Angela Ficken is an entrepreneur and psychotherapist. She owns the ProgressWellness.com brand and runs a private practice in Boston, Mass. Ficken specializes in providing individual therapy for people who have a range of stressors, including anxiety, eating disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. She also writes articles on managing these challenges for The Huffington Post, Thrive Global, and Today Parenting.
Why did you start your business?
I started as a social worker at a McLean psychiatric hospital. After that, I was a primary therapist at Harvard University where I saw a lot of students and honed my skills on helping people manage stress and anxiety. From there, I decided to branch out and jump into a private practice. I’m located in the heart of Boston. I thought about who is coming in my door and who I can help the most.
Boston is a young city where there are a lot of startups, so I decided to focus on helping professionals and young professionals manage stress, including medical students, legal students, and other professionals. I help them with coping strategies to manage stressful situations in their high-demand professions.
How did you finance the business at the start?
I was able to use some savings and keep my day job. I had my full-time day job and started a small private practice on the side. As I progressed in my career, I was able to see more people in my private practice and that started to naturally grow. I was able to use my savings to take the leap of faith and go full time into my private practice.
Running the Business
How do you manage cash flow?
I am a one-woman show, so I have a therapy system that does everything for me. I do all my billing and monthly statements on that system. It takes in all the credit cards and puts all the funds in my bank account. That system tracks everything for me, which has been extremely helpful.
What’s the most challenging thing about running the business?
It’s trying to wear many different hats at once. When I’m sitting with someone, I’m a psychotherapist, but also a business owner trying to manage the administrative side of taking notes and doing billing. The paperwork is not the most fun part, but I know it’s one of the most important pieces.
What I’ve Learned
What’s the most rewarding thing about running the business?
I feel a tremendous reward from helping people. And I enjoy the ability to be creative, whether that’s working with strategies to help someone feel better or writing an article that’s going to get published. Knowing that every day is different is very exciting for me.
What’s the biggest mistake you made when starting out?
One of the biggest challenges I had was figuring out how to get started and getting in my own way. For business owners, there’s rarely a manual on how to start a business. There isn’t a way to receive training. I was feeling doubtful and unsure of what to do next, which kept me stuck a lot. Now, I have a mantra of, “If it makes me anxious, I’m going to do it anyway.”
What’s the smartest thing you did when starting out?
I found good people. Though I’m on my own, I do have people who help me with ideas and thinking through how to execute my next goal. I have people on my team, like family, friends, and consultants who I can brainstorm with and who want to help me reach my goals.
What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?
If it excites you, go for it. It’s going to be stressful, you’re choosing a stressful field. That doesn’t mean don’t do it, but you need to embrace all that comes. Think about how you’ll manage your stress through this journey and know it can be incredibly rewarding. I encourage you to go forth and enjoy the opportunity of being creative, because that’s not something a lot of people get to have in their work. As business owners, that’s something we do get to explore. Your business can change and morph as you get better at what you’re doing.
What’s next for Progress Wellness?
I’ve written a stress management course called, “Breaking Every Day into Slivers, Not Chunks: Practical Skills To Deal with Everyday Stressors.” It’s seven modules; it’s like a mini-dissertation on how to manage stress. Business owners are choosing a field that is stressful. Everyday life can feel even more stressful because we’re trying to cultivate something new. This course talks about managing these stressors in a way that is effective and efficient.
I have an app that’s out called The Progress Wellness app, which goes nicely with the course. Depending on what challenging emotion you’re feeling, whether it’s anger or stress or anxiety, you can select that emotion and several skills and strategies will come up in the moment to help you feel better.
After that, I’m hoping to get into doing more writing and more blogging and we’ll see where it goes!