s a story behind how I became The entrepreneur’s Therapist. I was injured in my mid-30s and I had been working in personal growth and mental wellness as a side hustle all my life. When I became injured, it made sense to go back to my roots, which was social work. 

I had started university and social work in my early 20s but had left that for some other things. So I set the goal of graduating from my master’s program before I was 50. And I did it! But as we who are self-employed all know, we might be masters of our craft, but not necessarily masters of business. 

And so I knew two things, I knew that most small businesses fail within the first year or the first five years. But because I was entering a new career at 49, and I’m a woman, I knew that the prospects for employment were very poor. So I wanted to set up my own business so that I could be my own employer. 

Everyone thinks the gig economy is a new thing, but the gig economy started in the 80s. There were no jobs, it was only contracts, so therefore no savings, no pension. And so this work needed to be work that I could do basically until the day I died; I knew that I had to ensure that I had a viable business. 

I also knew that the psychological research around financial well-being shows that mental health professionals measure a score lowest on all measures of financial wellness. And I did not want that to be my story either. 

So when I graduated from my master’s program and began my private practice, I also at the same time started business training. I started hanging out with entrepreneurs, I started networking at the chamber, and I was the only therapist hanging around in those areas. 

I established holistic stress and trauma clinics. I had a brick-and-mortar business. And in the process of establishing that and working with associates and hanging out with other entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs shared with me kind of what their struggles were. 

As a result of hearing from the other folks I was networking with who were building businesses – and my own experience of building a business – it really became clear that there was a need for a mental health professional who understood how these two aspects come together and have an impact on one another. 

And that’s how The Entrepreneurs Therapist was born.

What has kept you feeling driven and motivated during the harder parts of your entrepreneurship?

Well, the first thing that comes to mind is the nature of the work that I do, and my own history as a trauma survivor. I’ve worked in my business with many trauma survivors, and trauma continues to be a feature, even though I’m not focused on trauma work. 

Trauma shows up for many folks, especially women, and especially women who become entrepreneurs. Because it’s our trauma adaptation, right? Many of us think: nobody is going to screw me over again, I am going to be the boss of myself, I am running my own show. This is the opposite of the overpowering and disempowering experience that you have in trauma. 

Sometimes the world can seem really dark. And what’s in my heart is to shine some love, some loving presence into this world that can seem so dark. That’s the deepest motivator for the work I do. 

The more ‘surface’ motivator, when stuff gets difficult in business, I can look back and see all the difficulties that I’ve experienced. Even though things did not necessarily work out the way I wanted them to, I was ultimately okay. I look back and see this, and I can remind myself that, ultimately I can be okay, I have what it takes to be okay. 

That helps me calm the anxious or distressed or hopeless or overwhelmed parts of me. You know, and it might mean that in that moment, what I might need to do is take a little timeout, go for a walk, pet my kitty, hug my beloved, and then come back. That just helps me keep going.

What’s a piece of advice you could offer others who would like to or would like to follow in your path?

Well, if you want to become a therapist in private practice, first of all, you’ve got to like a business. Find a reliable, reputable coach and community, get business training, and learn how to run your business. In particular, learn how to do your money, and learn how to do your marketing. 

Most therapists in private practice don’t. They just open their door and hang their shingle and hope for the best. It’s business, and you have to learn how to run it like a business. And that’s true for any entrepreneur, but particularly for therapists in private practice. 

For entrepreneurs, people who want to start their own businesses to become self-employed, I would say find community and business support. You know of the seven factors of threat to your mental health as an entrepreneur that I write about, the one I hear from folks the most is isolation

We know from mental health and health research that isolation is a social determinant of health and has a very significant impact on your mental and physical well-being. The health impact is as much as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day! So as a business owner, find a community where you can go.

What made you sign up for the Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce?

Signing up for CanWCC was activism for me. Although I must admit having become familiar with what CanWCC offers – the networking events, especially with Jenna as a facilitator, have been so connecting and so validating and so nourishing and so wonderful – that connection is a very powerful aspect of what I get from the Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce. 

But what originally motivated me to join was as a feminist and an activist. I wanted to see women represented at the policy table, I wanted to see support, advocacy, economic advocacy, and advocacy for women entrepreneurs.

We really saw during the pandemic how solopreneurs did not appear in the help that was offered. And we know that many, many solopreneurs are women. And so I wanted to add my voice to the voice of other women entrepreneurs. 

My local Chamber of Commerce has a particular spin because it’s diverse and represents the needs of the general population in the location where it is. But just like there’s a Black Chamber of Commerce because black folks need a chamber of commerce that represents their special interests, the same goes for women. We need our own chamber. 

In a fairytale world, what do you feel the next five years should bring for women and non-binary business owners?

Well, if I could wave a magic wand, I would like to see a minimum basic income for everyone across the board, for all people. I think that empowers people to do the work they’re called to do. 

I think having to work in order to pay the bills is a harmful connection between vocation and survival. Survival impairs our ability to be creative and solve problems and come up with innovative answers to the dilemmas of the world. 

So if we all could just pay our bills, then we would be free – truly free – to come up with some really interesting ways of caring for one another. For instance: being in a community, finding sustainable housing, sustainable food, sustainable transportation, sustainable ways of doing business, sustainable ways of caring for one another’s mental health

I think that would drop so many barriers to access for folks needing well-being tools, that currently people can’t access. That’s democratization. Democratization is removing the barriers across the board so that we can all be well, that we can all be happy. 

Systemic causes of dis-ease; six systemic causes of mental illness and other ill health could be eradicated, and I think the basis of that is minimum basic income. That releases all kinds of powerful energy. We would see a lot of folks creating their own businesses. 

I’m not anti-money or anti-profit. But I really think that a minimum basic income would free folks. And then you would see lots of businesses starting because I believe there are a lot of folks who are limited by the fact that they don’t have funding and can’t do the things they want to do. 

We don’t have the world we want to see. People are stuck working three or four minimum-wage jobs and are barely surviving. And these are folks whose unleashed creativity could do amazing things. So if I had a magic wand, we would all have that minimum basic income.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Connect with Shulamit Ber Levtov here:

Watch The Interview On CanWCC’s YouTube Channel

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