Miriam is an energetic entrepreneur with a huge heart. As an OT, she devotes her life to helping people feel comfortable in their bodies and in the world.
In this interview, Miriam shared how she discovered her niche and found the support she needed to develop her skill. She gave us an inside view into the world of mentoring, from the perspective of both a mentee and mentor.
Miriam also spoke about her approach to risk, specifically in regard to her newest exciting project... And I will stop right here, before I give it all away :)
What made you choose to become an Occupational Therapist?
My grandparents opened HASC in the early 1960s. HASC is a non-profit organization which provides a wide range of supportive services for children with special needs. Together with my entire extended family, I grew up in the HASC theme of helping others.
I think it was kind of predestined that I was going to do something in the healing and healthcare profession.
When did you know that it was time to start your own business?
In 2012, I was working in Passaic, NJ as an Early Intervention therapist. I liked it because I got to work with clients in their homes and be in direct communication with the parents. That was excellent and gave me great satisfaction.
Then three of my Early Intervention clients were aging out of the program and their parents requested that I continue to treat their children privately. So that's how I started my business. I was going to their homes. Later I decided to open an office in the back of my house.
At that time lots of the clients I was seeing were struggling with social and emotional issues. In a child it came out as a behavioral issue. For example, if a child has a speech delay, there’s inevitably a behavior challenge. If a kid can't say what they want, they act it out, right?
So I became known as an OT that works with emotional aspects in clients. Once I started to dabble in it, I realized this is what people need and are looking for. It gave me lots of satisfaction to be able to see the change in my clients. Children were more adaptable, parents were feeling good, and I was feeling good.
Once I discovered my niche, I got a lot of training in it. A lot, a lot of training.
How did you know where to turn for more education and support?
I reached out for mentorship from the very beginning. It’s never too early.
I always recommend that people do what I did. Find a course that you think you’re going to like, with a presenter that you have heard nice things about.
Go to the course and see if you connect to that presenter. Ask yourself, “Do I like what she has? Do I want what she has?” And if you do, reach out and ask them to be your mentor. Make sure to pay them for it.
You can send an email that says something like this:
Hi, my name is Miriam Manela. I’m an occupational therapist. I loved what you taught at the course and would truly appreciate mentorship time with you. I wonder if we could do this on an hourly basis once a month. What is your session fee?
And after the first session, I would send the payment in really fast. I wanted the mentor to know that I was serious and that they are going to get paid for their time.
I love that script. I hope everyone steals it!
What tips do you have for those of us who find it uncomfortable to reach out?
One thing that made it easier for me was to reach out to people that were not in my immediate circles. I said to myself, “If it doesn’t work out, they'll never hear from me again and I will never see them again. They don't know me. I don't know them.”
So that’s what I would recommend. Start by reaching out to people that are outside your local community. It feels less risky.
How does the mentoring session actually work? Do you let the mentors take the lead?
No, I always led the session. It works the same way with the people that I mentor, as well. They lead the session.
I would come to my mentor with a list of my current clients and describe to her what’s going on, asking “What do I do?”
Having good mentorship really brought great results for my clients. I found that when I worked with a mentor, I had the tools to help my clients become calmer, more adaptable, and happier.
And today I’m actually very close with one of my mentors.
Aside for developing your skills, do you also work on developing your business?
Yes, I have. I listen to Robin Sharma who teaches about business. Somehow, I connect to his message.
I also went to a business coach for a couple of sessions to work on my new idea. It definitely was helpful for me, as I'm working to open a larger practice.
This sounds so exciting! Can you please tell me the story about how this new idea came about?
You see, other therapists have always asked to work for me. But I never wanted to be an administrator of a bunch of therapists.
A friend of mine, who is also a business coach, shared with me an idea how I can expand. The concept was to have a group of equal practitioners working together to help each client.
It would be a place where no practitioner would be higher than another, in terms of expertise. We would have a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, a speech therapist, a social worker, and maybe even a tutor and a medical doctor.
I really love the idea of collaborating to help my clients and this project will allow me to do that.
Building this new practice is a really big deal. How do you approach such risk in your business?
For me, risk boils down to two things: my money and my name.
I see money as a spiritual thing. For example, I don't have the money to take me through to the end of this project. I do have a long term business plan, but at this stage I’m really just trusting. I’m trusting that I made the right choice with this project and the money with will be there when I need it. So far it has.
I keep trusting and battling, and trusting and battling. I'm going to keep trusting that when the framer is done at the end of this week, I'm going to have his eight grand available for him. I take it one step at a time.
As far as my name in the community, it feels like a huge risk for me. I've spoken to businessmen about my plans, wanting to get their take from a business perspective. I've spoken to other clinicians about it. I spoke about it on a recent speaking tour. I’m not keeping my idea a secret. Openly speaking about this, can make people wonder, “Is she going to succeed? Is she going to fail?”
To combat this, I often remind myself that I'm just average. If I make a mistake or something doesn't work out, I know that I'm just human. I'm no better or worse than anyone else. And no one is better or worse than I am.
If I don't succeed, people will know I tried. I will know I tried and I'm just like everybody else.
In order to be able to succeed at anything, you have to try or you are just kind of stuck. The last thing I want to do is come to the end of my days and say, “I shoulda, I woulda, I coulda.”
Miriam, thank you so much for sharing your inspiring story. I look forward to seeing your newest dream come to life!
To inquire regarding Miriam’s occupational therapy services, you can visit her website at otthrive.com or call her directly at 917-573-5540.