The Wellness Initiative Inc. Founder Devin McCrorey spoke with MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price about his startup experience and his passion for introducing mindfulness and meditation to communities he feels need it most.

NAN PRICE: How did you develop the concept for The Wellness Initiative?

DEVIN MCCROREY: About 10 years ago, I began teaching students in public schools and clients in drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs how to use meditation to help improve their mindset. I later developed a program centered on meditation and mindfulness to help individuals dealing with trauma, depression, and anxiety.

In February 2018, I formed The Wellness Initiative with my wife, LaKisha, who is a licensed professional counselor. Our goal is to make a positive impact on the community and specifically introduce the concepts of wellness and mindfulness to African Americans in the Hartford region.

NAN: How do you work together?

DEVIN: LaKisha offers therapy and she’ll often refer clients to me to learn how to meditate. We also work together to develop workshops. Her expertise plays a major role, because she’s coming at things with a clinical education.

NAN: Let’s talk about the process of you creating the business.

DEVIN: This is my first official company. I was very nervous at first, because I don’t know a lot about the technical behind-the-scenes stuff. But I knew I had a passion to help the community and, to drive the passion and be able to making a living doing it full time, I knew I had to structure a business.

I came up with the idea and I wrote my first business proposal—it was 35 pages long! I brought it to the principal at the school where I was working as a teacher’s assistant. He reviewed it and thought it was cool, which helped validate my idea. Then I had to figure out where to go and who to speak to so I could officially start the business.

I found a lot of information on Google, connected with the Small Business Administration, and got business advice from people I knew who were entrepreneurial—including my uncle, who has been an entrepreneur for a long time, and Aristede Hill, an entrepreneur who is the Mentoring Program Supervisor at Simpson-Waverly School.

I also connected with people who work in mindfulness and meditation at the Hartford-West End Mindfulness Center and Copper Beech Institute. It was helpful to be talk with them, because this is a practice that isn’t necessarily linked to entrepreneurialism.

NAN: That’s brings up a good point. How do you monetize mindfulness and meditation? And, how have you built your clientele?

DEVIN: The first step was approaching places I knew could benefit from it. By then I had shortened my proposal to six pages that showed evidence for what meditation and mindfulness could do, which is challenging because mindfulness is a catch word that nobody can really define. But, if you can show people what it is and how it scientifically works, it becomes more approachable.

I started at the Rushford rehab facility because I had worked there, and I knew they needed activities for the kids. They hired me to teach kids how to meditate.

I was trying to get into school systems, so I started by volunteering to teach meditation Simpson-Waverly School in Hartford. There’s a library next to the school where I used to run into a lot of the kids I worked with at the school. One day, I just walked in and introduced myself and told them about what I do. I asked if I could offer something there, and they hired me to teach meditation the summer of 2018.

NAN: Going into your second year, what key lessons have you learned? Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

DEVIN: As a business owner, I’ve learned that you need to be concrete, not abstract. I’m that guy who gets so passionate about my ideas and doing things to help other people, but sometimes I slack when it comes to organizing and structuring things the right way. I’ve learned that you need to have a well-organized business structure behind your passion, so you don’t burn yourself out or destroy what you’re building.

Recently, I took it upon myself to sit down and write a full-fledged business plan. That should have been step one. Getting a mentor should have been step two—I have one now, but I should be spending more time learning from him. Step three should have been saving up at least $2,000, so I could hit the ground running. I didn’t think that way starting out. We didn’t have an office until early last year, so when we started, I didn’t have any overhead other than just paying for gas.

Another thing I realized doing my business plan is that you have to take advantage of the digital market, which is actually a good thing. I’ve always been one of those people who physically seeks out customers by dropping off flyers, business cards, and folders with our information. Utilizing more of the digital space saves me time and energy.

NAN: How do you make mindfulness approachable to everyone?

DEVIN: I’ll work with anybody, but my niche market is inner city areas, because I feel those are the people who need mindfulness the most but get it the least. There’s not a real big, abundant market for mindfulness and meditation in Hartford. There’s a lot of potential for it and there’s access to it in the surrounding cities. But, as far as going directly into the heart of inner cities, where there’s a huge black and Latin population, a lot of people aren’t really aware of it.

We understand that if you’re going to have a market with those people in it, we need to break down the barrier and invite people to come in.

I think the reason why people in Hartford feel alienated from mindfulness and meditation is because it’s taught to them from an Eastern perspective, which they don’t always relate to. I’ve done a lot of research to be able to offer people something they’re familiar with. I take a lot of pride in the fact that I can translate different ideas and make mindfulness approachable to everyone.

NAN: What’s next?

DEVIN: I want to start teaching classes online, doing a podcast, and providing guided meditations on our website, so people can have access to what they need.

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